Parking lot show down (the tale of crappy recall)
I had a nerve-wracking experience with Earl last night. He had a reaction to a stranger standing by his car - that had a dog barking inside of it - while we were out for our run around last night. It really shook me up, and the poor guy. I will do my best to try and explain, but please forgive me as I am not the best at conveying thoughts in a way that makes sense to other people.
I take Earl to the schools near my house, where there’s 2 elementary schools and a high school with fields the connect together and a TON of room to run around. We drive there most nights (cause it’s been really cold, and I would rather capitalize on running time to tire him out, than waste 20 minutes walking to and from the park. Let’s be honest, I’m just lazy sometimes) and park at one of the schools and then do laps of the fields. He runs up ahead, and comes back, and most of the time there’s other dogs around that he loves to play with. We practice his “comes” the whole time we are out, just out of the blue I’ll ask for it, and praise and treat when he does. He will always stop and look at me when I call him, and after what seems like him deciding, yes, I will go see my lady and get a snack-y snack, he will run full pin and come to screeching halt and sit at my feet. Now I’m going to say he’s about 85% on this, not good enough, but gets better every day. There’s one particular part of the field that is a nightmare. When we hit the end of the field with the lot the car is in, he will go balls-out til he hits the lot, then comes back to me. This is completely unacceptable to me. It is too far away from me, it is a parking lot (I’ve seen other cars come in it maybe 5 times in 6 months but still), it is WAY to close to the road, there are just so many things wrong with the situation. If we are in that field he will always head towards the lot, but comes back when I ask him to. It is only when we are walking from the far field in that direction that he takes off and doesn’t tend to listen.
Now, I understand that leashing him when he wants to run is the simple solution to this, until his recall is 100%, and that’s what will be happening after our little adventure last night, but is there anything anyone can suggest in the meantime?
Last night something VERY strange happened. Coming back across to the car (we were leaving, but he didn’t know that – sounds stupid but he understand when I say we are leaving in 15 minutes or 5 minutes – the 5 minute warning gives him the most insane zoomies) he took off and I called him calmly back to me, and it took a moment for me to realize what was happening, when he didn’t just go to the edge of the parking lot like usual, then I heard him barking like crazy and took off as fast as I could to catch up to him. I got closer and realized I had never heard him bark like this. It wasn’t a “hey, Ma! There’s someone at the door/a squirrel outside/you’re not paying enough attention to me/there’s a strange dog over there!” it was menacing. Scary even. Because of the snow banks I couldn’t see the lot completely til I was in it, where he had a young guy hiding behind his car, standing about 15 feet away with the fur on his back up, in a full out growling/barking fit. The guy was clearly taken aback as he was basically hiding behind his car, but he was calling me asking if the dog was friendly. I assured him that he is VERY friendly with all people and dogs, but he is still very young and I think he was startled seeing someone in the lot, where there’s never anyone. After I calmed down a touch (and caught my breath for running across 2 soccer fields in huge winter boots and jacket) and got earl on his leash and back away from the guy a bit, I noticed there was a dog in his car, also barking his face off. He asked if it would be ok to let his (GORGEOUS 3 ½ month old GSD) out for a little play, and I said yes of course. Earl was tentative for a minute or 2 but was soon in full on play bow zoomie mode with this little guy. Everyone relaxed, we stood and talked for half an hour while the puppers played. His girlfriend was there too and Earl barely even glanced at her when she got out of the car.
Here are my questions:
I need help with tricks to get Earl’s recall 100% every single time. Keeping him on a leash is not an option most of the time (but yes, he will be leashed in that part of the park for a while now!), as he would never sleep again if he couldn’t run. We work on it at home, where of course it is the perfect-o, rock solid, prime example of what every single dog should be like. He is ok at other people’s houses, at dog parks, in the woods, and everywhere else in this field, just not that one stretch.
Can a dog be protective of their car? LOL He knows which one is ours. He will sit by it if I ask him to “go to the car”, he loves being in the car and going for car rides. This is one of my stupid theories as to why he reacted the way he did to the guy – he may have been too close to our car for Earls comfort (on top of the dog barking in the car and Earl being startled). Earl calmed down very quickly once I got there and told him it was ok, but he did not have any intention of letting up on this guy otherwise (future Schutzhund star?!?!?!?!?) he gets very protective of the back yard when people walk through it (we are in a town house with open space behind it where people are constantly cutting through) but I’ve never seen the raised hairs and such intense barking and growling (I’ve only ever heard play growling)
Earl gets a lot more excited around men. I will admit, for the first 2 months I had him, his interactions were mostly with me and my mum, but he did see men, but they did not interact with him as often or thoroughly. For the past few months my bf has been really involved with him. The bf plays with him all night when he’s there, works on his training (and is doing REALLY well!!) and does basically everything with him. I don’t know if this reaction has something to do with how excited he gets around men, or if it was just a whole bunch of stuff mashed together, for the perfect storm of a reaction from my puppy. What should I do to work on this, again, besides the obvious of get him around men as often as possible and have them interact with him?
I’m sure I’ll come up with more preposterous reasons to try and explain his unacceptable behaviour. But I’d like some feedback on why, and more how to stop this from happening again, in particular how to get more control in the “problem” area of the field where nothing and no one can call his attention back to me. Also in case you were wondering, yes, I am trying for the longest, most repetitive and most poorly conveyed post. (and sorry for all these little asides – it’s how my scattered little brain works!)