I adore this dog! And from the start I felt if he were on the trail and gently meeting dogs during the course of the hike, he could be muzzle-free. In an environment unlike the one (dog park) in which he was attacked, he might roam and explore without the muzzle's constraints.
My Frida seems to know (as dogs often do) which dogs are friendly and which dogs to be wary of. From the start, she had a fondness for S. and his playful ways. They both play in the wrestling lab way, although S. loves a good run!
Today, alone with Frida in the car, S. did not wear a muzzle. And for the first time, at the park, he met other dogs when he was wearing his collar without the muzzle attachment. He was wonderful -- smelling, taking his time, and learning how to be sociable.
I was always nearby, of course. But he was so happy! I didn't know he loves to swim! He did swim out to Frida's stick every time and she was quite gracious. I don't expect they'll do much swimming this winter. Still, it was so warm today and they were so eager!
An update on S. who is happily muzzle-free! From S.'s initial reaction to my lab Frida, I had a feeling he could be peacefully muzzle-free on the trail. As seen in the previous post, he and Frida are wonderful friends. Here are some more photos of S. and Frida at Humber Bay East today.
I am not sure S. would have been this relaxed at a traditional off-leash dog park. His memories of an attack on him by two aggressive dogs might be activated and his behavior altered. But here in a wide open space with water all around, he was sociable and happy. I was so thrilled for him!
I do watch carefully to see if other dogs, not known to S. are approaching and on such occasions, I put his muzzle on (offering him a treat after). His play with two new friends was so joyful; I really wanted to remove the muzzle, but held back. As S. gets used to Frida and other compatible dogs, he will be able to enjoy his hikes free of the constraints of a muzzle.
He's a lively, happy, loving dog who is watchful now because of an attack. I want to uproot these memories, but planting one of free open running and playing on the trails and surrounding countryside.
I am so proud of him!
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I knew he was going to be a friend and hiking companion the moment I met him. S, is a mastiff/Shepherd mix with doe eyes and a compact physique. He barked when I first entered the apartment - my Frida does the same. I knelt down (I am not fond of hovering over, even if I am only five feet tall) and did a combination of chatting, treat offering, and simply appreciating. This is a fine dog, I thought. "Love at first sight" is what his human emailed his previous owner.
The story is S. was attacked by two dominant dogs and emerged scarred physically and even more, psychologically. When he feels cornered these days, he takes no chances. Our first walk (our getting-acquainted hike) took place on a Sunday morning at Humber Bay East. Also on the hike were my Frida and the finest, most gentle yet spirited Shepherd who is boarding with us.
I had a feeling S. and our Shepherd would get along famously. They ran and covered so much ground - I just stood and watched and laughed. Three dogs on the trail who had spent time in our back yard and then inside our home becoming acquainted (over forty minutes) before setting out for a car ride to our selected trail. By the time we hit the trail, they were fast friends sharing in the joy of free running and exploration.
Needless to say, S. doesn't wear a muzzle anymore.
Note: this is not true of all dogs who have become aggressive, but the case of one dog who, after being attacked in a dog park, was able to find peace and freedom on the trail.
Janice is the founder of and primary caregiver at Happy Trail Dogs Service. She is also the founder of an arts-related non-profit and worked in the fitness industry for over two decades. She is an artist, editor, writer, and mother of two wonderful women and a glorious lab named Frida.