Is this an apology? No! Is this a confession? No! This is a fact. I’m no longer going to say sorry for my dog. I have a reactive dog. He is called Frank (the handsome chap in the photo above) and he has been the apple of my eye from the moment I saw him cowering in the corner of a huge cage filled with big, barking dogs. I knew I had to get him away from there. I took him home straight away. I didn’t care about his history, I just had to make him safe.
Frank and I have a very special relationship. He loves to be near me, he likes to keep me safe when I’m on my own, but he is really well behaved with me and always does what I ask of him. We have been on a huge journey. Frank has shown me huge unconditional love and loyalty despite being dumped twice. He still has faith in humans.
When I take Frank out for a walk it’s a different story. I won’t lie to you, it is a huge challenge. As soon as he sees another dog he starts doing a very high pitch whine. At every dog. Every. Single. Dog. Of course Frank has got history as most reactive dogs do. I smile meekly at those other dog owners and apologise for my dog and mutter those get out of jail words “he is a rescue dog.” They give me a very quick knowing smile; you probably know the one I’m talking about. I quickly move on and breathe until we come near another dog.
Why should I apologise for my dog? He means the world to me and here I am wanting to walk him with me in a balaclava and far away from where anyone can see him or me. Frank has never hurt anyone. In fact, those dogs who are off lead and come running over to him are the ones that are upsetting him. You know the ones I mean. The owner shouts at you from the other side of the field “my dog is friendly”, except it’s not very friendly to completely ignore all the signals that my Frank is giving out. Those “friendly” dogs have not learnt doggy manners and end up stressing my dog out and me as I try and divert Frank away from the dog who is causing all this distress. Meanwhile the owner comes running over and gives me a mouthful about controlling my dog. “Sorry, he is a rescue” I mumble and escape as quick as I can. But actually my dog is on a lead. Yours isn’t. Your dog came over to us. Your dog has just caused my dog stress that will take days to leave his system and mine.
Frank has never attacked a dog whilst we have been out or any dog that comes into our home. He is wary, he is fearful of other dogs and his high pitch wailing is a pretty big signal for dogs to stay clear. Frank has come a long way. I use to do home boarding and would have boarders at home and after a couple of hours Frank was happy to mingle with them and if they wanted to sleep on Franks bed he let them. In my house, Frank is the most submissive dog. Frank is actually a pretty cool dog, he even has his own Facebook fan page. His antics used to be legendary, but he is quite content now and behaves really well, apart from that high pitched wail!
I made a really big decision the other week. I am going to stop apologising for Frank’s reactiveness to other dogs. I am going to stop hiding Frank away. No more sloping round the industrial estate late at night for me.
I walk quite a few reactive dogs and, again, I’m not going to apologise for them. I take my hat off to anyone who has a reactive dog. They are hard work. It requires a huge commitment from the owners in time, love, consistency, patience and money. But when they give you something in return, no matter how small, it’s the best feeling in the world. When you take a dog that is reactive for a walk, the very first time that they don’t react to their normal trigger is better than birthdays, Christmas or winning the lottery. It’s an amazing achievement!
So I’m not sorry anymore. I’m damn proud of my Frank.
Love Sally x
Sally Cousins is a self confessed mad dog lady!
After being mum to several rescue dogs she decided to turn her passion in to her career and set up her own dog walking business back in 2015.
Sally not only runs her business, she also writes for her own blog and also does guest blogs for other dog businesses. You can also find Sally chatting as a guest on dog related podcasts.