Yesterday, as planned, I took Emmy to the dog park after our run. I thought she did a pretty good job considering her agressive history. Once off leash, she ventured out a little bit further than the day before. There was a big crowd of people and their dogs. I went to stand by them so that she would feel more comfortable about going near the group of dogs. There was one dog who came up to her, sniffed, and the kissed her all over her face. And she let him! No growls or bared teeth at all. I was so pleased! I think it helped that while the other dog was sniffing her bottom that I kept saying, good girl. She seemed to relax after the first time I said it and her tail began to wag. I could actually see her face relax as she sniffed back. When she was stressed her mouth goes back in a straight line, but as she became more comfortable she started to get that relaxed smile.
I did notice, however, that when the other dogs would bark and growl at each other that she would shy away from them. Maybe it was her way of staying out of trouble. I also realized that this is what dogs do. Their owners would tell them to cut it out, but not actually do anything about it; and this was okay. Usually I pull Emmy out of the situation as quickly as I can and we go running, literally, for the hills.
From all of the books that I read, she would be classified as a reactive dog. One who is insecure and doesn't know how to conduct herself around other dogs. This is no surprise since she was being bounced around to different houses, including mine, before she came to stay with me permanently. She is like a misbehaved child of a divorced couple. Edward and I already knew that she had these issues when we adopted her, but I know that I didn't know/realize what her needs entailed at the time. I think I have a pretty good grasp on it all now though. The instability of her home life just made her behavior worse, but I fully believe that she can recover. Now we're trying to work on that reactivity and it seems to be going well. Because of the daily runs and being left alone for short amounts of time, her behavior has improved immensely.
So, we will continue to take small doses of the dog park until she can become aware that other dogs play fighting is a good thing. My hopes is that she will become secure enough that she will approach other dogs, rather than them always coming up to her. I also know that I have a lot of work to do too. I have to keep telling myself that she is a dog, not a person. When she barks at other dogs it's okay. I keep repeating that to myself. It's okay when she barks, it's okay when she barks. The vibe I send her when she barks and I become panicked does nothing but show her that she has to be weary of the other dog. I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a bad dog, but a bad owner. I will continue to read dog books in hopes that I can set myself straight so that my dog can be normal. From what I can see, her problems stem from my own insecurity. My constant fear that her barking might result in a fight or her bared teeth when she meets a dog she doesn't like is holding us both back. The other dogs get her I-don't-like-you drift so I need to also. I have to remind myself that it is okay when she sends out a warning. I just don't like when she does. But for the record, she seems to greet the humans at the dog park more than the other dogs. I think I have a dog who thinks she is a person. I need to relax. She is just a dog after all.