Monday, April 2, 2012

That dude with the huskies

You may not remember, but I do, the blog post I wrote about a guy in my neighborhood who walks a pair of reactive huskies and insists on stopping with them in front of my yard while they freak out, my dogs freak out, and I hustle to get my dogs inside. I remember because it was my first blog post on reactive dogs, which began as a flyer that I posted on an envelope on my fence, and hoped this dude would take a copy before someone took it down and scattered my fabulous handouts all over the neighborhood, which happened after a few days. 

This guy has continued to be a thorn in our side, stopping in front of our yard, belligerently yanking his dogs around, and refusing to budge when we encounter him on walks, standing squarely in the middle of the sidewalk while my dogs and I try to get behind someone's house or venture into traffic to get around him. I have daydreamed about a game of chicken in which I would not budge either, but just stand there happily treating my calm, unreactive dog(s) and talking to them in a joyful voice until this guy decided it was time to get himself around us and move on. But that day has seemed far off with my particular pack of nutty excited reactive beasts.

I have reported some success when Fozzie and I can quickly, happily turn and walk away, then walk back towards an approaching dog who is calm. This hasn't worked with the huskies, as those poor dogs are reactive too. Their lunging and stares just make it too hard for Fozzie to get ahold of himself.

With all of Fozzie's work in new training situations, and with learning calm responses through TTouch, we may be getting closer to a day of triumph with the huskies dude. The other night, I was walking Fozzie with his head halter and step-in harness contraption and lo and behold there was that dude with the huskies up ahead. Fozzie tensed, the huskies started lunging, and I backed into a driveway to give us more space (because this is the right thing to do for the dog's well-being). The dude stayed right where he was (because he suffers from an overabundance of pride, machismo, and/or delusional misinformed outdated dog-training mumbo-jumbo that tells him his dogs need to be flooded with the things that upset them until they just get over it). 

Fozzie and I were maybe 20 feet away from them, and once upon a time, I would have had to keep backing up or get behind a building. But at this distance, Fozzie was OK.

He didn't lunge, he just looked. He tensed, but then he sat down and ate treats while watching the huskies

I was so blown away I just did a bit of flooding of my own, flooded Fozzie's mouth with tasty delicious treats and flooded his ears with joyful praise as my own heart flooded with pride and relief and happiness. To the guy and his huskies I singsonged out "We'll wait!," letting him know that I was not going to back up any further and that he could figure out how to get around us for a change, while giving in to my essential nature as someone who tries not to make others' lives more difficult by giving him a bit of extra space and not forcing him to walk out into traffic to get around us. 

I am not sure if I strike the right balance. Maybe I should learn to be a bit more...reactive...myself?

More in keeping with my nature is to set the right example, and to continue managing Fozzie in the way that works best for Fozzie. 

If we continue with our program of slow and steady, positive, sub-threshold counterconditioning and desensitization, Fozzie will inevitably become calmer in the presence even of reactive dogs. And it will become impossible even for the likes of our young friend to deny the power of what we are doing. Which would be good news for those huskies indeed.


  1. Wow, so great to hear about Fozzie!! I used to be the type to just keep walking Kobi and make him walk alongside other dogs or people not understanding about thresholds. Once I stepped back and made a real effort to keep him sub threshold at all times our progress is making leaps and bounds.
    I do totally understand your frustration with this guy though. We haven't had an issue with a single person in particular but I always seem to find that people want to come and try to talk to me when Kobi has passed threshold and is freaking out. I'm trying to get away from the situation but the person keeps yelling to try and talk over the barking which makes Kobi even more frantic. It amazes me that people seem oblivious to my dog freaking out and me trying to do damage control.

  2. I think the way you reacted the last time you encountered this guy (standing your ground but being nice) is probably what will get through to him the best, even if it does take awhile. Maybe if he sees you constantly with your dogs sitting nicely while his dogs are freaking out, he'll start to question what is going on with his dogs and maybe even start asking you some questions. Or maybe not. But karma-wise, I am sure you are off to a better start standing up for yourself in a nice way! :)

  3. Wow that is great! I can't believe how oblivious some people are!

  4. I'm so happy for you and Fozzie. Sending plenty of continued "success" wishes your way. I think you did the absolute right thing. It takes much more strength and courage to act kindly than to bust him in the nose. You are awesome!

  5. What a great breakthrough with Fozzie! I think you achieved a nice balance of giving him a little space, standing your ground and doing what's best for your dog. It's a difficult thing to do for sure so take pride in the progress made all around!

  6. Great job Fozzie! You are doing a good job with him and he seems to be concentrating on you and not the reactive huskies.

    We walk our girls and talk to them through these situations. They are little soldiers now through the sit and leave it commands. We just sit and let the reactives pass by. Actually it makes me proud our girls. I then give them a treat.

    Maybe you should give this man the business card of a local dog trainer.

    Nina, Myshka, Sasha, Betsy, Lucy, Phoebe and Lily

  7. Great job Kirsten!! I know exactly how you feel and am so happy and proud for both you and Fozzie!!

    I think you handled it right as that was proven by Fozzie's reaction. As for the guy with the Huskies, well sometimes people just don't get it, no matter how many ways or times it is presented to them. You are setting a great example and if he can't see that, well it's sad for him and his dogs. :0

  8. Great job! What a terrific break through with Fozzie! Yay!

  9. YESH for you and Fozzie! Isn't it amazing when a dog reacts appropriately and surprises us? You go - and maybe the husky dude will someday ask help for himself (and his poor dogs).

  10. why are some humans idiots
    Benny & Lily

  11. Well at least you have a good gauge for Fozzie's progress :/

  12. Way to go Kristen and Fozzie!! Well done..all your hard work, time and patience with Fozzie, is now coming to fruition. Jackpot those treats everytime!

    How great to be able to shout" we'll wait" Yipeeeeeeee

    Extra Big Nose Pokes
    The Thugletsx

  13. I do something similar to what this guy does. But yet so different. I walk with my Carolina Dog past things that make her reactive but I only do it when I know I can keep her attention and make sure she focuses on me and not anything else. She has gotten better but I also do this only past the corner of my house there are only three ways to go one way has dogs on both sides so I need to get her comfortable walking past without incident. And so far recently we walked by and she was perfect. :D


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