First, I take full responsibility for not 100% controlling my dog in this situation. My fault, my blame, and I will not let it happen again.
We were skijoring in a remote area (unlikely to see anyone), with four dogs. I had my husky hooked to me, the malinois was in harness but she and my shepherd were free running, my partner was well behind with his older dog.
We were moving at a pretty good clip, like 15 mph. I was just kind of enjoying the moment. There was a walker on the trail ahead of us but I didn't pay much attention. We pass people on trails ALL the time in busier areas with neutral behavior from all parties. As we approached, my malinois ran ahead a bit and barked at the guy a few times. I told her to come, and she immediately came and we went on by. I didn't think much of it.
We got back to the parking lot and changed our skis out to head out on the more narrow trails for some slower ski touring. All the dogs were relaxed. The guy we passed came down the trail. An older guy.
I said hello, he said "your dog scared the
out of me".
I said, "I am so sorry, I called her right away, I didn't expect her to bark like that."
He said, "well, you're not the only one with a weapon out here," unzipped his jacket, and started to pull out a large revolver he had strapped to his chest.
I was somewhat in shock. He was handling the gun. My dogs were 100% neutral- and playing with each other and there was absolutely no threat or inference of a threat from me (female, young, smaller).
He said, "I was a second away from shooting your dog".
This was interesting since my dog maybe barked three times and as we ran by. The entire encounter took about three seconds or less.
I said, "she was barking, I know she shouldn't do that, and I don't let her bark at people, but she was a bit startled."
He said that she was showing her "fangs". That he knew dogs, that he had 50 stitches in his head from a dog, and 8 dogs at home, and that he knew she was serious. I understood he was afraid of dogs. I got all that. I honestly do have the dogs I have in part for deterrence of (human male) attackers. That said, they are not PPD and I don't need that.
BUT BUT BUT, my goal with all my dogs is neutrality and 100% recall. Obviously, I dropped the ball here and it is MY fault my dog barked at the guy. Brief it may have been, reactive it may have been and so on, I am not making excuses.
What I take away from this is:
1. My dog needs more neutrality and OB training, we are not as far along as I had thought, despite numerous neutral encounters on more busy trails every day.
2. If I see someone on the trail ahead, I need to "heel" my malinois and/or (until she is 100% with her OB) leash her until we are past the person. Even though she rarely reacts, she needs to understand that I make the decisions.
3. Keep practicing the recall. Under extreme distractions.
4. I need to expect that people are carrying concealed, especially in rural areas. It is legal in this state.
5. My "small" (55 lb) dog is scary even though I don't see her that way very easily because she is so sweet with her family. Even more so because of the way she looks to people, I need 100% control over this dog.
6. Huge wake up call. I love this dog and I need to not let her make her own decisions in these situations. I will leash for her until her OB is solid and consistent.
So, I totally blame myself. Gave my girl a lot of loving last night, and was very happy I'd worked with her so much on recall that when I called her she came immediately. Kicked myself for not calling her to a heel before we passed the guy many times already.
I'm still a bit in shock by the guy pulling a gun on me well after the barking incident and when my dogs were not acting remotely threatening. Took me a long time to settle down last night.
It was like my worst nightmare. The last thing I want is my dog making me LESS safe than more safe.
Just a warning to us all that we can never be too careful or have too much control over our dogs. With some dogs, you can NEVER be complacent. Time for me to do some really consistent training with this. I could have avoided this whole thing if I had just called her in when I first noticed the walker on the trail in front of us.
I'm still reeling a bit. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before.