Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Belly flops

As we approached along our local lane today, a rather handsome goldie dropped to his belly and waited for us. Polly walked calmly towards him to introduce herself nose to nose.  There was a brief moment when excitement bubbled up and she gave a hopeful little play jump, but when he didn't respond, she simply sat, waited for him to rise, then walk on calmly with me, while I chatted with his owner.

And the reason I mention this?  Well, usually Polly is the oncoming belly flopping dog!  When she is on the lead and dogs approach on a narrow lane, she often targets them, lowers her head, freezes, then drops to her belly.  When the oncoming dog reaches us, she may then choose to leap up unexpectedly, presumably to invite play/introduce herself/let them know she's bigger than they think (draw your own conclusion, I'm really not sure which!)  Whatever her reason, I'll admit, this is not my preferred way to greet strangers.

After ploughing through several dog behaviour books, I have drawn the conclusion it is quite possible Poll becomes anxious on her lead when dogs approach head-on along narrow pathways; apparently head on approaches are not polite in doggy etiquette!  So, to try and help her, I have recently been encouraging her to respond to a 'watch' command when I spot an unfamiliar dog ahead to claim her focus, following it through with either a swift u-turn, or a 180 degree turn into a sit, so her back faces the approaching dog and her interest in him  can be diverted by me until he passes.  It's easier said than done though, as timing is critical - if I don't engage her attention a split second before she enters her 'stalk' mode, I'm done for because she will tune me out, plonk herself down in the middle of the path and absolutely refuse to budge ... and we're talking one very determined, heavy girl nowadays!

It's early days, but I have noticed an improvement this week, Polly seems to be thinking about the situation and looking for guidance from me, rather than just reacting to whatever is ahead, so with patience and plenty more encouragement, hopefully we'll eventually manage to iron out the unwelcome belly flop between us.

In the meantime, if you happen to be walking along a narrow lane and notice rather erratic behaviour from a peculiar lady walking a cream goldie ahead of you ... please don't call the men in white coats!

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