Thursday, May 29, 2014

Therapy Dog: Too Friendly!

May 6, University De-Stress Day, a  four hour therapy dog event. Eleven teams signed up for  2 hour shifts; but I was the Team Leader, so Chou Chou and I were there for all 4 hours. Everything was going well, with the dogs sitting on the grass. And then ... a surprise.

Chou Chou was sitting on her mat ("No, no! I was near my mat!"), with the other dogs nearby. All of us were under a tent, facing a sidewalk. The students who were passing by stopped to pet the therapy dogs (and take photos) -- an event set up to help them feel calmer before final exams. I was holding Chou Chou's leash. 

Suddenly Chou Chou stood up and yanked the leash behind my back and out of my hand. I didn't know that a dog was cutting across the lawn behind me. ("But I knew!") Chou Chou jumped up and dashed off to meet the dog. I reacted quickly and ran to catch her leash. 

Chou Chou ran up to the other dog and went into a puppy bow, wagging her tail, to initiate play. ("I have good dog park manners!") 

But the other dog felt threatened by Chou Chou running up to him ("He didn't understand puppy bow?"). He barked at Chou Chou and she barked back; they chased around his owner, who was holding onto his leash. I ran trying to catch  Chou's leash. ("Ha! That's funny! I'm faster!"). 

My dog training kicked in: I stood still and called, "Chou Chou!" She stopped immediately and turned to me; I stepped on the leash and grabbed it. The whole encounter was very quick. If Chou Chou had been an aggressive or out of control dog, she would not have stopped as soon as I called her name. 

I took her a short distance away and turned to talk with the woman. I assured her that Chou Chou, in a puppy bow, just wanted to play. Chou was calmly at my side on leash, but the woman was yelling at me, too angry to listen, and left.

Chou Chou went back to the other teams, to complete the 4 hours and enjoy the students; then we went to our McKinley Library shift. 

It was my fault that the leash got away from my hand; but the dog came from behind, instead of walking on the sidewalk where I would have seen him and had a stronger grip. Chou Chou was not running to her dog to hurt him, just to play. I wish I could have calmed the woman and worked it through. 

Chou Chou is a playful young pup. But running up to other dogs during therapy work, even to greet and be friendly, is not acceptable; Chou Chou and I are working with a service dog trainer so she can practice ignoring the other dogs. Sometimes it's not okay to play!

("Next time, can I play with the little white poodle?")

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