Sunday, January 31, 2010

When a dog nearly gives you a heart attack

Mina is leash-aggressive around other dogs. I expect it from her. She can meet small dogs, no problem, on leash. She can bully her way up to large, calm dogs, no problem. But any dog who shows an interest or yelps or barks, she takes the offensive - on leash. Off-leash, her social skills aren't much better, but she's more keen on running and playing than anything else.

So when my parents and I took the dogs for a walk yesterday, I expected Mina's over-excited, irksome behavior upon seeing another dog.

What I didn't expect was my other dog, my calm, sweet, perpetual puppy Celeste to slip her collar and dash across a country road and start yelling in the other dog's face.

There I was with an 11-yr-old Pit Bull screaming bloody murder and an un-collared, un-leashed muttskie yelping - seriously - something at a geriatric, old-lady Vizsla dog with the kindest, nicest, calmest owner on earth. While Celeste is standing inches from the dog's face, talking and talking about what - none of us know - the man is standing there calmly and politely telling Celeste, "Oh gosh, you don't mean that." And it's true, Celeste doesn't. She's feeding off of Mina's energy and doing her best to protect the pack from this clear and present danger who's currently staring off into space.

My dad runs over and Celeste is all OH MY GOD U KILLS ME?!? No, my dad is being nice and sweet and Celeste is just oh so very concerned. I call Celeste and her recall skills, being far more reliable than a certain old-lady dog, comes over. She's looking quite upset about the whole fiasco, and I don't blame her.

Me? I'm ever thankful my parents are with me. With Mina, I wouldn't have been able to get within 5' of the other dog. Either Mina would have had to been tied to a freaking grapevine or the other man would have had to leash Celeste and hand her back to me...but from a safe distance, thanks.

The collar is tight now. No chance of slipping possible. Celeste didn't pose a threat to the dog and, really, you could tell the dog knew it. Celeste, bless her sweet, gentle, submissive heart, was so incredibly unsure of what the hell she was doing that she'd vacillate between barking and then gently sniffing the dog's nose, barking and then trying to sniff the dog's butt. Which is just me being overwhelming happy that, if this shitastic event were to occur, it occurred on a less-traveled road, at 11 in the morning, with my parents present and involving one nice man and his equally nice dog.

Worst case scenario didn't happen - encountering a car. Celeste can survive an encounter with an ornery dog, but not with a 2,000 lb vehicle.

Check your collars. Check your harnesses. Make sure your gear is safe and secure. Have all sorts of back-up plans for if the unthinkable happens. Celeste won't be slipping her collar ever again. My heart is unprepared to deal with her running in traffic to go yell passive-aggressive obscenities at other dogs.


Schwang said...

So scary! We had a couple of collar slip incidents...even with a prong and martingale. And we had an incident where the little leash latch came undone. Mr.B. went chasing after a giant poodle along a very busy road. All that was enough to freak me out, so now we have an elaborate collar system where they can never get loose:

Kari in WeHo said...

we are experiencing that more now. BC starts barking because he feeds off Bailys nervous energy (we have her trained not to bark) but then Baily gets into it and so does Mesa. Its quite the mess

Janet Johnson said...

Glad you had backup!!

Rinalia said...

@Schwang: Mina has a similar setup - carbiner connecting the prong to the collar; if one fails, there is a back up. Celeste doesn't need a prong, so I might look into a martingale and do something similar.

Liz said...

I use a martingale, but usually use a Prong when walking or out in public.

I'm glad no one was hurt!

I just discovered your blog by the way, and it's wonderful!

Rinalia said...

@Liz - Me too! I'm going to consider a martingale too for my muttskie. Thank you so much for commenting, welcome! :)

Kaelin said...

Yikes. Leash-slipping incidents definitely induce heart-attacks for me. I've had it happen a couple of times with my boxer.

Someone finally introduced me to martingales, and it's been the awesomest thing ever for him and me. I like the Lupine brand martingale collars.

The longer explanation is that it sounds like Celeste is a bit like my boxer Allstar, in that she's not in a constant battle to get out of the collar - it's unexpected when it happens. (Sorry if I'm wrong!) With Allstar, when he got older and his neck got bigger (read: fatter), he learned that he could stop short, hunch his shoulders forward, put his head down, and the collar would slip right off him. It became his new favorite trick when he wanted to go one way and I wanted to go the other. As with your experience, what terrified me was the possibility of him getting hit by a car. He's very friendly with other dogs and everyone in the neighborhood knows him, but he ran into the road once or twice, and I swear I went into cardiac arrest.

For a while, I was walking him with a chain, which I hated, but it was the only thing that made me feel safe because it would "choke up" when he tried to escape. I tried harnesses, but he loathes them and will simply refuse to move with a harness on. (I should have worked harder with him on that, but I decided not to pick that battle.)

Then when I moved to Chicago and found this great petstore, they suggested a Lupine-brand collar, and I was soooooo skeptical but I tried it and it was like magic. He's basically quit trying to wriggle his way out, and on the few occasions that he still tries it, I just have to stand there calmly until he quickly realizes that the collar's not going to come off.

And then when he trots himself toward me with his nose in the air and snob-face firmly in place, the martingale loosens up to its normal state.

I'm really sorry for the epic post here. It's just that ever since discovering this martingale collar about 6 months ago (I know, I'm way behind the times...), I've become an evangelist for them, when it's the right situation for the dog. I use a harness on my little one and I definitely think harnesses are the way to go if possible, but this martingale is perfect for the big guy. If you decide to get one for Celeste, I can vouch for the Lupine ones.

Anyway, I'm really glad to hear that everything turned out okay with Celeste, and that old dude who owned the Vizsla sounds like a gem! Glad you're okay too, and didn't need to be resuscitated.