I try to always preface stories like this by saying, Astrea is by no means perfect. She barks at the tv, sometimes she has selective hearing, and when she wants to get to our favorite place to play she lets go of all her leash manners. But for the most part she's a good girl. She plays with other dogs in our little community and has made fast friends with some of our people neighbors. She likes most things on her terms, but I generally do not have to worry about her.
For the past year we have gone out regularly to let her play and chase the birds by my neighbors house. When we first started I kept her on a retractable leash and went with her so that she learned where her boundaries were. From there we would do limited times off leash, until we worked up to our current system of off leash the whole time. I know it's risky to let her play off leash in a place that isn't designated as an off-leash dog area, but we know everyone over there now and it's generally fine. Letting her play off leash has totally improved her recall, she knows the boundaries of where she can run and if she goes outside her boundaries or doesn't listen, it's game over and we go inside. This has all worked fine, no problems at all - until recently...
I'm not sure when they moved in, but it's only been in the past couple months that we've dealt with them. So who are they? They are the two nastiest, meanest dogs I've ever met. They're both small dogs - one is a yorkie and the other is (I think) a maltese. They bark, charge, growl, and snap at everyone and everything they come across without any provocation. And if you get to close, watch out, they will bite you. To make matters worse, this neighbor walks the dogs on retractable leashes, but doesn't reign them in. And from what I've seen, doesn't discipline these dogs at all. They go insane and she, in her happy little voice tells them to stop, but gives them no consequences. She drives me crazy.
Our general protocol when we're playing outside is this - Astrea plays for an hour (depending on the weather) while I sit and watch for people and other dogs. If I hear someone coming I call Astrea over and keep her on leash until the coast is clear and she can play again. Sometimes I'm overly paranoid and we sit on leash for a few minutes because I think I heard someone, but no one comes. Yesterday morning we were having a great time. The weather was perfect, good breeze and lots of birds. A neighbor that I've never met came down with her two dogs and they played with Astrea for a few minutes. One of the dogs sat and cuddled me while Astrea and the other chased. After they left our friend came out and gave Astrea a treat and all was fine and dandy. Great start to a Monday morning, until the evil dogs came.
Normally it's not too bad when they come by. I put Astrea on her leash, she sits there, they bark at her and their owner drags them away. Once I know they're gone, I let Astrea off leash and she plays for the rest of her time. Yesterday morning however, she was apparently fed up with their crap. I hadn't got her leash quite on her when the dogs came at her and she went insane. I had a good hold on her, but she wanted to go after these dogs. She was barking and trying to lunge, and of course the woman is doing nothing but dragging her dogs along. So I put Astrea's leash on her, I'm telling her to stop and then I tell her we are going inside because it's not ok to act like that. (Yes, I talk to Astrea like she's a human.)
It probably would have been fine, but as the lady was dragging her evil dogs away from us she looked at me and said, "No it's ok, we aren't coming back through here, she can stay and play." I don't know what snapped in me, I guess I was fed up with their crap too because before I knew what I was doing I kinda yelled at her. Nothing horrible, but I just lost it a little bit. I don't remember my exact words but it was something to the effect of - NO, Astrea can not stay and play because it is not appropriate for dogs to act like that, there are consequences for her actions and I do not let my dog go unpunished. She of course is still trying to tell me it's ok, and I'm walking away still yelling over the barking dogs that she is not allowed to continue to play if she is going to act out. Based on the look she gave me, she was either shocked that I give my dog consequences, or realized I think she's a jerk because she doesn't give her dogs any.
Once we got around the corner and completely away from them I felt terrible. Not for yelling at the neighbor, but that poor Astrea got yelled at and lost her playing privileges. I was also embarrassed because I thought all the neighbors over there heard Astrea go crazy and me yelling. Part of the challenge in playing in that area is trying to not disturb any of the neighbors. I take Astrea's collar off (but not her harness) and I generally just snap or clap to get her to come to me. Our goal is to be as silent as possible. So to have Astrea go barking mad, and I guess me too, it just killed everything we work not to do. It also ruined the rest of our day. I was in a bad mood and everything seemed to go wrong. It was one of those days that you just need a cupcake or an ice cream.
Luckily, things did get better. We went on a walk later in the day and although the landscapers were still working, I let Astrea play for a while. I talked to one of the neighbors and she said she heard the dogs barking - but because everyone knows those dogs are jerks she didn't think anything of it - THANK GOODNESS! So, we're going to try again this morning, and hopefully it will be a better day.