Gear Test! OneTigris X Destroyer K9 Harness

There is nothing more exciting to me then having been chosen to test and review this harness. I admit that I love gearing up myself and Luke. In a previous post I talked about different pieces I have tried with Luke, tactical gear has given the best control with him and with a reactive dog there is nothing more important. I was browsing the website looking to see what was new and the moment I saw this harness I wanted it for Luke. I subscribe to mailings from them and joined the community back when I got my first harness. Just after I saw this out came an email and I happened to catch the last day of a gear test round for the X Destroyer K9 Harness. I submitted just before cut off and we were one of the lucky chosen. Today the package came and I can’t wait to try it on him!

X Destroyer K9 Harness

Let me start with the first exciting part of getting this harness, presentation is everything! I was hit with the same feeling I got when his first harness from OneTigris came, I love the packaging they use. It is clean, crisp, reusable and exciting. It is the tactical gear equivalent to a good designer shoe. You can see the vest and and standard OneTigris moral patch through the front of the bag, on the back of the bag is the logo. This is not just a clear plastic bag you rip open and toss in the trash. Quality and presentation often go hand in hand and I know the quality I am getting from OneTigris because that first harness is worn by my other dog and she loves it!

Harness comes in reusable bag, clean presentation.

Out of the bag, I love the weight and the buckles! I tugged on the three handles and rings, turned it around and discovered how adjustable this harness is. There is plenty of Molle space for attachments and patches. We love our patches! The design is clever and the material sturdy. This ticks so many boxes for me, I know if another dog approached and went to grab him this harness will help protect him. It also has additional Velcro around the belly for adjusting the fit. I love that feature because Luke is thick in the neck, broad in the shoulder and chest but skinny in the middle thanks to his mixes. I also appreciate the padding on the shoulder by the buckles and I know he does too, he has no problem letting me know when he doesn’t like a piece of equipment.

First day out in his new harness. I like the handles and patch space.

Luke is always stiff when you put anything on his back, he has always had a thing about touching his back. I have noticed that since switching to this harness he has been less stiff then usual and he loosens up a bit quicker when we get moving. Let’s talk movement, I did wonder how he would behave when given the chance to run free in this harness because it is the most snug fit he has ever had in a harness thanks to the added Velcro. Luke is a stick dog, he has played much stick in this harness and it has not slowed him down or caused him discomfort while running, jumping (I do try to limit his jumping), and of course rolling. This is a dog that loves to throw himself into the ground and really roll around and get dirty. I’m sorry to the harness foe this because with the exception of snow for a few days this Christmas, we live where it rains all winter long and there is mud all over this now. The buckles are holding up amazingly well to the wet climate and mud, in fact I love the metal buckles on the shoulder straps of this harness, they are by far lighter and easier to use then the previous harness we were using and I feel very durable. I like them so much I used an Xmas gift card to order him the OneTigris Dog Collar #08 to go with this harness because it has the same buckle. I can’t wait for that to arrive and I will have to clean the harness and patches when it does so he looks sharp for at least 5 minutes. This harness wins hands down on fit, adjustability and durability, he has broken buckles on collars, leashes and other harnesses in less time then he has been wearing this. Zero complaints, this is well made gear and lighter then I thought it would be, comfort was also kept in mind.

This was a hard throw down on rock solid icy snow.
This is his happy place, rolling in his one off leash field in an industrial zone.
Keeping pace with his pack mate who is a sled dog rescue and she is fast! She is actually wearing the OneTigris Power Train Harness under her winter coat.
He was running full on here. Same field as the snow but just a couple of days later, it is a waterlogged mess now and yes he has been rolling in it!

Connection points and handles. This Harness has 3 heavy D-ring points you can connect to. One on the chest, one at the top and one at the end. I am tempted to get a lead I can connect at 2 points to see how he would handle connected at the top and end. I like to use the front connection point for his safety light, I am also considering giving him a tail light. Safety first in the dark. The connections are solid. No tearing which is always a worry because he pulls. His manners have improved greatly since we started with his first harness but I still worry when o try something new that he will pull hard enough to tear it free. After a few weeks and bunnies in the field while it is still dark in the morning and the force that came with those tugs, I have no concerns on the connection point of this harness. It is a solid harness. The handles as well. Where was this vest in October when i wound up busting my ankle because of a reaction and a hard pull? I did get to make use of the handles just a couple of days ago (I started this review on Dec 14th, it is January 3rd now). We took an on leash walk and Luke tenses up at a person coming down the path head on. I knew he was in a protect mode and that a reaction was inevitable. They were walking head on fast on a narrow path and that sets him off every time, he needs space. I used 2 of the 3 handles, one at the top by his shoulders and the one in the middle of the back. He lunged and reacted but he didn’t go anywhere. They were solid and kept him place. I wish I had this in October. I could have had him by the middle and back handle and may have avoided going down. I am super stoked at 3 handles and how tough and effective they are. You cannot beat this on control options in my opinion. This harness wins my favorite for control.

Favorite leash point and a good view of the control handles. I love those handles as much as Luke loves cookies in the car!

Rating time! How do I rate the OneTigris X Destroyer K9 Harness? I give this harness 5 out of 5 stars. Although I could see a few places I would like to see tweak in a future model (this company takes feedback to a new level and releases updated versions of products from testing and feedback), I have no complaints at all about this product. I absolutely love it. The fit is great, the durability and quality is exactly what I expect from OneTigris. The packaging had me excited and the control I get with the comfort that Luke gets is spot on. This is my new favorite harness, if Luke doesn’t wear it into the ground my next dog will inherit it from the start. The price point is unbelievable on this harness and they were selling it with molle attachments on their website. If you have never done tactical gear and have a reactive dog, visit and check out the dog gear, you won’t regret it. They are also conveniently on Amazon, but still go check out the website. I browse it just to see what’s new and not on Amazon.

He’s decided he’s a OneTigris dog, it’s built for dogs like him.

Is This My Dog? A forgotten post from mid 2019! How did I leave this in drafts?

Let’s be straight here, my dog is reactive and he is hard to calm down. We were out in a Bay last night hoping it would be quiet enough to cool off in the ocean. Luke gets pretty darn hot under all that fur and it’s so hard in the hot weather to find a place he too can cool down at. Luck was on our side and it was pretty calm when we were out. He’s recovering right now from a paw injury (hence the socked leg in my last post). Have I mentioned he has a swim suit? He has a collar and lead for the beach, I call it his swim suit. He wanted in the water so we swapped out and I took the chance that we have been improving enough that I can let him have some space.

He was off and in the water in no time. We saw a heron on a rock and he tried his best to sneak up on it. It didn’t work, that heron saw him coming and was out of there!

The nights that allow for space and freedom are pretty special. We hung out for quite a while. There was a family with a small child and baby at one end and a random guy at the complete opposite end of the beach leaving us plenty of space in the middle. The water was still fairly shallow as the tide is lower this time of year and he didn’t outright swim but he did walk out after his stick until he got tired of fetching it and settled in for a good wood chipping. Luke thinks he’s a woodchuck sometimes.

We had been down at the beach for maybe an hour when a small dog started barking. This got Luke’s attention. I figure it was coming from a boat or across the water. Sound carries on water and after whipping around looking for the culprit and seeing nothing anywhere I decided it was safe enough to see if he could drop his vigilance with a command.

This would not have worked if that dog had been on the beach, this also would not have worked a year ago, it’s hard enough in the yard to grab his attention when he’s on guard. I’m proud of the work we’ve done. We have both come a long way in the last year. We’ve practiced recall with his whistle, we can walk on a leash without him freaking out so bad he pulls me over. We have good gear that works for both of us and we are working on the intensity of his vocalisation when he triggers. It’s not perfect but it is so much better than where it had gotten to.

Accidents Happen

What a year this has been. We stopped blogging altogether after my friend passed away last year. I kept saying I would get back to it in the new year but that quickly became a pandemic with it’s own unique challenges, like job uncertainty after my work place closed and finally working from home and back to work even though wave 2 is much bigger. Let’s come full circle.

It has not been the most fun filled fall for Luke.

This year has been crazy. Lockdown for us started around mid March when my work shut down at the end of a day and we thought it would only be a couple of weeks. Luke loved that I was home. Every day was Saturday. I love him for that, I was in panic mode. It took 6 weeks to finally get a computer to work from home. This changed our whole every day is Saturday schedule. I started walking Luke before work everyday in my neighborhood. At first there was no one around. No one! It was wonderful. Then slowly everyone started walking our hood at 7:30 am. I guess we were all now working from home.

When your dog is reactive like Luke, this is a bad thing. What made it worse was that no matter how much he lunged and barked, people still wouldn’t just wait or hang back for us to pass. Seriously? Insult to injury is the lack of personal space and masks! That is not a rant for here. One person in particular drove me nuts. Nice guy I’m sure. Lives around us somewhere, has a black dog. Luke is terrified of black dogs. Any black dog. In the late spring, traffic was sparse so we could usually run across the street and change our course, but of course things began to open and the world got loud again.

The sudden change from almost no traffic to cars speeding down the road set Luke off all on it’s own. He started lunging at trucks, cars, buses and motorcycles. He settled down during the beginning, I wonder how sensitive his ears are because as soon as the world switches back on he reacted to everything far worse then he ever did before. It’s like he got overloaded with stimuli after so much peace and quiet.

The guy with the black dog kept crossing our path and we couldn’t cross the street anymore. I adjusted our walk time hoping to beat him to a corner so we wouldn’t meet head on. Somehow he adjusted his time too, not that he cared if we met, it wasn’t his problem. It was mine. I started leaving earlier, he started leaving earlier. I left later. He left later. Always at the same corner we seemed to meet.

I thought he would pause as he was coming off the side street towards us and we were headed straight. No chance. Obliviously he would speed walk around the corner and right at us. I started jumping off the sidewalk and into the bike lane on the road while holding Luke back. It didn’t go well. I had to hold him back from lunging into traffic and then lunging towards the sidewalk. I could not risk the bike lane. I left my house even later. Power walk now because I only have 15 minutes. For a bit it was ok, but then the guy slacked and started later and there we were meeting head on at the corner.

Bored animals! The kept me company on the couch.

I yelled at him when the bike lane was too dangerous that we needed space, could he please let us cross the side road instead of walking into us. He ignored me so I screamed at him in frustration. It was dangerous for us and dangerous for him. He walked on. Every day, head on. I should have known an accident would happen.

Here it was now, leading up to Canadian Thanksgiving. I had just learned I would be returning to my office the week after the long weekend. Finish up my work in that department and go back to my regular job. Panic! It had been so long. March was a lifetime ago. At least I wouldn’t see that guy anymore. That Friday morning of the long weekend we met again at the corner. Traffic was heavy, there were bikes coming in the bike lane. He saw us and charged around the corner, I ran up a grassy hill and tried to get a better grip on my leash as they came around the corner on the sidewalk. If he had paused I might have been able to get my hand on the lower handle of the leash and grab handle on the harness. He didn’t though and Luke lunged hard at him and his dog.

I spun and went down on my right ankle. I knew when it happened it wasn’t right. Ankles don’t bend that way, especially in Doc Martens. Down I went and miracle upon all miracles, I didn’t drop the leash. My dead weight snapped him back. Buddy suddenly clues in, maybe he should have just waited. He wants to help now. Of course, something has happened. He starts walking towards me apologizing and asking what he can do. He is literally walking his dog into my reactive dog who is still lunging and barking like a maniac while I have one hand on my right ankle saying ow and trying to pull my dog back. Dude! Seriously? I’m on my back in pain barely keeping my left hand on the leash!

Dude! Ankles should not look like this!

I let loose. I held nothing at all back on him in that moment. Pain and fear took over. I could not lose control of Luke. I could not drop that leash. This guy needed to stop coming closer and just fuck off already! I yelled that at him. I screamed at him that if he wanted to help he needed to just go. Leave us alone and don’t come closer. He did. I haven’t seen him since. When he was out of sight down the sidewalk Luke calmed down and realized I wasn’t ok. Mom shouldn’t be on her back on the grass upside down. Cars kept passing. Bikes kept passing. I was on a hill with a dog, with my head pointed towards the sidewalk saying ow. What else can you say?

I pulled myself up after a few tries and picked at my boot. I had to get that off. Funny thing, I had my phone. I have a first aid certificate and full first aid kit on my tactical belt and harness. I couldn’t even think. I tugged my boot and sock off my foot. My ankle was grotesque. The swelling was like nothing I have ever seen before. I took a deep breath, crammed my sock in my boot. Grabbed the boot and pushed myself up. I limped my ass home with one boot on, one boot off and with my dog under control. Down the sidewalk and up a steep hill. I limped myself across my road and down my dirt steps. Thank god I dug steps down the hill this summer! I woke my wife up and said ‘I’m sorry to do this but I think I need you to drive me to the hospital, I’ve had an accident.’

3 hospital visits in 8 days before they did a CT scan and confirmed that it wasn’t just a sprain, I had sprained and broken my ankle. I can’t believe we made it 6 years before something like this happened. I love that dog. He felt so bad. The day it happened, he was so good when I needed him to be beyond good so I could make the walk home. He was so upset when I came in the door hours later on crutches. He felt terrible when I got the dreaded boot. It’s been 8 weeks almost. He misses me walking him. He misses everything. I miss my time with him too.

First 8 days. The bruising was impressive. Toe to mid shin.

I’m in physio now, physio is going great but good god, it still hurts. I’m out of the boot and slow. I’ve played stick with Luke a few times and called him from way across the field. He wants to please me so much he’ll actually come running to me and ignore that my wife offered him a cookie. I’ve walked our sled dog because oddly enough, she weighs less and doesn’t pull. Her reactivity is to freeze. A freeze is fine, it doesn’t risk re-injury to my ankle.

I want to walk my reactive dog again. We have come so far in our journey and work. He has been off leash more this year thanks to my strange schedule and hours. Our field by the airport at a warehouse is becoming unsafe but we have found a few new places. I hope soon my gear will be on again and my dog will be at my side walking with me.

There is a lesson in this. If a dog goes nuts lunging and barking at you, don’t keep walking towards the dog, step aside and wait. At the very least, give enough time and space for that person to get safely out of the way and ask if they control before you pass.

We played inside on Halloween this year. Traditionally Luke hates dog clothes but is good about putting on my clothes.

Let’s Talk Seriously About Gear!

Gear. There is so much gear out there for everything under the sun including our pets. I love gear. I have used and tried a lot of gear over the years with Luke. We started out with your standard run of the mill collars and when he was a year old I got him a handcrafted custom martingale collar from I love that collar still although it is no longer his daily use collar, we have moved on to different gear.

I’ve talked about the halti which he hated, the gentle leader which was almost the same and turned his loud WOOF into a muffled Boof, which he also hated. I tried a couple harnesses, they didn’t last long. We did the pinch, I know everyone hates those but don’t judge until you are trained to use one and you are afraid that if you can’t control your dog or stay on your feet that you will be forced to put them down. Worse then any gear was the fear that something very bad was going to happen and Luke would be destroyed. He surprisingly didn’t hate the pinch collar. He hated the pinch but he loved the control. The issue came in when he was avoiding a situation because he knew not to react and then a correction came because of how he moved. That is what triggered me to try agility and to find different gear. I didn’t want to try a shock collar although it wasn’t a shock, just an obnoxious vibrate.

I googled and I googled and I googled some more. Luke has a strong work ethic. He wants to please. He was loving agility, he has working dog breeds in him and a hyper vigilance. This is what you get when you have a gun dog mixed with a herding dog and the dreaded nanny dog. You get a protective, OCD, barking, vigilant, swimmer who has to work hard to swim because of the bully muscle weight, tail wagger. You get Luke. I decided maybe I needed to work more like a police dog. That vigilant part was not being challenged. He retrieves like a lab, was learning basic agility like a border collie, he needed the bully satisfied. I started reading about all new training commands in…German.

I didn’t want to learn German but I did learn a few tricks and tips and I started looking at tactical gear. If I could afford it I would have him custom geared out. I can’t afford that so really it started with amazon. I know. They are horrible but it fit the budget and this stuff is just not in the local pet stores or tactical shops. I wish it was in my tactical shop.

The vest was step one. We started with the onetigris power train harness with 3 pouches. I love the pouches, however because he loves to roll in clover the pouches live on me and they come in handy. Here is a link to that harness We used that from October through the end of March. It’s black and long and Luke gets hot in the summer very quickly because of his thick coat. I love that harness, we still have it and I have plans to modify it once my mom can show me how to load my antique sewing machine with a heavy thread (I get it loaded and snap the thread so clearly I am doing something wrong!) Luke is a puller, always has been and I want his vest to hug that chest of his so there is zero strain on him. I know exactly what I want to do to it and how I will achieve that.

Enter vest number 2. The Icefang Tactical Dog Harness K9 Working Vest. No link on this one it isn’t pasting right so you can google the vest name. I love how this one fits. I love the cobra buckles. They are heavy but exactly what my dog needs. The way this fits is how I will be modifying Luke’s power train harness. The feel is like a tactical harness with the right control mixed with a thunder coat. How could this vest be better? A handle on the tail end of it. I like grab handles everywhere on Luke. We have been using this vest for a couple of months now and so far, we love it. He can feel the difference in how it goes on and although he still acts as though it pains him to have it put on (all show by the way, if you grab a clinger the act drops and he walks normal), he can move unencumbered in it.

The new daily collar! Excellent Elite Spanker took the lead on this one. We ordered this in a large black on amazon in the fall. The first one had a buckle failure and the company took it back and we ordered another one. No issues at all. He has been in it since November and it is brilliant. I have used the handle. No buckle issues at all. This is the first time since his first puppy collar that I have used a flat collar on Luke. Being such a pulled I have thought a flat collar would choke him, he also as a pup squirmed his head out and I have seen dogs do the same in public. Some dogs are masters of escape. I don’t feel like he can squirm out of this one. It fastens around his neck first with Velcro and then we clip that cobra buckle that I love. He doesn’t flinch when that buckle is clipped, it has a nice snick as opposed to the loud snap of those plastic buckles. It came with a random patch, Emotional Support, this makes me laugh but I put it on. He needs emotional support and sometimes so do I. I would have much preferred a DO NOT PET patch, I’m far too cheap to buy one right now, emotional support it is!

The leash. You knew this was coming. Currently I have 2 of the same kind. I like it because the handle is comfortable, the bungee portion is tight and it attaches with a locking carabiner. I got this on amazon as well. The carabiner is sticking right now on both of the leads. To be fair we are hard on our gear. I will try to remember to grease the locking mechanism and see if that helps. I do like the lead, not happy about the lock I do want my dog on lockdown and I want to know that he isn’t going to snap that free. The online complaints were that it said 6 ft but when it is not stretched out it is only about 4 ft. I like the fact that it is 4 ft until bungees. That to me is a two thumbs up selling feature. I want my dog close to me. The closer the better. If it’s all clear, go ahead buddy, bungee ahead. If he gets to far it is tight enough that he is snapped back in the nicest possible you are at the end of your rope way.

That is Luke. I have gear too. I got myself a Condor Tactical Belt with Cobra Buckle. This fits through my Condor Slim Battle Belt. That belt combo changed my life! Thank you Andrew at Camouflage Victoria. I have my gear guy. I went in for a vest and came out with he belts. To that I added a nice H Harness. Build a vest. Don’t buy a vest. I can tie in a chest plate to that harness of my choosing. I haven’t yet done that. So far I have the 3 molle pouches that came with Luke’s Onetigris vest, I have a dump pouch, cell phone pouch, canteen pouch and canteen with a small clip on silicone collapsible dog bowl, a small pouch that holds my Logan dog whistle (more on that) as well as nicely rolled up and folded waste bags, and an extra first aid pouch (still building my list for that kit). I also have an air soft ammo clip holder that nicely holds my EPI Pen. That’s my gear in a nutshell. Sounds like a lot. When it’s all loaded it weighs a fair amount, that being said the way that battle belt takes the weight, when it is in you can’t tell. Brilliant! The canteen is human standard issue, it adds some weight when full. I don’t feel it though. I grabbed a giant heavy duty caribiner at an auto parts store and clipped Luke’s lease to that around my belt to go hands mostly and it was awesome, handles and control all in grabbing distance but he got and I got a break on a wooded path. I love my gear. It should be standard issue. His treats are in a pouch and we have everything you could need plus spares for anyone I see leaving a mess (oh did you need a bag, I have lots!). You can gear up at any store with tactical gear, a good sales person in airsoft can outfit you and next thing you know your work backpack is tactical and you have pouches for that too. Best gear ever!

The Logan whistle is also a nice touch. I tried a few acmes for recall, he didn’t care. I started looking up herding whistles and playing youtube videos in the yard of them at work and he kept coming to me when he heard the Logan. I ordered that from the U.K. These whistles mean business and they are loud with amazing range. You can hear his in a video in my next blog. Sometimes I whistle once and sometimes I whistle twice. I forgive him because we really haven’t had that much off leash time in a big field to really master what I want, but usually he’s pretty good about that whistle.

That is gear in a nutshell for me right now. Side note for little dog people, a good tactical vest (icefang has xs) and a good lead and anchor point to you (such as a strong battle belt) could save your little beloved friend from large birds of prey. Tactical is strong weaving and heavier weighted fabrics. We have owls and bald eagles here that have been known to snatch smaller dogs and snap those extendable leashes. I recommend leashing all dogs, especially small and getting good gear, you are protecting the family member you love.

Don’t Stop and Stare, Please Keep Walking

I have said this before. I know I have. I have said this for years. I yell it in advance when I move off a path far in advance of what could be a very bad situation. This is me being courteous, responsible and dare I say, protective of my dog.

My sister is in town from Toronto on her first visit ever to Vancouver Island. Regardless of the day, the dogs need to be walked. We took my sister on an adventure and did Alyard Farm at East Sooke Park. It’s an awesome place to visit and has everything, woods, sand, ocean, views, meadows and rocks. It was a rainy Victoria Day and that meant it would be okay to change plans and take the dogs. On a sunny day I’d have thrown the ball and walked again in the evening because it would have been over run with offleash and far too stressful for Luke and I. The biggest problem I see is that this is a large provincial park and people go and have zero control of their dogs. Half of them aren’t even paying attention to the animal they have brought.

The parking lot was at just under half capacity, we chose the overflow field parking because it was empty and unloaded the dogs. Quick jaunt to a main forest path. Our dogs are on leashes. One is flight based fear and then there is good old reactive Luke, all bark and so far no bite. Under control at this point is because of fear and a lot of work. It means he isn’t pulling me over like he was a year ago. He is sitting and barking but under control. He needs to learn to control his barking. I know this. Baby steps. I am happy with just barking right now. Voice that fear and uncertainty Luke, it’s a warning to give space, it’s also a good indication that perhaps you should leash your dog as you pass.

Not far in Luke does some business off the path, I’m getting a bag out while holding on to him and here comes trouble, off leash little dog that clearly runs the show. Side note, we have large birds of prey that do take little dogs, if my dog was little I would have it covered and leashes on a short lead at all times. I call these rampant little dogs owl pellets and eagle fodder. Do these owners think? They don’t. I walked away from collecting Luke’s waste and took him as far off the path as I could and grabbed the handle of his vest and did what I do these days, I told him it was ok as my wife asked the owners to call there dog away and keep walking…

…what do they do? What many do. They stop and stare as if this isn’t going to cause an issue. Again my wife asks them to move on and keep their dog with them and away from us, we are off as far as we can be people! We are way off the path. After gawking while Luke goes from warning barks to all out fear frenzy barking they scoop up said little dog (don’t do this people, just clip a leash on and move, you really make a reactive dog worry when you suddenly scoop a child or dog up!), stare at Luke directly like he and I are the devil and the husband gives a loud “HUMPH!”as they go by, maintaining sharp eye contact with Luke as his barking is now absolutely shrill.

It should never get shrill. That is way beyond what he can handle and now we have a large dog curious and heading towards us from the opposite direction. Lovely. That dog did recall back to it’s owner but it took a few calls and it got within an uncomfortable range before going back to it’s owner. Poor Luke. This happened again on the way back however we side stepped way off the path and into a clearing.

Owners must keep their dogs under control at all times in public spaces and parks. This is posted everywhere. Under control means perfect recall and on you or leashed. See leashes dogs coming your way? Leash up or have your dog 100% on you. Seriously. Feel the need to shame as you go by? Don’t. The problem was you. The problem was your lack of control. The problem was your actions and directly challenging a dog that is clearly reacting. This is not a game. This is safety and not redlining an animal that is clearly in discomfort. Animals give warnings. Luke gives a warning. He will growl and stand alert. His hackles come up and he barks. If you heed the warning and keep distance he will stop. He needs to know there is no threat. Don’t be a threat.

If you are an owner that absolutely cannot leash your dog, respect others and read up on animals. Educate yourselves on what to do to avoid a dangerous encounter with a cornered and fearful dog on leash. Care enough about your animal and your safety because reactive dog owners care enough about their animals and their safety and it should not be our responsibility to worry about yours as well. Clearly there are more reactive dogs these days and clearly many owners are doing all they can for the love of their rescue or fearful animal. Not every owner is, we see that in the news but the majority of us are.

On a side note we only had to clear off the path 4 or 5 times which is nice. We did water and car the dogs to go to the beach where we were accosted by a large offleash lab cross who was completely out of control and running without his people all over the place while they ignored. He reminded me of Luke and he kept hanging out by us. I looked at him and asked him he’d like to come home with us and I think he would have had a disembodied voice not called him off after several calls. Again. Control your dogs. You could have lost this one and I can tell you by his body language that he will be problematic if he ever goes through the experiences Luke has, your chances are higher than mine, Luke has always been close when attacked.

Next post is a gear post. If you want to see how serious we are, check that post out. I feel that one look at us when we go out should be enough to know, we are working and there. Oils be a problem if you cannot keep your dog away and give respectful space.

Off Leash for a Night

It’s seldom the Luke gets a night off leash, especially now that the weather is improving. In the winter it is too dark and when it’s light and nice there are too many people and other dogs. It’s already becoming an issue on our regular walk. Instead of complaining about the jogger incident last week (Luke did well despite taking me out, yay for handles everywhere!) I am going to post about the rare occurrence where we got a bay all to ourselves at sunset.

In February we had a shark die in a bay which is pretty cool because it was a good size and it’s Canada, not an everyday occurrence. It was dark and rainy so Luke and I didn’t make it out to check it out and then we got hit with all that freak snow so we were busy with shoveling and snowballs. My partner was at the bay earlier in the day last Friday (March 22nd, yes it has taken me this long to finish a simple blog post) and told me that the sharks spine was on the beach and it was impressive. I am adventurous at heart and could not contain myself. Instead of the usual Luke and I were getting out the door and getting to the Bay in the fading light to see it for ourselves!

He was hesitant to come in at first.

It was a good call because it was empty the entire time we were there. The tide was high and there wasn’t much shoreline, that doesn’t bother us, it usually means quiet. This is the bay that Luke learned to swim at back before the reactivity got so bad. I miss swimming him. He gets hot and he loves it. I also find the cold salt water keeps the fleas away. He’s never had them and I don’t like the chemical drops.

Over the rocks and fallen trees to the area of interest we went. I tried to keep him on leash because I am wary, however the water was cold, my boots and socks were off and my jeans were up to my knees and he was stubbornly not following me in, (the tide was up and the spine was out and under water). I looked around a few times and decided to hell with it, off comes the leash. That’s what he wanted. With the leash off he was willing to follow.

I know that children shouldn’t play with dead things. I can’t help myself, I’m sure I have missed many callings in life. I hauled that spine out of the water to check it out. The tail was still skin and I have always wanted to know what a shark feels like. Fine sand paper and thick like leather. The look command and strong nasty odour had Luke in on the action. I wish there had been a tooth kicking around, I would have loved to have scored the jaw bone, most of a shark is pure cartilage. The spine is, I know because I touched it. I’m sure Luke would have loved to roll in it.

Further down we found a baby. The shark had died full of pups. The baby had a solid bone in the chest but the teeth and jaw were still forming and weren’t solid yet (too bad!) I showed Luke the pup as well and I ran my fingers over the rows of teeth. Rows of them, still soft and tiny. It is one of the coolest experiences I can think of. When we we were done with the shark we played a bit of stick and then did a walk and home.

It was the first time in a very long time that I felt good having him off leash in the evening like that. He has come along way with his commands and attention. I had an adventure with my reactive dog and it was positive. It had been almost a year since we had that good of a night together. Sometimes you get lucky. I know this was luck and for a week it was as good as winning the lottery. If you have a reactive dog I hope a night like this finds you and gives you a boost.

He enjoyed it as much as I did.

Snow, the Ultimate Distraction

We live on the West Coast of Canada on Vancouver Island. We are the rainforest of Canada. We don’t really do snow here. This is important information because Luke has only ever seen a couple of snowfalls in his life and none of them have been that bad or long lasting. I grew up in Ontario. I was stuck when the army had to bail out Toronto and the rest of Canada laughed. I lived in Alberta for 9 years and did the prairie meets the Rocky Mountains winters. I am not a fan of snow, I’ve had enough of it and say power to the people who love it, I should have been born some place warm and tropical.

Luke loves the snow. He loves it! He goes nuts for it. We recently got slammed with snow. Downtown Victoria wasn’t hit half as bad as we were on the Saanich Peninsula. My bus did not run right for 2 days and I got a forced holiday as nothing was plowed and it just kept coming down. We don’t have a real snow budget here. Luke is in love with going to his pit right now because it is packed with snow. Gross, slowly melting snow.

It wasn’t too bad when it started…

Because the sidewalks were not cleared and the roads were not safe Luke went without his walks for a week and a half. He played in the yard and went crazy next door. We didn’t risk driving and sliding down hills and I wasn’t having him drag me through the unshoveled walkways. We had a couple feet of snow fall. His energy around this event has been through the roof.

The snow was all his.

There is something wonderful about watching a dog roll around in the snow. Luke could have even appeared like any other dog. As it slowly melts (in our yard it is still present) reality sets in. My reactive dog has had fun but the routine that we have been developing for months is now severely off track.

I have been trying to remember to finish this post since mid February and now we are mid March. So what is the fallout from the sudden cold snap and snow?

Luke is tugging more and ignoring commands for the first half of his walks. He is distracted now that there is grass again to chew on. He is over sniffing and reacting to everything. Last night it was a squirrel, the night before it was a person standing at the side of the road waiting for a ride home. Now that we have been forced to set our clocks ahead by an hour it went from dark walks to light walks without a natural transition. This means everything is suddenly different.

It’s suddenly bright and grassy, must pull, sniff and ignore commands!

Snow and daylight savings time. I curse you both on behalf of Luke. He is not as bad on the walk back however we now need to re-establish the control at the beginning of the walk. There is energy and push back. He is pushing back on putting his gear on. While there was snow his pit in the yard was fine and fun and now it is a scary place again because the snow is almost all gone. Putting on his gear is the worst thing in the world, what am I doing to him? Nothing that I am not doing to myself before heading out.

I suppose being normal would be no fun. I have enjoyed discovering all of my gear, now I need for him to rediscover how great it was to get geared up and not have his neck pulled by a traditional collar. Time to reinvent the wheel again. We must condition from super amazing what is this stuff fun, to everyone and there dog is suddenly out because of the light at our time. I’m considering scouting a well leashed area just so we can hang back and watch dogs pass while burning through the treat pack in hopes that he can keep his head on straight. I say good luck to me on that because the leash only zones are overrun with off leash dogs. Right now we are pulling, alert and barking at everything that moves and somethings that don’t move, who knew there was a rock there?!?

Daylight savings…

…hey is that a rock? Was that there before?

I still wouldn’t trade home for the world and I know with enough work and praise he will get back on track and we can keep moving forward. Luke will be 5 in September and I hope by the time he has his birthday some of the fear, anxiety and vigilance he has been feeling will be a little bit less. On the bright side, in another 5 years he’ll be 10 and isn’t that when they’re perfect and you wish you could dial the clock back and do it all over again with them? I wish I could do that now, there is so much I would do different for him.

Reactive Owner/Reactive Dog

Never mind the dog, beware of owner. There are signs and shirts and clever little sayings for that statement. I know, I’ve seen them. Luke and I both come with a badge, it sums it up in a neat package worth a giggle. They say a picture is worth 1000 words so this may be a good place to add one.

We both have one, enough said.

I look back on our journey together and I can’t help but think of all of the ways in which I have contributed to Luke’s issues. I’m a reactive person with a reactive dog. I can admit this. I’m still working on sewing my Asshole Merit Badge to the Velcro so I can stick it on my gear. Fun fact, these are called Morale Patches when on gear.

I work and take public transit. My job has a level of stress associated with it, that is the nature of business. My day at a glance is alarm at 5:00am, second alarm at 5:15am. Let dogs out to pee and collect food dishes, make sure Luke goes to his spot and pees or else he will hold it! (See previous posts for issues around his “pit”). Make coffee, feed the hangry cat and feed the dogs before Luke barks for it. Try to eat, drink coffee while getting dressed and brushing teeth, check time and dash to bus for 6:15. It shocks me that this all takes an hour. On occasion I have forgotten my wallet, keys, glasses and phone.

Work. All that comes with work. At the end of this is waiting for a bus and as long as there is no major issues (accidents,bus breakdowns) I am getting in the door at 6:15pm on most days, 7:30 ish on Fridays. Then we begin again with feed the hangry cat, tell Luke these pants gotta last, change into evening attire so Luke can be walked, spend 10-30 minutes running around and take Luke out. Home is between 8:30-9:00. Now time for dinner, am I even hungry? Do I want to cook? No. Cereal it is because I need a shower, I want to watch tv and target bed time for my sleep deprived brain is 10:30 so I can do it all again tomorrow.

Weekends there is always something so anything I wanted to do for me is deferred. Back burner life. This equates to a high level of frustration. It feels like it was never this complicated before. Life that is. We are in an increasingly high speed, must go, no time world. Change. Change management. The change cycle. Must do multiple things and juggle it all.


For the love of god. Stop. There is a point where you just don’t want to do anything anymore. I buy my weekly lotto tickets and pray to be struck by lightening multiple times consecutively. Not because I care about mass amounts of money, because I just want time to be mine so I can fit it all in. All the deferred. Time is so precious. I am reacting to the world around me. To the rush, to the people on my bumper with their high beams blinding me in front and behind. I curse them and allow myself to no longer feel like I need to speed up for them.

What about Luke? How does this affect him?

All of my stress has an effect on Luke. I am sure of this. He has grown up with bad dog park experiences and an explosive home life. My partner has complex ptsd and I do not read the triggers well. This isn’t the type of energy you want to feed your dog. If I swear at a driver on my bumper Luke reacts because he knows that word is no good. The answer is so obvious right?

I need to change my own reactivity.

I find this is not an easy task. I have always been reactive myself. I take what I can and when I have taken too much I will explode. When we drive out for our walks I am trying not to react to the high beams and tail gating. I can’t change the behavior of the person behind me but I can choose not to swear. If I am stressed out and in a bad headspace I put on my Mary F and fake it until I make it while I walk him. If I am on edge he will be 20 more times on edge. If I can act happy he will follow my lead.

It sounds so easy but it really isn’t. It’s like walking on eggshells trying not to say or do the wrong thing. Maybe with time that too will get easier. Cutting out the dog parks was a good move. It was too frustrating trying to get in 5 minutes of ball and off leash without someone walking in, even late at night. Luke is happier on his leash walks and so am I.

He’s been hyper vigilant the last couple of weeks. We have passed more people and dogs in the dark and he has growled and a few days ago went into an all out barking frenzy as one dog walked past. The other dog didn’t make a sound but the owner asked if we were ok. I had a hand on the leash handle and a hand on the short handle as well as his upper vest handle. I said yes and let him bark because he was under control, despite the barking. I guess he needed to shout about it. That’s why he has his badge. He can be an asshole, so can I. At least I didn’t get defensive about his barking and lash out. Over time I am hoping he will stay calmer. Maybe when he can see people coming a mile away because we still have daylight. Walking in the dark freaks me out too and he probably picks up on that.

I’ve been trying to finish this post since January 26. The long and short of it is that I have to change me while I work on my dog because I am half of the problem and we are both cut from the same cloth. Sometimes you need to look in the mirror at yourself and ask how you have contributed to the problem. There’s no shame in that and hey, we both wear our merit badges on our gear when we go out now because I did indeed get mine finished in the time it took me to write this, I had a whole month!

Reactive Dog and Fog

Tales from the aquariums have been eating up my time. Last night it caused a delay in getting Luke out the door and on his walk. By the time we got out a wonderful thick fog had blanketed the peninsula. Oh what joy! Our first walk in the fog out at the airport! To say I was thrilled by the thought would be obvious sarcasm.

Fog on it’s own is a creepy and wonderful thing. I find it makes me more alert when I can barely see in front of me and passing cars are swallowed whole before my eyes. It always reminds me of Stephen King’s, The Mist. I loved that story and it left an imprint on my young mind when I first read it 30 years ago. If fog can have that effect on a person, what effect can it have on a reactive dog?

My experience with Luke has always been a high level of vigilance. He has always been on high alert, even as a puppy. We’ve walked in fog before, but this is the first time we’ve ever had consistent change and success. I have a fear of once again taking two step forwards and ten steps back. That’s been our life for 4 years. In my mind I pictured someone walking a dog with no lights to announce their presence coming out of the white with precious little space to course correct.

Course correcting is important. Luke has a bubble in which he can still function and focus. This bubble is actually a very large one. It is his safe zone where reason still exists to him. I have spent a lot of time learning his safe zone. In daylight it can be a bit smaller, in the winter when it is always dark when we walk it is larger. What is that bubble in the fog? Why can’t people buy a crappy $10 light to clip on a collar? Why does it have to be foggy now?

To my surprise it was not as bad as I thought it would be.

Fog meet dog. I liked the wispy effect.

It could have been the darkness and the fog. It could have been the smell of fuel that was so thick in the air you could taste it. It could have been that Luke really is finally improving. I don’t know why it wasn’t so bad.

We did not do off leash, that would not have been a bright idea given the lack of visibility. We did our normal stretch, Luke likes a routine. Not long into it a couple of dogs started barking through a glass screen door across the street. I watched as Luke went alert and stiffened straight up and thought, here we go.


I said it nice and happy.

Luke locked eyes with me and kept moving without a single bark. The other dogs started up again and he stiffened and turned so I said it a second time.

Tail wags and eye contact. That deserved a good piece of lamb lung and pet on the side with some praise. It makes me think, who is this dog? It’s Luke. It’s my dog paying attention to me and finding trust in my ability to lead him. He doesn’t need to defend me. I’m plenty scary if I need to be, never mind the dog, beware of owner!

Luke sniffing along, minding his own business.

We walked to the end, did our turn around and walked back to car. I let him sniff along the way while I enjoyed the odd hoot of an owl and the eerie night sky. I could hear a plane take off but I couldn’t see it. I don’t know how they do it. Luke didn’t seem to care about anything beyond sniffing, stopping to take a bite of grass and checking back in with a wag and some eye contact to see if he would get a treat and some praise.

I am enjoying our walks lately and make sure to tell him that as we plod along. If he picks up the pace and seems excited he is now taking a verbal cue. It’s an easy one. Relax. I say relax Luke and he looks at me and slows down. Is this what it is like to have a normal dog on leash? What is normal anyway?

I managed to get a few pictures along the way, who can resist when you have a blog and you want to show people how thick it was in the air when you walked you big scary dog.

He actually barked at a dog in the sun on Sunday morning. He didn’t make a peep last night. I’m not sure what the weather has in store for us tonight, it’s cold but we live on an island, anything is possible.

I need to learn to breathe more when we go out. I can’t let my guard down, if something got out of control I could lose my dog and that would break my heart. I can however trust in our progress over the last few months. The consequences for error are huge, at the same time it feels like so are the consequences for missing out on enjoying these moments with him. I am watching his hair whiten already and I tell him to not grow old. He’s not even 5 yet but I can already see that the time I have with him is going by far too quickly.

And back to the car again…

One day I’ll blink and he’ll be gone. I want to know that I did the best I could for him and that we both enjoyed our time together. He’s a damn good dog, he just has some trust issues. Who doesn’t these days? No matter what the walk brings, I’m going to enjoy him tonight and have some controlled fun. We deserve it.

There was something in the air…

One of the hardest things to learn when you have a reactive dog (at least in my experience), is how to read them. It is so important to be able to read where your dog is at before a leash can come off, even for a successful on leash walk.

Last night there was something in Luke’s general look and feel that told me, DO NOT let him off leash! When we first got to the field it seemed status quo, but I had a feeling there was something off. His ears pricked up, not a lot at first but they did and that is a sign in him of heightened awareness. He was also sniffing more then usual and straining on the lead. I kept him on leash in the field where we park and decided we would skip the fun and games and do our walk and at the end if all was fine, maybe he would play the recall whistle game. Big maybe.

We walked across the access road to the second field on the way to the trash, yes indeed I do put on my nerdy headlight and pick up after him. When we got to the trash I saw another dog coming up the path. My thought, ditch the garbage and get moving. I figured Luke would notice, he knows when there are other dogs around, but he paid no mind. He was glued to a smell on the ground by the trash and he would not budge. I could not get his attention to get him moving. I had to ultimately tug him from the spot.

I figured after we moved on he would be ok but it seems the scent continued on down the entire path we take. My thoughts, and I could be wrong, someone walked a female dog in heat down that path at some point in the 24 hrs since we were last there. I looked back and noticed that the dog behind us was acting the same as Luke, the owner had to keep stopping and pull the dog from the grass. Up ahead there was another dog coming and Luke has been straining on his leash following the scent. We crossed the road and he had a minor reaction to the oncoming dog, I’ll take a minor reaction anytime over a full on freak out. He lunged a bit and barked but not too badly and we quickly moved on and crossed back to the path. Resume the sniffing, pulling and stubborn freezing to over sniff.

My solution last night was to keep my left hand on the bungee and my right hand on the solid lower handle of the leash and keep him at my side. In the end that was a good decision. We didn’t see anymore dogs and after we turned around I managed to get some of his focus on me. There was a dog barking in a yard and he was alert to that but he didn’t react, he followed the lamb lung instead. Bribes are ok I figure if that is what it takes to break focus. It also semi worked to keep a piece of lamb in my hand to keep him from the scent on the path.

This is Luke hyper vigilant and alert. I much prefer him walking loose at my side making eye contact.

We cut up a road back to the access road and he actually mellowed out. Whatever he was following last night was not on the road to the car. By the time we got back he was calm, got right in and had his final treat. It was not as easy as it has been lately but not as hard as it has been in the past. I credit this to the trainer who runs the pack walks on Sundays and his agility trainer. They both have explained signs to me of his alertness and his frustration level. They gave me a base for learning to read Luke and I was lacking the knowledge of what certain small signs meant. This makes a difference. Being extremely aware is making a difference. They also both have a different approach to training, one has given me a hard NO and stiff rules on interaction and the other is my YES upbeat excited and positive person. You need no and you need yes for success. He actually pays attention to me when I say no now. He wants the yes.

I encourage you if you are frustrated and at your wits end to find a some great opposite trainers and use them both. Balance is needed between the two.

I wrote this yesterday and didn’t finish. The scent was still there tonight, no games again but also no other dogs. The cold keeps some people in. On leash the whole time but a bit more focus. This is life with a reactive dog. It gets better, it takes time and commitment. Don’t give up, find balanced help and approaches, try everything that you are comfortable trying with help from a pro and find what works for you and your dog, you may find it on your own but please, learn to read and understand your reactive dog. You will feel better and so will your dog. If anything Luke and I are bonding more deeply then I could have ever thought possible and he already followed me around and slept on my feet.