Clear and imminent danger

This creature thing was set up for Halloween last October in Essex, CT.  It would most definitely had gotten a clear and imminent danger response from Elsa until she realized that it was not alive.  

Clear - free from darkness, obscurity or cloudiness.

Imminent - likely to occur at any moment, pending.

Reading the description of the two words above should make it quite obvious that the term 'clear and imminent danger' means one thing but does it?  Not to dogs, nor to us.  It really depends on who you are, who your dog is and what the situation is at the precise moment of sensing danger.

Yesterday I took advantage of some rain to head out and sneak an off leash run with Elsa.  I took along her chuck-it to ensure some power exercise got done.  When we arrived at the park there was no one around; the park was quiet except for the rain coming down and dripping off the many surfaces that fill the wide open spaces.  As we made our way to the area that is mostly fenced we passed a couple of landscapers taking cover under trees and then we came across one in the play ground.  This one was not sitting well with Elsa, she had not expected to see him huddled under the slide and reacted immediately.  She physically startled seeing him and then commenced her chicken barking.   We call it chicken barking because she sounds like a chicken, not because she is being a chicken.  It is a sort of clucking bark, not a full on bark, more under her breath.

I kept my composure and continued at the pace that we had started off not giving any body cues that I found this guy strange or scary.  He was simply getting out of the rain but he was under the slide, holding a phone and wearing his hood up over his head; to Elsa this was a clear and imminent danger.  She most certainly saw him as a threat.  I continued to chirp along to her "come'on let's go."  But she was not letting this guy sneak up on her, no way, no how.  She continued barking well after we had passed him, looking over her shoulder just in case.

Our dogs see things much more differently than we do and depending on their degree of experience often consider items, events or people to be scary.  Elsa is a dog that considers anything new to be suspicious until she checks it out.  She learns very quickly and stores the information as 'already been checked.'  She will often sound off when she sees things that concern her as we walk at the beach or park while Luke says nothing and is obviously not concerned with what she is barking at.  At 11.5 he has seen most of what there is to see, he is much better at deciding what is a danger and what is not.

Young dogs don't have the life experience under their belt to make appropriate decisions about danger.  They often miss dangerous situation because they lack prior experience.  Even though Elsa is a very well traveled nine month old; she has seen and done far more than most her age but she is still young.  She still jumps to conclusions quickly due to her young age.  Luke would have known that the guy under the slide was a non issue because of his body.  Had he moved towards us in an ominous way things may have changed.

Clear and imminent?  Not always.