I haven't updated this thread for a while, mainly because nothing much has changed. I think we've either reached a plateau, or this is about as tolerant of strange people and dogs Mocha is ever going to be at almost 5 years of age and if that's the case, I'm honestly fine with that. I'm not big on people myself, so why should I expect my dog to wag her tail and be happy anytime she sees anyone heading in our direction?
What I have been doing the last few months however, is try to figure out why one person or a man and his wife and their dog can walk by us, and Mocha almost ignores them, then another person or dog gets her agitated/stressed. At first, I thought maybe it was something to do with size, clothing, smell, etc., but now, after really watching her, I'm thinking it's either a personal space thing, or she's being somewhat protective of me (or maybe even both).
If a group of people, or a lone person, or someone with a dog is coming towards us, she'll initially watch them but if they stay on their side of the path, and don't change speed/direction, stop, or start talking to us, she's perfectly fine and in most cases, pretty much ignores them as they pass by. However, if they start slowing down, look at us, and start talking more than a simple good morning, she gets agitated. No growling, lunging, excessive barking like before (so damn proud of you, Mocha!), but she'll start huffing, breathing faster, and in some rare instances, a single bark. I think that's her way of telling them to keep their distance and not get too close.
Same if the other dog acts out - (which unfortunately happens more often than I like, and over time I've gotten to know which dogs behave and which don't so if I see one of the loud ones coming, we simply go off trail until the dog passes us by) Mocha will respond if a dog goes off on her; again, I think she's just letting the other dog know she can bark too and telling it to hush LOL. Mocha also doesn't care to have people walking behind us; i.e. if someone is walking slower than us and we pass them by, she'll keep looking back and looking back until they're finally out of sight.
Now I'm definitely no dog behaviorist, and I may very well be way off base in my thoughts and observations but, this journey has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. Not only do I have a much more relaxed and happy dog that I can take out to the park with me, but this whole process has helped me bond with her in a way I've never bonded with any other dog I've had.
Having said all that, here are a couple of pics from this morning's hike
So many interesting smells in the woods
If I stand still and blend in, maybe those Canada geese will come just a bit closer