Of course the day after I wrote about the good behavior we’ve been seeing lately, Bubba outdoes himself with some of his worst behavior ever. It was the end of the work day and I was loading things up into the car to go home. Bubba bolted across the street after a 7 or 8 year old boy who was on the opposite sidewalk. The poor kid was scared to tears as Bubba jumped and barked at him. I got the boy to stop running away, but even then I couldn’t catch Bubba, who was still barking and jumping in circles around the boy. After a moment the kid chucked a ball into the field and Bubba went running after it (smart kid). At that point I was able to get him to stop.
Continuing on his streak, Bubba made another break for it when we got home. This time some of the blame lands on our cat Elvis, who is an instigator. He was just out of reach and taunting the dog from the moment we pulled into the driveway. Still, Bubba knows better. Again he pulled the leash out of my hands while I was carrying things into the house. This time he chased Elvis under a parked car then took off running behind the house and into our neighbor’s yard before I caught up with him.
Ugh, I was so ANGRY at that dog. We went straight inside and I made him go to his place, then right after that we kennelled him and Natasha and I went out for a few hours. I was concerned about the way he acted toward the boy at work, even though it never seemed like he was trying to actually hurt him. I was super frustrated by his lack of off-leash obedience, refusal to listen, stop, sit, look, come, anything. And of course I was worried worried that he (or the cat, or the boy) could have been hit by a car in all the excitement. I know that it’s not advisable to punish a dog by making him go to his place or putting him in his crate, but honestly I didn’t know what else to do and I thought it was best to just ignore him for a while. We all felt better about it after a couple hours.
I’ve definitely learned that preventing challenges with Bubba is better than having to respond to them. So what caused this flurry of bad behavior? That morning we were running late and for once he got only a short time to exercise before work. I wonder if the increased off-leash time he’d been getting had him feeling bolder and more entitled to his freedom. Maybe he was confused because the kid was playing with a ball, standing next to the field where we always play ball. And Elvis stalks the dog and howls at him whenever he sees him… I’d chase that too. Ultimately he is still just a year old and a goofy lab/hound who is going to act up from time to time. I get it. No huge deal, but a big deviation from his norm.
But what is the right way to discipline behavior like this? In the moment when he’s behaving badly I think I respond well, not getting too stressed or worked up. Shouting at him when he’s running loose is ineffective, and it’s more important to get him back under control than to send a message about bad behavior. It IS unexceptable though and he does need to learn that. Hopefully there will not be too many incidents warranting this level of reaction, but when they do arise I want to have a consistent response.