These days, I don't really have dreams about Barley being in trouble, but my conscious worries stem from the same place, worrying about my inability to keep my dog from harm.
As I've written in other posts, Barley is a reactive dog. She's highly interested in other dogs and it takes her a long, long time to get used to be around other dogs. With time and patience, she can be great with other dogs. She loves snuggling on the couch with my parents' dog, and she enjoys romping with my friend's border collie-aussie mix. It's taken a lot of work to get to that point, though. We used to not be able to walk in our neighborhood without Barley lunging and snarling at other dogs we saw, but with the help of our wonderful trainers, we have gotten to the point that with commands (and lots and lots of treats) we can walk without Barley giving other dogs more than a glance.
The one thing we still struggle with is small, yappy dogs. If I spot them before Barley does, a command and more treats than usual will distract her from the dogs. There's one Yorkie in our neighborhood that barks and barks and barks, and Barley starts looking for it as soon as the house comes in sight, whether the dog is outside or not. If I don't give her commands before she spots the little dogs, she strains at the end of her leash and barks right back. It doesn't matter if I stick a treat in front of her nose or move in front of her so she can't see the dog; she acts like I'm not there and loses her head. The only thing I can do is drag her down the street; as soon as we're past whatever yard the little dog is in, she goes back to heeling and following commands like nothing ever happened.
So, I've gotten really good at anticipating where dogs will be in our neighborhood and having Barley "watch" before we get to the yards where little dogs are out and usually can keep Barley from being set up for failure. Recently, though, we've been struggling with one of our neighbor's dogs. It's a Jack Russell Terrier, so it's high energy and loud--just what interests Barley. The neighbors used to put the dog out on a tie out, so when we saw it while we were out in our yard (always on leash), I could get Barley's attention and then get her back inside without incident. Lately, though, they've started letting the dog out without it's tie out and they don't stay outside with the dog. Every time it's out and I take Barley out to potty, it will charge at us and Barley starts lunging in it's direction and I have to drag her back inside. We get back inside with just enough time to slam the door in the dog's face. We have french doors to our backyard, so the dog will lunge at the doors until I can get the curtains shut. This has happened on several occasions, so Barley is more interested in this little dog than usual.
Yesterday, we had a nightmare happen. We went outside on her retractable leash to potty (the only time I use the retractable leash!) and then took the trash to the dumpster. I hadn't gotten out jumps out of the car from our spring break trip yet, so I decided on the way back to stop and get the jumps. I was dumb. I decided not to make more than one trip and loaded my arms up with both jumps. Since I had the retractable leash, I couldn't slide the leash over my wrist and didn't have a great grip. But usually Barley will heel right along beside me, even if I stuff the leash in my pocket, so I figured we could make it inside no problems. Unfortunately, in the time it took to get from the dumpster to the car, the Jack Russell had been let outside (unaccompanied, of course). I saw it first, but it saw us at about the same time. I tried to give Barley the watch command, but before I could get it out of my mouth the Jack Russell ran at us and Barley lunged at it and ripped the leash right out of my hand. I dropped the jumps, called after Barley, and chased her down, but by the time I got to her, she had the little dog cornered under a chair on its porch. It was squealing bloody murder, so I was sure that I was going to see bloodshed when I got to Barley. Luckily, the dog was scared, but not hurt. I had grabbed Barley and pulled her away before the other dog's owner even came to the door to see what was going on. It was an older lady, and she just said "Oh! Oh!" And I said, "I'm so sorry. She pulled the leash out of my hand." I stayed long enough to make sure that the other dog was ok, and then took Barley back home.
It was horrifying. I couldn't stop shaking, so I took Barley to the state park for a walk. We ended up doing the whole paved trail--a four mile walk--and by the time we got home, I had calmed down a little, but I was just waiting for someone to show up at my door to take my dog away. I know Barley didn't hurt the dog, and I'm not sure she wanted to hurt it, but it was still scary and I can only imagine how it looked to someone who doesn't understand reactive dogs. It was also frustrating because I know that a big part of the blame is mine--I should not have carried more things than I could while still having a good grip on the leash, but at the same time, a lot of this stems from the irresponsible owners of the Jack Russell. If they kept their dog in their yard, it wouldn't lunge at our door, and Barley wouldn't be as interested in it. If they had been outside with their dog, when it ran to their porch, they could have opened the door and slammed the door in Barley's face like I always do with their dog. But you can't really tell someone that when your dog has theirs cornered under a chair and is making it squeal. It was a nightmare. Once I could form complete thoughts again, I emailed our trainer and she's coming up with a lesson plan for us to work on to help with Barley's reactions to small, yappy dogs. Ironically, yesterday morning I shared a picture on Facebook of two dogs on a porch and one was wearing a sign that said, "Sometimes we don't get the dog that we want, but we always get the dog that we need." Most of the time, I am so thankful I didn't bring home Beulah the puggle, but I'm having trouble understanding under what circumstances I could possibly need a dog that insists on giving me heart attacks.
In case you're scared of my dog now, here are some pictures of her doing the Barley Dance with her uncle over spring break to remind you that she's really just a big lover most of the time.
So, I'll end this on a happier note, by telling a story about one of Barley's real-life nightmares. While we were walking at the state park yesterday, there were a couple kids out flying kites. For some reason, they were flying them across the trail, and they were having trouble getting the kites to take off, so the strings were too low to walk under. Barley and I veered off into the grass to go around them. About the same time we got to the kids' location the trail, the kite took off. It was big and shaped like a bird and made a fluttering noise in the wind. Barley stared at it, jumped behind me, and put her tail between her legs. Then she slunk along behind me and was too scared to even take a treat from me. Even once we passed the kites, she was afraid of the big birds flying near the water. It took a good mile before she pulled her tail back out from between her legs! It gave me just the laugh I needed after our horrifying incident earlier in the day.