The newly adopted Dachshund was labeled aggressive. While on walks, the dog charged everything that came within twenty feet. According to his owner, the dog lunged without warning. So, I had his owner take the dog for a walk while I observed. The Dachsie gave lots of warning before a lunge; the human was oblivious. She kept forcing her dog into situations he found threatening. As the dog expressed his growing stress through whining, pinned ears, hanging back and anxious behavior, the woman went on her merry way, 100% clueless. This dog was terrified with no escape. What other option did he have now? He had to fight. He had to drive off the scary thing.
Along with developing a behavior modification plan, I had to teach safety to help keep the dog sane and people safe during training. If not, the owner would undo any progress we made. She would increase the dog’s bite potential as his fears worsened before he was ready for various situations. Therefore, I would use a lesson from a Motorcycle Safety class.
How does a motorcycle safety class apply to walking dogs? It is easy to make the leap from two wheels to four feet. Bikers have to be aware of their surroundings, identify potential risks and react fast. Bikers need to S.E.E. to be safe. Over the years, this lesson has helped me avoid accidents due to oblivious “cage” (car) drivers. When walking dogs, we must S.E.E. to keep safe. We cannot ignore our surroundings.
S.E.E. : Scan – Evaluate – Execute.
Scan – Constantly scan your environment with eyes and ears. Ahead there is a group of children on bikes and a man with a loose dog. Even if your dog ignores bikes and crazy kids, the loose dog is a risk. If your dog is afraid of bikes and or children, this situation may be too much for him to handle at this time.
Evaluate – Look for an escape route: a side road, place to safely cross the street, even going back the direction from where you came.
Execute – You should act before your dog begins to react. Stay calm, positively get his attention and get moving.
Even with a superbly trained and tolerant dog, it is best to avoid danger. I know what to expect from my dogs but that loose dog or out of control child, I have no control over them. I would rather be safe than have an incident or undo any work I have done with a dog.
Yes, one of the most important lessons I teach came from a motorcycle safety class.
Please, let us all S.E.E. and be safer.
Karen Peak is the developer of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project, owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County and author of Am I Ready for A(nother) Puppy or Dog? If you have questions regarding your dog’s behavior, please consult a professional.