Coming clean: Chocko appreciates his personal space

So remember a few weeks back, I told you all we had some announcements?  Well, we’ve told you about how temporary fostering went (2 thumbs and 4 paws up!) and about how much time Chocko’s been spending at the gym, but there’s still a few things we’ve been holding back!

Today we’re coming clean about Chocko’s personal space.  I’ve been meaning to post about this for abouuuuuut 4 or 5 months…oops?  I guess I was hesitant because, well, let’s be real…I didn’t want him to have ‘issues’ and I was in DE-NI-AL about his leash reactivity. As you know, Knox was pretty much a roll-with-the-punches guy and nothing really rustled his feathers…like at all.  I was thankful.  And spoiled.  I knew there were ‘reactive’ dogs, picky dogs, dogs that needed special accomodations…I never imagined I’d own one.  Well, I do.  And he’s awesome.  He just…likes his personal space when he’s out on walks.  I’m ok with that, most days.


A few weeks ago our virtual buddies over at Love & a 6 Foot Leash posted a PSA about dogs who have preferences; both Sir Chick and the ‘Dude, renowned Wonderdogs, admitted their limits, so figured it was about time to do the same over here!

chocko pSA

Now we didn’t know Chocko was leash reactive at first.  And he’s only reactive sometimes.  He doesn’t make any loud noises, scary barks, or show teeth.  Which tends to deceive walkers, thinking he’s all approachable and wants to say hi.  Well, I learned that is not the case.  We adopted him in July, and it took a little while for his ‘reactivity’ to really show up, by October, it was clear to me that Chocko had a serious pet peeve:

Face to Face on leash greetings (the kind we run into kinda all the time turning a city block)  are his least favorite thing EVA.  You could see how a girl could be confused though, right?  I mean check him out below.  This picture was from October, at BARCstoberfest.  A crazy crowded scene full of dogs, and he does great in those settings.  He then ran with a MABB foster (Julius, who has since been adopted) in his first 5k, also kicking butt!  The day went off without a hitch.

iphonepix 253

So really, it just took me a little longer to realize, look into (aka research) and acknowledge that those ‘boo’ turns around the corner that leave you face to face with another dog OR the loooooong, drawn out, face to face approach (his 2nd least fav) when you can’t jump into traffic, are not his cup of tea.  Do I know what goes on in his big blocky head?  No, I don’t.  I’m not an animal behaviorist, or a trainer, or an expert.  Clearly it took me quite a bit of time, with my lack of experience, to realize my dog’s needs.  My guess?  He’s a big wus.  I think he’s super intimidated and finds the need to ‘puff’, a kind of ‘I better get that guy or he’s gonna get me’ posture.  Either way, he certainly gets his point across, a big “get the f out of my space” (sorry for the language, but he doesn’t say it gently either, and that’s exactly what words I imagine coming out of his big mouth).

Once he’s introduced, he’s golden.  A little co-walk a few feet apart, followed by allowing him to be in the rear (and sniff the air a bit) then he play bows and rolls on his back, which he does often with his pals.  It’s his magic recipe.  chocko and tyson 037 edit

Flirting with Mollygirl

Flirting with Mollygirl

gremlin ruby 014Honestly, I’ve figured out what he needs, and we’re still working on getting him to not act on his impulse, ensuring he feels comfortable (and that it’s my job to protect him, not the other way around), and hoping he trusts us not to put him in a situation that makes him feel unsafe.  Sometimes, it’s out of our hands, but luckily we’ve been able to manage ok (maybe not ideal?  But good enough).  I’ve ensured that so far, since October, he has never been able to get face to face with another dog on leash without a proper intro.  I think that’s a success.  But we get hit with the random corner turns, and those get me in a funk.  He doesn’t do ‘perfect’ and sometimes neither do I.  We are a work in progress.  Which is ultimately why we haven’t fostered full time yet.  It’s not because he’s not good with dogs in the house, it’s because I can’t walk two big dogs at one time (and remember, that’s the only way anyone gets any potty breaks or excercise since we are yard-less).  I also don’t have the luxury of walking them separately with my work schedule so, fosterless we will remain until we are a little closer to perfect.

chock 164 edit

If your still here, thanks for reading this REALLY long post.  It feels good to come clean.  And it feels good to love my dog in all his unperfectness (and who are we kidding, in all of my unperfectness too!)


20 thoughts on “Coming clean: Chocko appreciates his personal space

  1. I may be wrong, but I don’t think this is particularly abnormal. Not ideal, yes, but I think most dogs don’t enjoy face-to-face greetings (mine in particular). It takes a special dog to be social enough to tolerate all kinds of greetings. It sounds like you are doing everything right as far as management. I am sure you are far from alone in this!

    • 100% agree with you. I’ve read over and over about how dogs would introduce themselves ‘naturally’, and its that sniffing from far away, and the circling (while butt sniffing) EVENTUALLY. Unfortunately, many dog owners just don’t know this and let their dogs come barreling up to us, and it’s just a work in progress for Chocko to learn to ‘keep going’ instead of lunging in their direction.

  2. Keep up the good work…I know you two will get there, especially now that you have his triggers pointed out! I love that you said “WE are a work in progress.” It’s definitely on us to work on our reactions, too.

    PS Loooooove the pic of him wearing his sweatshirt at the gym — he’s such a little body builder!!

  3. You are not alone….my pittie girl does much better without a “face-to-face” introduction too! Kudos to you for paying attention to your dogs needs and managing them the best you can 🙂

  4. Chocko is so stunning! Our pit bull, Jack, also adores his personal space. He doesn’t react to 95% of other dogs (he just ignores them and power walks away) but if a dog is acting too crazy or pushy (even if they are across the street) he will not tolerate it (no lunging, just a big dinosaur growl). He is a very polite dog and in his mind, if you are greeting it should be quick and calm, then you move on. We taught him a really solid “leave it” so if he see’s a dog that he is not a fan of we can tell him to “leave it” and he will turn his head away. It’s our way of telling him “I know that dog is too much, I’ll get you out of here.”

    • I’d love to get him to the point of ignoring! That’s my goal. We’re working on the command “watch”, so eventually he’ll (hopefully) be to the point that when we both see another dog, I can say ‘watch’ and he’ll focus on me (not the other dog) and keep moving. I like the leave it, esp since Chocko already knows that one!

  5. Rufus can totally relate. While he does have moments in which he IMMEDIATELY likes a dog, he often prefers to take it very slow – a walk and space first is very important. Sure it’s a pain for us that love to surround ourselves with dogs, but it could be worse, right?

  6. One, welcome to the club! Melvin’s reactivity overwhelmed me at first but overcoming things with me, him and the leash has been so rewarding and I’ve found that SO many people are in our club! Two, looking forward to more coming cleans!

  7. We’ve definitely been struggling through leash reactivity, particularly since we don’t have friends with dogs who would be comfortable practicing proper introductions. Eddie did fine when we tried a proper introduction at the vet clinic but usually he only sees off leash dogs or an occasional passing dog. I can’t imagine having to deal with a fear of dogs while turning street corners in Baltimore city!

  8. I totally get where you’re coming from! Our new guy is on leash reactive (to everything!) and we are currently working with a trainer to deal with that. He’s doing well but it definitely makes you appreciate how easy walks used to be! 🙂

    You’re doing great! And maybe working with a trainer will help Chocko too with the unexpected encounters.

    • We’ve worked with lots of different trainers, and despite know what we ‘should’ be doing, its just a matter of practice makes perfect, and finding the best combination of ALL the diff trainers’ advice to what works best for us. We’re plucking along! Good work for your guy too!!!

  9. There was a yellow ribbon flyer that went around not so long ago that we utilize with our boys here. Our boys are super friendly but only if introduced the correct way. They too have some reactivity on leash. The idea was to tie a color ribbon to the leash to signal if a dog was OK to approach or not…we even carried some fliers with us and handed them out so people would be aware of what it meant. It works great. The other thing we have done is carry a hand sign that says “please don’t run up to our boys – they are not allowed to talk to strangers…” when we would see someone coming we would stop and hold up the sign so that people would stop first and allow us to redirect. It worked well. We also carry treats at all times to help redirect in those instances that we need a quick distraction.

  10. Delilah reacts to certain dogs and finally I’ve begun to realize that she reacts to rude dogs. Dogs who are barking, lunging and posturing, she will give them a face full of chocolate that they will not forget, so I make sure to watch her and be aware of other dogs. If a dog comes up and surprises her, she will react to that too. It is up to me to make sure she stays safe and doesn’t feel like she must protect herself.

    This is hard because the majority of dog people I run into are clueless. Especially in the classroom. People somehow think “I’m here for training, other people will understand.” But that does not lessen their responsibility!

    When we started our Nosework class last week two women (whose dogs obviously knew each other) were greeting in the parking lot, effectively blocking the entrance. I walked Delilah around until they had moved then went to enter the building. One of the women had a dog that was energetic, typically a dog that Delilah wants to tell to ‘settle down.’ She walked inside and sat about five feet from the doorway. I stood outside a minute and the instructor came out (I’ve taken classes with her before) and I said, “I can’t get past that dog.” Not I won’t or I don’t want to, I can’t. Not worth stressing my dog over.

    It’s good that you are aware of areas that you need to work and I’m glad you are approaching this as a team! I look forward to hearing of your progress!

  11. Maggie is UBER leash reactive and we’ve been working with her since October to get it under control. It’s so frustrating because she’s great with dogs off leash but when she’s got the collar and lead, she’s a maniac! Luckily, we found a group that is so supportive of helping us with our training and not flinching when she goes all Cujo during a class. It’s always nice to read about other people dealing with leash reactivity though because it makes us feel less along in the issue. And there are SO many people out there struggling with their pooch’s leash reactivity too.

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