I cannot stress how much I am enjoying having a dog in my life and being able to take Ada with us as much as possible but it is worth noting that when you go camping not everyone who is sharing your camp ground feels the same way you do. It is always important to give some thought to canine camp etiquette. In fact being situationally aware in all circumstances in regards to dogs is a good idea.
Many things are rather obvious, the big one, always clean up after your dog, nothing worse than someone, especially a small child stepping in dog poop. It is a big deal to have access to dog friendly camp grounds so it is important that we do the right thing in order to make sure we keep the privilege.
One thing that might not seem obvious is that not everyone likes dogs and in some cases, especially some children are positively terrified of dogs. I have almost always had large dogs, often breeds that are frequently misunderstood, bull terriers and German shepherds being a case in point. So I have always been aware of the potential for my dogs to make others feel uncomfortable. As Ada grows I am aware that while most people see her as a cute and approachable puppy, others might be seeing a large and potentially aggressive dog, although it would be hard to see any sign of aggression in Ada. I know it is important not to forget how others might be seeing her. Ada is an incredibly social dog, one of the most outgoing, extroverted dogs I think I have ever had the pleasure of being involved with. She loves to meet people and she will happily go up to anyone and like most puppies she has a natural tendency to jump up. We have been working hard to stop that behaviour. As she grows it is even more important to teach her that she must never jump up as she looks as if she is going to be a fair sized dog, (I am hoping she stays within the medium size range, but at the moment it is anyone’s guess how big she will be).
I am feeling really pleased with her behaviour at the moment. Last weekend we visited street markets on both Saturday and Sunday and the one thing Ada attracts is attention. Kids will often just rush up to her and not even ask before patting, not the wisest behaviour on their part. But what I am starting to feel particularly pleased with is Ada’s calmness in these situations and the fact that she seems to have taken on board the idea that she should always sit in these situations. One lovely little boy asked me before patting her and without even having to tell her anything she sat and waited for the attention which she thoroughly enjoyed. This happened on Sunday, Ada’s second market for the weekend. On Saturday I had adults drawn to her and wanting to pat and she was still inclined to jump up to them, she only needed to be reminded to sit but the inclination to jump up for attention was there and I suspect it will be a while yet before I can be completely confident that she will always behave appropriately but I am proud of the progress she has made. On Sunday she calmly took the crowds in her stride, sitting whenever necessary and never attempting to jump at anyone for attention. She was still excited and inclined to pull a bit on the lead but we are working on that.
Just on the topic of kids and dogs it is probably worth recounting the story of Serena, an absolutely stunning springer spaniel I had as a teenager. Serena was a rescue of sorts, she had been returned to the person who had bred her. The story was the young woman who had taken her as a pup still lived with her parents, the family had never owned a dog and her father was actively opposed to the daughter getting a pup. The result was that girl had no idea what was appropriate food and gave her nothing but raw meat but worse than that the father actively mistreated the pup, which was why she was voluntarily returned to the breeder. The breeder knew I had recently lost a dog and asked me if I was interested in taking her on but that was before they had seen her. The afternoon I was supposed to see her, I had already agreed to take her, they phoned and told me they didn’t think I would want her and they really didn’t want me to feel obliged to take her. They had just had her returned and they were shocked by the state she was in. She was physically unwell but worse there was obvious behavioral changes in the dog which concerned them. The state of her made me want to take her even more.
That night was Serena’s first night with me and she slept in my room, I say slept but neither of us slept that night. She spent the whole night in agitated wandering punctuated with the occasional vomit. The next day we had her at the vet. She was malnourished and the vet informed me she had a fractured skull from what appeared to be a particularly brutal kick to the head. When I let the breeder know she thought that the father had a habit of mistreating the dog and that injury was the last straw for the girl who had desperately sort someone to take the dog. Maybe it was out of fear of the consequences that she did not take the poor bloody dog to the vet in the first place which is what should have happened. I should have taken her straight to the vet but I did not realise just how serious her injuries were until that night. Anyway to cut a long story short Serena survived her experience but she never forgot and the result was a dog whose behaviour was always predicated on that early treatment. She didn’t like people. In fact she positively disliked them. The only people she ever really trusted was me and my mother and that took some effort to gain her trust.
Serena was a particularly beautiful dog, with gorgeous colouring, white with a delicate ginger colour on her ears and freckles across her face, she was the most delicate looking dog you would ever see. She looked completely non threatening and that was the problem, she looked non threatening but I always feared that a child would rush up to her and startle her, with the result being she would snap. She never did and we always made sure that situations where she interacted with strangers were controlled. While her body language was easy for me to read, it always surprised me how many people failed to spot her insecurity and the warnings she would give. This is why I really wish all parents would stress to kids the importance of not rushing in and patting every dog you encounter.
To this point at the Caloundra markets on Sunday there was a stall selling harnesses and leads that indicated a dogs temperament or other issues, like blindness or must not feed. I did not purchase but thought what a great idea. I googled and this is the company: https://friendlydogcollars.com.au/ Something like the Caution or the Do Not pet model might have been ideal for Serena and encouraged people to give her the distance she needed to be comfortable. The site also has a fantastic blog with advice on things like training and enrichment for dogs, well worth checking out: https://friendlydogcollars.com.au/blogs/news?page=1
Right now Ada is growing into a beautiful dog, rapidly developing the necessary social skills that will continue to make her a dog that is easy to take everywhere. Being educated in social graces is up to us, and being situationaly aware is also our responsibility. For the moment I go everywhere with pockets full of liver treats to reinforce good behaviour. Sit is the signal most important command, she can’t jump up if she has her bum on the ground so that is the automatic command for whenever she is getting too excited or pushy and we seem to have made great progress, now if we could get a 100% on coming when called I would be happy, but like small children everywhere Ada seems to have selective deafness when it is convenient, especially at the off leash dog park.