I am not a bad dog


This is my girl Meika.

This is our girl Meika.

Today we went on a beautiful hike called Black Butte.  We decided to take two of our dogs Cole and Snickers.  At first I was a bit hesitant to take Snickers as she can be a challenge out in public.  So I thought if she is ever going to get better and more comfortable in public then I have to start sometime.  Pam and I have seven dogs and the majority of my work involves working with reactive dogs and unfortunately business is very good in Central Oregon which seems to have a very large population of reactive dogs.  I have to admit and sad to say that a few of our dogs are members of this population not through any fault of their own but more of lack of early socialization and being totally honest we have not been as proactive with our own dogs.  In our defense we do include our dogs in our training business as this seems to be a job that they enjoy.  Ok back to Snickers and Cole on the hike.  Today it seems that with the labor day weekend the trail was really crowded with people and lots of dogs and was probably not the best choice to take Snickers but we went anyway.  We and I say we because my wife Pam Bigoni and our friend and assistant trainer Andrea Martin went with us.

We brought all the things we needed for the dogs to have an enjoyable adventure including plenty of water and treats.  I have hiked this trail many times and know all of the places where we can safely pull off to the side if we met another dog.  We saw a variety of dogs and most were very well behaved and seemed to be enjoying the hike.  There were a few tight places where we had to get creative with our get off the trail skills like a few places with off leash dogs.  Luckily my wife Pam has a very creative imagination so when she would see and off leash dog she would tell the owners that there were forest rangers at the top and if they saw the dogs off leash they would give them a hefty fine.  Of course we did not see a ranger and who knows how big the fine was but it did convince everyone to put their dogs on leashes so thanks  to Pam for being creative.  We finally got to the top of the Butte to be greeted by a beautiful central Oregon view.  The cabin in the photo below is operated by the forest service and is their private residence during the summer months. At the top there were a lot of people and their dogs enjoying a beautiful day.  I can honestly say that all of the dogs were amazing.  I think I only heard one bark and yes it was snickers and it was not directed to another dog but at her frustration of not being able to catch a chipmunk.  Each time she saw another dog she got some very valuable treats which for snickers trumps everything especially when it comes to lamb Lung her favorite treat.  I was very proud of her and Mr. Cole who loves the company of any dog in the world and is a regular in our training sessions with those reactive dogs.

Black Butte cabin

We stayed on top of the Butte for about a half an hour for photos and just the scenery.  We worked pretty hard to get up there but it was getting just to crowded for our taste.  The way down was just as crowded with people and dogs but as seasoned hikers and professionals 🙂 we knew all of the spots that were safe and were able to navigate without any trouble. We were about a half a mile from the trail head and we saw a very large group of kids coming up so we decided to step aside and let them pass.  We heard this very young child crying pretty loud and I thought to myself is this what some of these dogs are feeling?  Well my thoughts were confirmed a few minutes later when a group of people with at least 6 dogs 4 very small dogs probably Chihuahua’s or mixes of Chihuahua’s and two larger ones were about 200 feet down the trail . They were barking up a storm and not just at other dogs but at people as well so double trouble for these guys.  There is barking and there is barking and these little guys were not happy about anything that represented people or dogs.  We took Cole and snickers down the side of the hill about ten feet and of course the treats we pretty much gone from the trip up. (note to self bring a larger bag of treats the next time).  All I had left was a jolly rancher hard candy so I thought what the hell Snickers likes anything and it will last longer then it will take for the little barkers to get by. it did work very well and she liked it.  I wish I would have had a lick stick and will be getting more of them for the next hike.  So here is why I am writing this.  As the last little dog was getting close I heard Bad dog bad dog you are a bad dog then saw her jerk the little guy pretty hard at the same time.  Ok if you know me at all I am not one to keep my mouth shut when it comes to people hurting dogs so I said ” well that’s gonna make it all better isn’t it?” I don’t know if she heard me but I had to put it out there because after all this was not a bad dog but a dog(there are no bad dogs) that was put into a situation that he/she should not have been put in to begin with.  I know it is not easy living with a reactive dog and yes we have made mistakes but to say that this was a bad dog for the situation that she put her dog in makes no sense.  I am sure she was pretty embarrassed like we all have been in similar situations with our own reactive dogs. I did think about what I said to her afterwards and did feel bad as I knowingly put my own dog in the same situation.  the only difference is that I work with reactive dogs pretty much 6/7 days a week and have a few other skills that I can rely on then she did but in her defense it could have gone bad for us and Snickers as well and lucky for us it did not and Snickers and Cole had a great time and are pretty much done for the day.

In closing I would like to say that most of us want what is best for our dogs and try our best to not put them in harms way or in situations that are uncomfortable for them.  I also believe it is up to us to set up their environment so they can have a better chance of getting it right or at least what is right in our minds as they really never get it wrong.  When a dog is called a bad dog it simply means that that dog was put into a situation that they had no control over and reacted in the only way they knew how.  In my opinion there are no bad dogs just bad environmental choices we make for them.  Thanks to Pam Bigoni and to Andrea Martin for their great dog handling skills and company on the hike

Andrea and Cole Blackbutte   Snickers and Pam Black Butte

Dennis Fehling CPDT KA CBATI….