A few weeks ago, I met a client for a training session at the local park in town. This is a place where people and dogs go to walk and hang out. In Georgia, where we are located, there is a leash law. This means no matter how big or small, no matter how well-trained your dog is, and no matter how friendly your dog is, by law, your dog is supposed to be on a leash.
As we were winding down our training session, my client let me know that there was an off-leash dog behind me. I turned around to find a Yorkie and his tall male human. The Yorkie was about 20 feet away from his owner. Without so much as a “Hello” or asking if it was okay, the man told his dog, “It’s ok. Go ahead and say hello!” Mind you, this was a Yorkie, so you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? Was he a devil dog?” He wasn’t but it was a big deal and I’ll tell you why.
This dog owner was only looking at the situation from his perspective. His dog is friendly. My client’s dog was on a leash. What’s the harm? Here’s the problem. This man had no information about my client’s dog. My client’s dog was at least three times the size of his. Had we allowed play between the two dogs, his dog was at risk of getting injured. While my client’s dog was not aggressive, he had no idea that she was in training, deaf and that she was working through fear and anxiety problems. He gave his dog permission to approach my client’s dog without asking if it was ok and without knowing anything about my client’s dog. True, he didn’t know what we were doing, but that’s no excuse.
You may be wondering what happened next? Well, I intercepted the greeting and told him firmly to please not allow his dog to come over. As he walked away, he rolled his eyes and shook his head. That was a tongue biting experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure his dog is loved. I’m sure his intentions were good. But often times, with dogs, our vision of how the situation will play out is not the reality. Other people’s dogs should be approached with respect whether you are with your own dog or not.
Here are some guidelines for interacting with other dogs in public.
- Put your dog on a leash. Aside from breaking the law, you may be putting your dog at risk if you don’t.
- Show respect by greeting other humans and asking permission before allowing your dog to greet their dog.
- Be an educated dog owner. If you see a dog owner with what appears to be an out of control pup, have compassion and be inquisitive – not judgmental. Most owners of anxious dogs are doing everything in their power to get them better. Don’t make remarks or give them dirty looks. They suffer enough without added input.
If you’re the human of a fearful dog, don’t be afraid to speak up if someone approaches your dog without asking. You can nicely tell them that your dog is fearful, anxious, or in training and cannot be petted. You can also purchase personalized leashes or covers or patches from Etsy so that others will know not to approach your dog.
Responsible dog owners spend an enormous amount of time training their dogs. Many dogs have behavioral problems that owners are either trying to manage or working hard at repairing. Be thoughtful and respectful of others and their canine companions regardless of how innocent the potential encounter may seem. It’s difficult to understand a situation unless you’ve actually lived it.
“In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.”
If you have any questions about your dog’s behavior or would like to schedule a consultation, call or contact us today at 706-830-7372.