Dogs are an extension of our family and we love them with our whole heart. Sometimes we have a perfect dog and want a companion for him or her, but separation anxiety becomes an issue with the new dog. In other cases, the new family member is aggressive. When anxiety runs high in their human, dogs feed off this nervous energy. Even the best of intentions can make life difficult with a new high needs dog. Can you relate to this scenario? Read below to learn about one of our positive and transformative stories of a newly calm dog we run.
Recently, I was out for a run with a formerly aggressive dog we have been working with for about two years now. While mid-run one weekday morning, the sound of a bark in the distance was getting louder and more ferocious. I knew the barking dog was inside the home and behind a screen door. We made sure to slow to a walk. This was done for both dogs’ benefit so not to overstimulate either. Before we knew it, the dog inside the house broke through the screen door and leapt over a half wall with ease. The eyes of the aggressive dog were focused on our four-legged runner who was once a dog with her own behavioral issues. This story potentially may have turned into an absolute disaster had the owner not intervened when she did. We could see stress and sadness in her face as she ran outside for her dog, and after assuring her we were not injured, we left. This is where the story ends, right? Wrong. This is only the beginning.
Luckily, our dog was nothing more than a bit spooked. At any rate, we felt it is was best to not resume her run, and walk home calmly instead. After all, I am the professional and know what’s best for our regular runner. Or so I thought! That walk home lasted two minutes before our “client” wanted to slowly run again. There was no limp, or signs of trauma. She was startled temporarily, and then back to her confident running self. After speaking with her dedicated owners about our encounter with the aggressive dog, they responded warmly with “We know the feeling.”. Because their dog, our happy-go-lucky four-legged client used to be a territorial dog, they were sympathetic. I decided to return back to the house of the aggressive dog, because I could sense this was a woman who loved her dog and wanted change. Thank goodness I did.
When the woman answered her door expecting the worst from me, I first let her know the dog I was running was not injured. Relief number one for her. Secondly, I said I could see she was genuine, but her dog needed help. She nodded in agreement and let me know she had spent thousands of dollars with a trainer and it didn’t work. Her dog loved people but was aggressive towards dogs. She then initiated the most important part of this story. She apologized with a smile, first for even asking what she was about to, and then said, “I think my dog needs to run. You probably don’t want to do this, but can I hire you to run her?”. This moment is what changed her and her dog’s life. She has only owned perfectly behaved dogs, so this was new to her. “Yes. Of course I will run her and give her what she needs.”. Was I crazy? Not a chance. I personally have run many aggressive and anxious dogs. We know running is therapy for humans AND dogs.
In the last three months of regular running, the dog who broke through a screen door, leapt over a wall, lunged at one of our other running dogs (and knocking into me in the process), has calmed considerably. I have helped establish one-on-one trust. I have worked tirelessly to help her face her fears, as insignificant as they may sound. Her fitness level has improved tremendously. I have calmed her nerves through running, and also by introducing her owner to our favorite brand of calming dog CBD. She now realizes most leashed dogs on a leisurely walk with their owners are not aggressive. I have proven yet again aggressive breeds and anxious rescues thrive from exercise.
The best part of the story for us? This isn’t the first time we have had an aggressive dog transform through our running program, and it certainly won’t be the last!