Duke: Learning to play with new friends.

I’ve been a little worried lately as Duke has been on leaded walks only. This is because when he gets excited he struggles with responding to his recall in good time. He comes back; just a little after I have called his name . By “a little after” I mean when he feels like it! We had a incident on the beach before Christmas where he was playing with a man’s dog (just playing nothing aggressive) and the man threatened to hit him and me with a large stick, without dredging up the past and retelling the story, the incident has caused me a lot of anxiety when it comes to having Duke off the lead even though on that occasion he had done nothing wrong. Some people will understand this some people won’t. But it’s how I feel. If I let him off the lead and I’m full of anxiety it isn’t going to go well for me or him!

Being solely on the lead hasn’t agreed with Duke; he’s taken a massive step backwards when it comes to appropriate play with other dogs. He’s started barking in dog’s faces again, lunging on the lead and being over the top when he is given a chance to play. It’s really created a lot of extra worry for me; not only do I worry about his behaviour causing the play to tip over into aggression I’m worried about what people think. He’s a big boy and when he is running around like a crazy hound he can make people unsettled and worried (sometimes unfairly so).

Needless to say I have worried about his restrictions. I feel like I’m voluntarily exposing him to less of the world. Only allowing him to interact with a small group of dogs. It feels for lack of a better word ; mean.

I’ve been trying to diversities his play but with a husband who has just had surgery so unable to join us for walks and play dates, and not knowing a huge amount of dog owners in the area it hasn’t been easy!

I did however manage to arrange a play date with my friend Lauren and her black lab, but the night before I got incredibly worried about how Duke would behave. In fact I considered cancelling on the Friday. But, you’ll be pleased to hear, I was brave and I trusted Lauren to understand Duke. She’s a good friend and more importantly she’s a dog person! She seems to understand Duke better that most people; probably because she once witnessed him running away from a water jug.

I did my usual pre warnings ; he will bark at this and that, he’s going to be naughty etc. And guess what!? The little bugger was as good as gold! Lauren thinks I’m a big fat liar now. He did his mum proud, he barely barked at the bikes in the park, he didn’t pull on the lead, was good in the cafe and he played pretty nicely as well even if he did insist on humming poor Inca! (I’m not really sure what this humping thing is about lately , but it seems to have become a thing now).

Once they had settled in the car Inca and Duke decided that they quite like each other and were happy to be friends, as long as duke didn’t bark in her face. So it was lots of tail wagging and play bowing (with a bit of humping thrown in for good measure).

To be honest both dogs were fantastic. They both behaved beautifully. Especially as their off lead play at the dog park included lots of other dogs; all of different shapes, sizes and temperament. Neither Duke or Inca had met these dogs before!

All my worries about Duke’s lack of socialisation in the past few months seems to have been premature. He had a great time ! Even if one cheeky dog kept trying to steal his ball. He ignored the excited spaniel who was trying to chew his ears off, played with all the dogs and even met a 14 week old puppy.

Duke’s training, his failures and success are incredibly important to me; in fact I see his failures as my own and any unkind word said about him cuts me like a knife! Which may sound silly, but I can’t help it. I’m so invested in him because I love him so much. So every unkind word or look, any suggestion that he is anything but a big soft mutt really does get to me. Honestly how could anyone say anything bad about this face;

We are working to get Duke use to lots of different dogs and people. Which isn’t always easy when he looks “scary” to people! Honestly I can’t think why anyone would say he looked scary but that’s just me. I’m also looking at building my confidence back up so that I can let Duke off the lead without worrying or imagining the worst case scenario. It’s hard as worrying is my default setting. My underlining aim is to let Duke off the lead without automatically saying “he’s really excitable sorry” and apologising for him before his lead has even left the collar.

We had a great Saturday. Onwards and upwards for us !

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