A Goal to Reevaluate

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.

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6 thoughts on “A Goal to Reevaluate

  1. I took Hurley to a pet fair this weekend and, even though he did fairly well, I think this is the last time we’ll be going to such a large, busy & indoor event. While it’s nice to have a dog who can handle such an event, he was obviously stressed and I think it’s unfair to him for me to continue to bring him & stress him out unnecessarily. I too saw many dogs that were highly stressed & even though I was trying to pay close attention to Hurley, I missed some signals he gave right before he got snippy with one dog. It was too loud & hectic & crowded for me to be absolutely on point with Hurley & if I can’t be at my best, then we as a pair shouldn’t be attending. I am comfortable taking him to outdoor events where there’s more room & it’s not as loud & overwhelming of an experience for him. I would never in a million years take Maggie or Sadie. That kind of event would totally freak them out & I respect their limitations. I think it’s A-OK if Silas never reaches a point where he can attend a pet fair. Most that do attend shouldn’t have anyways.

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    1. This was kind of my conclusion, too: Silas could possibly have handled it (parking lot and line aside) but it would have taken every fiber of my attention the entire time. I can barely shop with him in an empty PetSmart. Instead, I got to wander around, talk to the vendors, watch some dog sports displays, etc.

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  2. I’m lucky in that Gizmo is a very “social” dog…he occasionally gets stressed and when he does we leave, simple as that…I have seen those stressed dogs at events of all kinds and have to bite my tongue to keep from “instructing” the owners…Good for you for knowing your dog and doing the right thing

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  3. As I have mentioned previously, some of the pack love situations like that, others would be terrified. Good for you for realizing that just because it is something you want to do, doesn’t mean that your dog wants to or would like it. Give yourself a pat on the back – you deserve it!

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  4. I’ve brought Norman to the pet expo twice and he loves it so much. He can’t get enough of the attention, but stays relaxed at the same time. Kaya, on the other hand, I would never bring to something like that. I barely ever even bring her in a pet store. She wouldn’t be stressed, but she has 0 patience and would want to leave after 2 minutes. It really depends on the dog and it’s not worth bringing a dog who won’t enjoy it like many people do!

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