Last year we went to a big pet show. The kind with booths and vendors, not the Westminster kind. Looking around at all the dogs, I thought, “Next year I’d like to bring Silas.” At the time I didn’t bring him because he was just under a year old. He still wasn’t sure about not territory marking indoors, and he pulled on his leash for all he was worth. I mostly didn’t carry him because he wasn’t fun to shop with. He was nervous, but less reactive than he is now. I also knew I could never get him across the parking lot.
This year, we went back, still without Silas. I was a little sad that he was, if anything, further from going than he’d been the year before. But an extra year of living with a fearful dog taught me a few things to look for, and I realized something very important.
Some dogs were happy and content. I saw a beautiful red Doberman trying her darndest to play with a huge, placid Presa Canario. A standard poodle serving as an example for a dog groomer looked down grandly on what appeared to be her adoring subjects. A sheltie ran agility demos with 100% of her focus, despite a booming loudspeaker.
On the other hand, at least half of the dogs in that crowd were almost as freaked out as Silas would have been. Less vocal about it, sure, but incredibly stressed. Some people were aware of that–there were a few dogs in head halters working on behaving around distractions, and a dog or two in a Thundershirt. Those owners had quickly gotten into the main show area and headed for quiet corners. Most of the owners were, on the other hand, completely unaware, some of them missing rather serious red flags. We checked in right behind a Scottie who almost single-handedly caused a riot amongst the dogs waiting in line.
Aside from my horror that so few people were aware of their dog’s feelings, it was darned nice to see that other dogs have problems, too.