Today, Viva is far from what people would call a "social" dog, as she rarely goes beyond a sniff exchange. But neither is it my goal to have her engage in play or other social contact as she rarely wants that. The important thing is she now has the social skills to communicate to off leash dogs she really is not interested to meet them, without asserting to aggression.
Working with BAT did me a lot of good too. I am studying dog body language of every dog we are about to meet to judge how Viva would react and learned a lot from that. Can we pass by on a short distance? If not, how much distance would we need? Dogs that mirror Viva's calming signals, like looking away and starting to sniff something on the ground, have a good chance Viva will allow them a sniff, might they want that.
An excited youngster with a lot to learn, is no threat either, although she will tell them to bugger off when they would try more than a sniff, as they usually do. Viva does give the message on an appropriate level, making it a good lesson for the youngster as well. Her only nemesis are still the dogs that zoom in on her, and have a stiff stance. They send her over the threshold once more. Her message is clear, don't even think about getting closer. Still work-in-progress on that one.
|Do you really want to meet us?|
The best possible scenario is, when it concerns a dog that was allowed a sniff, the other dog makes a play-bow right after the sniff. Something only the dogs with the most savviest social skills will do. It rarely happens, but it will trigger Viva to engage in some play and gain her a new friend. It was also exactly what Kenzo did, first time they met.
Along the line, I found out I can get a lot of clues studying the body language and habits of their dog owners as well, at least the ones that always have their dogs off leash and thereby could cause some trouble for us. I call them the Careless, the Clueless and the Judges.
Thankfully the majority of people that have their dogs off leash, are not Careless, Clueless or Judges, and do show empathy when they meet us on their paths. They make Viva's life so much easier. They leash their dogs, when they see we go leashed or when they see us trying to avoid them. Or they recall and have their dog to heel. At the minimum, they also study Kenzo and Viva's body language, to measure what is coming up the road ahead of them.
The first are the Careless. They seem to show no interest into what their dog is up to. They talk on their cell or are occupied with other things. A Careless owner with a dog that displays a stiff stance, are a risky cocktail. I make a U-turn when I see them come.
One of the Careless we've met, with a young exuberant dog bullying others on every opportunity he could get, really baffled me. When he noticed his dog was speeding towards us for a rump, he must have thought: "Ah great, he found somebody to play with", and sad down on a bench to make a phone call. After a body-check and a tumble Kenzo was laying on top of the dog. He just doesn't accept impolite greeters. The guy almost dropped his cell.
Then there are the Clueless. They are very into what their dog is doing yet they don't seem to get a message, and their dogs usually don't listen to them. When I feel that Viva would not like to meet their dog and try to create some distance or avoid them, they follow us, usually while shouting: "My dog is friendly!". It is hard to get away from the Clueless or try to explain it is not a good idea. Luckily they hardly ever have dogs that come with a stiff stance or zoom in on Viva, so I can relax more now, would they catch up with us. And as soon as Viva does her "one sniff is enough" bark, it also usually sends them packing, while rolling their eyes.
The worst are what I call the Judges. Self-confident, with a walk like they own the world. God's gift to the off leash dog scene. We are walking on their path. Whatever will happen next they're right and I'm wrong. Would we meet, we'll usually get scolded for being something inferior, and nothing is their responsibility.
When one of the Judges would have a dog that displays a stiff stance, that means real trouble. When we meet this combination, we get the hell-out-of-dodge. I remember once while getting away, such a couple met another dog when I looked over my shoulder, they found another dog to bully, commented by the Judges with: "They must find out of it among themselves". Their favorite sentence.