Another Day, Another Off-Leash Dog

running dog

In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.
- Deepak Chopra

Let’s get something clear: your dog needs to stay on-leash in public spots. I don’t care how friendly Fido is, or how much Schutz you’ve put in your hund.  Training only takes you so far.  Your dog is still capable of ignoring your recall command.

You never know who may have a dog-reactive dog. Your dog may be bounding recklessly towards another dog who is more than willing to show them that your dog’s behavior is unsavory. It’s stressful to everyone involved.  And if you think it’s okay because your dog is friendly, and likes to meet other dogs, well guess what?  Not every other dog thinks your dog is adorable. You are blatantly wagering your ability to control your dog against the safety of not only the other dog, but the safety of the other person who is actually holding a leash. You know… the part you’re supposed to be holding as well?

See how easy it is to hold it?  There's even a nifty little loop for your hand!

See how easy it is to hold it? There’s even a nifty little loop for your hand!

Hell, at this point, I guarantee that not every human thinks your dog is cute.  I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.  Not everyone wishes to get up close and personal with your beloved little Fifi.  You are proving nothing but your ability to be obtuse.

Now, for those of you subjected to off-leash dogs, here’s some hints:

- If someone calls out that, “It’s okay, their dog is friendly!” I like to call out that my dog is NOT friendly…and neither am I. Make sure your body language is speaking the same words your mouth is: confidence.

Confidence is key

Confidence is key

- Pilot  your own dog. It’s up to you to handle whatever comes at you, even if it means faking your way through self-confidence. Go ahead and be scared, but act confident.  The show must go on. Control yourself.

- Do whatever it takes to keep your dog safe.  I don’t care if it’s an old Lab, if you need to make them back off of you, and you feel safe doing so, make them move!

- Scream.  Yes, scream.  Loud as you can.  That will get the owner’s attention.  As well as anyone else’s, which may be important if things go badly with the other dog.  You may need help.

- Drop the leash. If you have a dog running at you who is definitely not part of the welcome wagon sometimes the safest thing to do is to let your dog try to run away without you getting tangled up in the mess.  Leashes can get wrapped around you very easily, ensnaring and trapping both you and your dog, subjecting you both to a vicious bite.

- Finally, report. Even if your dog responded well to the approaching dog, the next one may not.  All dogs respond differently to each other.  By you reporting the dog, you may have saved that dog’s life. Because the next time he goes charging at another dog could be his last.

In short, if a dog comes running at you hell bent for leath-ah, make sure you have a game plan in mind.

Yeah, I know you’re too young to know this song, but here ya go.

For more detailed information on how to make sure you are controlling your own dog on a walk, visit this link:

- Leash walking

How to deal with your dog-reactive dog on a leash, read this link:

- Dog Reactivity

Finally, step-by-step how to deal with an off-leash dog:

- When an off-leash dog attacks

What to do in a dog attack

Have you ever been subjected to an off-leash dog charging at you? What did you do?

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio





Night Moves

I go out walkin’ after midnight
Out in the moonlight, just like we used to do – Patsy Cline

If you haven’t been able to tell in all the years I’ve written this blog, I’m a huuuuuuuge geek.  My posts are riddled with geeky memes.  Danika brings it up sometimes (we upload  images, etc. to a shared source, so it all gets pooled together).  The other day I was browsing through the images we’ve used in our posts.  Here’s some of Danika’s recent images she’s used for her articles:

One dog doing a doggie thing.

One dog doing a doggie thing.

Ms. LSP with her brother James Franco. I'm not kidding here.

Two dogs doing dog things.


Where's the doggie dog?

Where’s the doggie dog?

Found the doggie dog!

Found the doggie dog!

Yeah.  For some reason Danika’s posts contain pics of dogs.  I don’t get it. I do it a little differently:

Dog post using Supernatural

Dog post using Supernatural

Just an average day with your typical Shock Jock.

Just an average day with your typical Shock Jock.

I don't even remember why I used this gif, but it's the 10th Doctor, so reason needed.

I don’t even remember why I used this gif, but it’s the 10th Doctor, so …no reason needed.

So, what does this have to do with anything dog related?  Everything.  It’s easy for me to understand dogs, because I realize it’s not about training them.  Not really.  As Edward Hoagland stated, “In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.”   It’s more about working with your dog to build a relationship, Piloting them so they can live comfortably live in a human world.

When clients call me to their house, they are at their wits’ end.  They’re frustrated with certain behaviors they don’t understand.  My job is to try to build a bridge between dogs and humans, and to do that, I need to help humans understand exactly what’s going through a dog’s mind when they exhibit behaviors x, y & z.  Once they can empathize with their dog, it’s so much easier for them to build that bridge, and meet their dog in the middle.  Pop culture helps me build that bridge.  For instance, the concept of Piloting isn’t too difficult (I’ve been doing it since I first found a stray dog while in grade school).  However, the terminology?  How to explain it to people?  I have this man to thank:

Yes, I can quote the movie word for word.  And sometimes still do!  But aside from being one of my favorite movies, it had the easiest analogy for how your dog feels without guidance in a world they understand.  ”Nobody’s flying the plane!”   And when I would bring this analogy up to my clients, it finally clicked for them.  Hence the term “Piloting” was born.

So, after that lengthy introduction, I’ll bet you’re wondering what this post is actually about.  It’s about all you night crawlers out there, as I like to call you.  Those of you who have dog-reactive dogs, and therefore are out there crawling around after midnight, hoping you don’t encounter another dog.  Don’t worry, no judgment from me – I’ve been known to do it, too.

Earlier this week I wrote a post about Progression, and how it’s never about perfection, it’s about working towards a goal.  That’s progress, and that’s a great thing!  That’s what works.  Perfection, on the other hand, is something that can only be found in our imaginations.

And Tom Hardy.  With a dog.  It can be found here.

And Tom Hardy. With a dog. It can be found here, too.

So, back to us night crawlers.

When I was first dealing with Sparta’s dog-reactivity, I had to constantly keep in mind the three most important concepts when Piloting a dog:

1) Control myself (no freaking out, shouting, etc., and calm body language).

2) Control the situation.  In other words, if I didn’t have control of Sparta, I wasn’t going to take another step towards that other dog who was freaking her out.  Don’t add stimulation to a situation if you don’t have control of the situation.  Take your time.

3) Answer questions.  If Sparta was super-focused on something, odds are she was asking a question, and that question must be answered.

The hard part about all of this was Step 2:  Control the situation.  I mean, I live in a place that is crawling with dogs all the time.  People always have their dogs out for a walk.  I was still working on her behavior, so I very well couldn’t just throw her into the deep end of the pool with a “sink or swim” mentality.

That’s how we became night-crawlers.  We perfected worked on Piloting during walks first, and got leash-walking under control when there were no dogs present.  Once we had that accomplished, we were able to start adding dogs.  That meant for the longest time, our walks took place at 11:00 at night.

Magical things happened.  We just had to be home by midnight.

Magical things happened. We just had to be home by midnight.

Gradually, we started to switch out our times earlier and earlier, encountering one dog when we’d start at 10:30, and then perhaps two other dogs when we’d start at 10:15….getting the picture?  Rather than subject both of us to the stress of the usual 150 dogs out for a walk at 6pm, we were able to control our environment to fit our progress.  To this day, I still prefer walking Sparta at night. Somehow it feels like “our time”.

So, back to being a geek.

I couldn’t come up with a title for this blog post. So I decided to catch up on some Supernatural episodes. Fortunately, Sam, Dean, and Baby came through for me with a title. Thanks guys.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio