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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!)