A year and a half ago, or so, shortly after I’d brought Cholula home from the shelter, we were walking along the sidewalk towards our house when Cholula spotted a dog paused outside our front gate. I froze–Cholula went into such a frenzy that she viciously attacked our sweet old dog Pundit just because he happened to be standing next to her and she couldn’t reach the dog she really wanted to attack, the dog standing in front of our house. Pundit and Cholula’s leashes were tangled and it took me a horrifying minute to pull them apart. After that, for months, I always walked with my dogs’ leashes in separate hands to make sure Pundit could escape.
Last night, as we headed down that same hill, from just about the same distance, Cholula saw a dog half way through our front gate, pulling on its leash to sniff inside our front yard. We approached, meeting the dog at our front steps. Cholula wagged and sniffed. The dog wagged and sniffed. That was all.
We went to West Virginia with some friends over Memorial Day weekend. The friends have a big dog who has also had some leash aggression problems. I was a little nervous about having the two of them together, but we introduced them in a low-key, Natural Dog Training manner—both dogs on leash, walking around outside for a few minutes away from the house—and they settled into each other’s company without incident.
Even their most charged moment was a revelation of how Natural Dog Training has transformed my dog. Cholula was on a long line because still, when she is out in the country, what she really wants to do is disappear on her own hunts (yes, we still have many unmet training goals, but that is for another post…). I brought over her tug toy, and she tugged it with me. The tugging excited our friends’ dog, Moose, and he came over, eager to tug. I turned from Cholula, curious to see what kind of tugger Moose was, and offered him her tug toy. He grabbed it with great enthusiasm and tugged—and Cholula went wild at the sight of Moose with her tug toy—but instead of going wild with fear or aggression, she went wild with play, giving play bow after play bow, bouncing around him with her tail high in the air, darting at him and daring him to chase her, asking him to wrestle with her—things she never, ever does. Why the sight of Moose tugging her toy brought out this intense playful energy from Cholula I don’t know, I’m sure Kevin Behan could explain it, but it was an unexpected and joyful glimpse into a part of her she still usually keeps locked up.
My family went to a swimming hole on the way home. Cholula was on her leash and had already agreeably jumped into the current with me and floated down the rapid several times when a couple appeared with two pushy boxers roaming off leash. The dogs, especially the male, came over to her several times, not quite aggressive or hostile, but very pushy, with a strident upward thrust to his shoulders I’ve come to associate with trouble. I flashbacked to a hike we took with Cholula shortly after we had gotten her, when some off-leash dogs riled the on-leash Cholula into a complete frenzy of lunging and barking, losing her mind in fear and aggression as I struggled to get her far enough off the narrow trail to wait it out until the dogs had safely passed. This time, at the swimming hole, my husband had Cholula. And what did Cholula do? She let the boxer push at her and then, like a full-fledged family dog, jumped into the current with my husband and girls. The photo I snapped makes me laugh—I didn’t even realize the pushy boxer was in the frame, but there he is, looking at me, as if to ask, “where did that dog go?”