My best friend and I went to the park yesterday, and I decided to bring Apollo. It’s been about a year since Apollo has been to an actual park. Between our many moves and relocations, and the chaos of our lives, we just haven’t really had the chance to take him to a park, for a real walk. Yesterday was the perfect opportunity, I thought, to take him out and reintroduce him to the leash and just get him out of the house!
As I’m standing over the trunk of the car gathering all of his belongings into my backpack, Apollo jumps out of the car and runs full speed after a little boy on a scooter! I’m not sure I have ever seen fear, like I saw in that little boy. He threw his scooter to the ground and booked it right back to his own car, and Apollo followed suit, leash dragging behind him! I was so embarrassed. I knew that Apollo was just being curious and would never have bitten the little boy, but I am pretty sure that little kid might fear dogs for the rest of his life!
Apollo is a 2-year old, not even ten pound Miniature Schnauzer, and his breed is naturally protective and very barky. I can never tell if his behavior is heightened around strangers because he’s just that protective of me, or if he’s anti-social. I committed a true cardinal sin when we first brought Apollo home. I failed to socialize him as a puppy. As many first-time puppy owners, I was so afraid of him being around people, dogs, and parks without all of his shots, thinking he’d contract some sort of parasite or sickness, but now he’s a maniac when he sees strangers and other animals. I don’t know how to break that behavior.
About a quarter mile into our walk, a lady walks past us, and the behavior sparks up again. Luckily I have his leash in hand, but his barking and charging after her worries me. I apologize to the lady and explain that he doesn’t bite, but her facial expressions are telling me all I need to know.
We end up walking about a half mile, just the three of us, and I notice a complete change in Apollo. When it’s just the three of us, he’s completely calm, and remains by my side. I drop the leash and he doesn’t run off, he doesn’t walk far ahead of us and when he does, he stops on his own to wait for us to catch up. He’s not even concerned with the woodsy animals casually running up and down trees or across the track. When there are no strangers present, Apollo behaves so wonderfully, abiding by each command he’s given, but that goes right out the window as soon as a stranger is added into the equation.
We sit at a bench we find at the 0.75 mile marker, and I reach in backpack for his bowl and water bottle to cool him off. I’m noticing he’s really hot and getting pretty tired. In the blink of an eye, he’s booking it after another woman. It’s so bad that he trips over himself in pursuit of her. The last thing I need is for someone to actually really fear him, and end up causing him harm. At this point I’m fed up. I yell at him a little louder than the previous two outbursts, and I spank him.
During the last quarter mile of our walk to the car, we pass a playground with two children playing on the swings. Apollo growls a little bit but keeps on walking. Right beside the playground was a little pavilion with a small group seated underneath. There were a few toddlers pointing in amazement at Apollo, and I’m just so thankful that none of them ran over to him. Apollo doesn’t like toddlers as they provide too many sudden movements. He doesn’t trust that. He walks past them without a bark; perhaps he’s learned his lesson for the day.
It’s so frustrating knowing that Apollo isn’t the type of dog that I can have around strangers in a park, or even in the home. I don’t really know how to curb this behavior either. It concerns me that he’s so untrusting of children, because I want to have my own soon, and I don’t want to create an aggressive dog, nor be afraid of his potential reactions.
If anyone reading has any tips, explanations, concerns, tools, resources, or similar experiences, I’d love to hear from you. I’m totally willing and ready to give just about anything a try. I want to have a happy, confident dog. I love that he’s so protective, but this is getting out of hand.