Close Call?

On a recent walk Hudson and I were passing the field where many dogs in the area (and some who are driven in just for this field!) run off leash.

Hudson was carrying a stick in his mouth he had found at the park and he was walking very carefully as a result (When he does this he looks like he's walking with a plate on his head - perfect posture and measured steps, eyes forward.)

Nonetheless a German Sheppard about 150 yards out into the field caught Hudson's eye so Hudson carefully turned to face the field and watch him. For his part, the Sheppard had also seen Hudson. He paused for a moment looking and then he just took off running top speed right at us.  I have never seen this dog before. I couldn't know if his intentions were friendly or not.  His owner yelled and yelled for him to come back but on and on the big black and brown dog ran straight at us as fast as he could.

I quickly considered my options.  There was no where we could run fast enough to get away from this dog and I knew the stick Hudson was carrying was half rotten and would be of no deterrence to a dog bent on an attack.  But then I didn't know whether his intentions were friendly or fierce.  There was only one thing I could do - let Hudson "read" this dog and handle the situation one dog to another.

We have been working tirelessly for months exposing Hudson to as many new situations with other dogs as possible.  He has encountered balanced and unbalanced animals.  Young puppies and tottering ancient dogs clearly in the last days or weeks of their lives.  Small dogs and Great Danes. He has romped freely with dozens at a time at off leash parks and exchanged polite sniffs with leashed dogs along the sidewalk. Other dogs have growled and snapped and it seems Hudson has learned from each of these encounters. Whatever his accumulated wisdom and natural instinct at this point, I felt it was the best we could muster in the face of this racing animal bearing down on us.  I held on tight to the leash but let its length go slack to give Hudson room to move, I forced my own fear down where I hoped it wouldn't be detectable to the dogs and make things worse.  By this time the Sheppard was 50 feet away - usually the distance at which friendly dogs slow their approach and start to veer a bit to the side but this dog just kept coming.  What I saw next was amazing.

Hudson, with the stick in his mouth had been watching the dog approach head on.  But now he wagged his white plume of a tail ever so gently a couple of times, keeping it high and visible like a white flag of surrender. The he slightly turned his body and eyes away from the dog.  Not so far as to loose track of what the dog might do but far enough to clearly communicate deference and an absence of aggression towards the other dog.  Immediately the dog's frenzied running let up a bit.  As he reached us Hudson turned away even more, allowing the other dog to walk, stiff legged and bristling, up to sniff him from behind.  Hudson didn't move to sniff the other dog or engage him in any way - I have never seen him behave before like this. He just stood there with his prized rotten stick and waited.  Once the Sheppard was satisfied with sniffing and moved away a bit Hudson again gave his tail a very slight wag. At this the Sheppard turned away and loped back to his owner.  He never wagged his tail or sought to play or interact with either Hudson or me.

Next I swallowed the huge lump that had climbed into my throat, gave Hudson a big pat and a dried liver treat and off we went. Hudson again walking perfectly with deference to his stick while I thought about how lucky we had just been and how glad we had invested time and energy in socializing our big white ridiculously fluffy pup! I now have a lot more confidence in Hudson's judgement.  He handled himself very very well - not bad for a one year old!


Tina said...

Wow, what a great dog with perfect social skills you have! And you did a great job in just letting things happen and trust in your pup to handle the situation. And to observe these little movements. When I started reading I thought it had been the stick that drew the shepherds attention but it might probabely been Hudson's proud posture that the other dog read as dominant. Your pup did the right thing - others might have defended their stick...
Have a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

Great result! I have a 10-year-old Golden Retriever and moments like that still make me nervous!

Brenda said...

German Shepherd! Why am I not surprised? You did well to remain calm. Or were you frozen to thee spot?

Rue said...

Way to go, Hudson! I'm really impressed with how well he handled the situation. And a lot of the credit goes to you for training and socializing him so well.

Laurie said...

Wow...scary situation. Congrats to Hudson for handling it so well. My dog has been attacked a couple of times in situations like these, so I tend to turn into the "biggest, baddest dog in the playground" and scream aggressively at any dog who approaches in the way that GSD did. I trust my dog to give me the signal - if he steps behind me for protection, I start screaming. Works every time. :-)

Acorn to Oak said...

Way to go, Hudson! Wow! That must have been so scary! I'm impressed at how you remained so calm and how Hudson seemed to know exactly what to do. I'm so glad it all worked out ok. What a great dog you have...and adorable too! :-)