This morning's walk- not so great.
It was a weird walk, I'll admit I played a part in the weirdness. For one, I brought coffee with me, so both of my hands weren't free to hold the leash/give treats. Secondly, the walk started off so well. Marty actually walked outside and down my walkway on his own, no nudging required.
About a block away we ran into a puppy we saw a couple of days ago named Lou. Lou is a tiny little thing, maybe 5 lbs (I'll try and grab a pic next time I see him). His owner (whose name I'll have to get) is very nice and thinks Marty is adorable. When we originally met, Lou was extremely hyper, but very friendly. He was jumping on Marty, but Marty was in a pretty good mood so didn't mind too much. I gave Marty a treat for not growling/getting mad, and then offered one to Lou, but only if he was able to sit. After a few minutes, Lou sat down, Marty and Lou exchanged licks and we were all on our way.
Back to this morning. We stopped and said hi, with Lou actually sitting down instantly, remembering that I was the "treat guy." His owner and I had a good laugh at that, and almost immediately Marty became terrified of something. I have no idea what spooked him. I had my hands full, but wanted to give Lou a treat. His owner offered to hold on to Marty while I got them out of my pocket, which is when Lou got up and started jumping on Marty again. Marty did not react well this time.
Marty started growling (he actually sounds a little scary when he growls) and I instantly corrected him. Lou, being the little ball of fur and energy that he is, just kept bouncing around. Lou ended up sitting as soon as the treat came out, and all was well. We said goodbye and that was that.
I have to say, it's always nice to run into a smart dog owner. Lou's owner realized that Marty was growling because he was scared. She didn't freak out and pull Lou away, she didn't get mad or annoyed, she simply called Lou over to her and we both ignored Marty after he was corrected so that he learns not to do it again. Owners that freak out over a growl only feed into Marty's fear. He senses they are now scared so he gets more frightened and more defensive.
Anyway, the subsequent walk was not good. He kept stopping and trying to run back to the house. Then we ran into a bus.
Marty is TERRIFIED of buses. Just utterly terrified. So when I saw a big yellow school bus parked a block in front of us, I knew we were in for trouble. Now, when there's a big yellow school bus around, there's usually children around. And of course, Marty being a puppy and adorable, they want to pet him.
This is a great time for me to talk about scared puppies and children. In the past 3 days I've encountered two completely different reactions to Marty being scared outside. The first, was a mother who told her kids to stay away from Marty because a scared dog is a dangerous dog. This is partly true, but not the best way to handle things. It's good to point out to kids the sign of a scared dog, ears perked, dog crouched, tail between its legs, but having them get scared of a scared dog is not a good idea. This is what a mother did 2 days ago. Her child left thinking Marty was scary.
This morning was different. The mom asked me if he was mean. I responded that he was scared, but had never exhibited aggression towards a person before. Her little girl asked (very sweetly) if she could pet my scared puppy because "When I scared I feel better when I get a hug, so maybe me petting him will help." How could I say no to that?
I know I'm not supposed to coddle him when he gets scared, but I knelt down and had him sit. She reached out and started lightly petting him, not near his face, and for a second Marty stood and went to walk away, but after holding him for a second he sat back down.
After a minute or two I said that Marty felt much better, but wanted to keep on walking because it was such a nice day. I thanked the little girl for making him not scared. I got a thank you and a smile from her mom and the little girl left with a huge smile and yelled a big good bye to Marty.
Yes, it was just as adorable as it sounds.
The rest of the walk Marty was pretty timid and frightened. But as I mentioned before, he's training me as much as I'm training him. A month ago, I'd be in a pretty bad mood after a walk like this. It's draining, time consuming and feels like nothing got accomplished. Today, we got home and I praised and gave him a big tummy rub. I know our next walk will go better, and me getting annoyed wouldn't be helpful. I went to work with a big smile on my face knowing that some little girl is going to have a great day because she made my puppy feel safe and confident that our next walk will be great.