Okay I know I’m not a bad dog owner… but I felt it yesterday. For the first time since I have been letting Duke off the lead he got away from me. before I explain this eventful walk I feel like I have to give some background on my lovely doggy. Just in case you don’t know him; Duke is a one year old Rhodesian ridgeback cross mastiff, weighing in at almost 6 stone, he’s very energetic and cuddly, he’s rehomed, we brought him home 3 months ago and we absolutely adore him. Duke doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. All though he’s been attacked, encountered unfriendly dogs and been nipped by a few Duke has never bitten. He is however very curious of other dogs and needs some more doggy manners.

I’ve grown in confidence around letting him off the lead because he’s been really good at coming back when called. He goes back on the lead when we see another dog. This is because Duke hasn’t been neutered yet (He will be on Tuesday) so he can be a wee bit over excitable. He’s also a big dog and sometimes other dog owners can be scared. I pride myself on being a conscientious dog owner; not leaving him unattended in the garden or allowing him to bark at the door, doing my best to teaching him not to jump up at people  and stay calm.

I’ll take a little moment to set the scene; a few doors down from our friends (only across the road from us) there is a doggy who guards his home quite noisily. Understandably so I suppose. Previously we walked past, on the lead as I don’t let him off around houses and accommodation on camp, and the dog  snarled and went crazy at Duke. The first 3 times duke cried and  hid behind me. The most recent time while out with our friends, obviously feeling backed up by his doggy buddy, duke barked back! I have never been so shocked. I dragged him away, calmed him down and continued our walk.

All okay right?? Well, yesterday I let duke off as I often do. Practice some sit and stay kept on walking. A little rabbit dashed out, I successfully called him off chasing the rabbit. Duke followed me and as a reward I chucked the ball… too far. Duke dashed off. I took my eye off him for a second and suddenly we see the garden guarding Dog. On the lead with its owners. I call duke back. He chins me of. He keeps trotting forward. I run. Calling his name calmly. Duke keeps trotting. I could see it happening before it happened; the dog went for Duke. Snarling and barking and snapping. The owner doing what he could to pull him away. Duke barked back. At that moment in time I looked like a bloody idiot and it felt like all hell had broken loose.  Duke wasn’t being aggressing he was just barking back but, still curious, kept approaching the dog who understandably at that point really wasn’t happy about the situation. A frantic scramble for my dogs collar and finally Duke was pinned down. By me. My knees covered in grass strains and completely out breath. Duke’s calm at this point; relaxed with me still pinning him down onto the grass; looking at me like I’m acting very strange.

Of course I apologised and take responsibility; It’s my fault Duke was the dog off the lead. At that moment in time I was the “asshole dog owner” and I felt like it. Awful. I know it’s my fault and I feel all the guilt. I even went and apologised a second time after we had finished the walk.

I choose to let my dog off the lead as it has some real benefits for him. Some dog behaviourist suggests dogs need this time in order to release energy and practice natural behaviour. Un leashing your dog is a good thing. It gives him a chance to truly stretch those legs . The Dogs Trust suggest all dogs off all sizes need time off the lead.  I notice the difference in Duke when he’s been off the lead.  However this last off the lead excursion left me feeling like the worst human ever ! My husband reminded me that neither dog nor person was hurt. Sometimes it happens. Yes! Sometimes it happens!! Sometimes your dog is the one that barks abit too loud or cocks his leg in an embarrassing place. Sometime they run off when their recall isn’t perfect. If Duke ever proved himself to be person or dog aggressive I wouldn’t let him off the lead. I will let him off the lead again. I WILL work on his recall under distraction. I will sort out his selective hearing. we will get there. I get so worried about being judged but my boy has come along so far and I’m so proud of him. I suppose we all have bad doggy days.

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