I was on a road trip recently with my girl Petunia. We were hanging out in our own yard at our beach rental and, as always, working with various training tools. This day in particular, I had her off leash and free to roam. There were other dogs on our property and in order to keep those dogs safe, I muzzled her.
We've had our share of troubles in the past with her discomfort and reaction around other dogs and she's actually the reason I became a dog trainer/behaviorist. I want other owners to know there is help out there and there is no shame in reaching out for help. I've hung my head in shame for owning that dog.
I've dealt with so many negative feelings about this ugly muzzle that I still feel the need to use. I'm not ready to let it go. So I painted it in pretty colors so that my beautiful girl looks less menacing.
We were minding our own business when a lady whom I shall call Miss Busybody walked up to my fence with her dog. My girl just sat there! Just a few short months ago, she would have charged that fence! Miss Busybody looked at my dog's muzzle with judgment and disgust and asked me why I need to use a muzzle. Rather than give her the short answer (I'm never known for giving short answers!), I began to lower my energy in shame and explain to her in detail what was none of her business. Petunia could feel my energy shift and, as a result, I became a less effective pack leader in that moment.
As any good dog behaviorist will tell you, when the human shifts to a lower energy, your dog will take the more alpha position for you and become the pack leader. There are no spoken words--just a shift. The more in-tune you both are the more your dog will feel you.
Miss Busybody decided to lean over my fence with a *tsk tsk* tone about her vibe and Petunia started to take control of the moment. I stopped her dead in her tracks with "No" and she returned to me immediately. All of these months of training paid off in that one moment.
The bottom line here is that I was wrong in how I handled Miss Busybody from the start. My new reply will be "it's for prevention--have a nice day". Period. End of discussion. I owe it to no one to explain myself and owe it to everyone to be the responsible dog owner I am. The busybodies of the world are entitled to their opinions but I don't have to listen, engage or agree! I'd love to hear how some of you have handled the negative nellies...