If you like to train your dog or you have or have had a dog that was reactive or fearful of other dogs, you are bound to like reading this article.
If you love to have your dog race up to people and thinks that’s ok because your dog is friendly, you may not enjoy it as much. But, I would suggest you read on anyway because there may be some home truths that could help you be a more appreciated dog owner.
I could not even come close to guesstimating how many people have been accosted by the off leash dog tearing up to their dog followed by a hail of “it’s ok, he is friendly!”
It’s not even funny or giggle worthy really, it’s a major problem and as dog owners we need to get together with some accepted etiquette or at some stage, the restrictions we have with our beloved dogs will most certainly get tighter.
First, it’s actually not “ok”, whether he is friendly or not. If people don’t want your dog to rush up to theirs for any given reason, they have that right.
There is no arguing that. If they don’t, they don’t, it’s their dog, it’s their choice.
I am far from immune to these problems myself, especially when I have a dog that I am training for someone and I am in my local town.
Here are some personal experiences that have happened to me in just the last few weeks.
I was waiting outside a shopping centre with the dog I was training. He was practicing a sit stay to develop his impulse control.
Based on the elapsed time a good reward was coming when a lady walked past and saw the dog sitting next to me
She started to make a kissing sound to get his attention, which she did.
He didn’t break the sit so she stopped and made more sounds and began talking to him.
I mentioned to her with a smile that I was training him and she rolled her eyes and stormed off.
I re tasked the dog and rewarded him when it was due, but why?
That same day I was walking this dog alongside the main park in Richmond.
It’s not a dog park or off leash park but a cricket ground.
I see a lady being dragged by her dog toward the one I was working with. The dog I had on this occasion was nervous of dogs and I was building confidence with him.
I looked at the lady and she said “he just wants to say hi”
I asked her to stop because my dog was not comfortable with dogs and she let go of the leash allowing her dog to belt up to mine and stand over her.
I grabbed her dogs collar and asked if she could please take him away.
She tried to drag her dog off, he protested loudly frightening the dog I was working with.
If I have a dog in a public place does it mean that this dog has no rights to his or her personal space?
I was having a coffee at a shop with another dog who was almost finished training. The dog I had was happy and relaxed laying in the outside area of a coffee shop.
A guy with a dog came by and his dog picked up my dogs scent and started looking for him. The dog I was working was behind one of those al fresco area barriers so could not be seen.
The guy said “have you got a dog there? Mine will find him!”
I said “yes I have a dog here and were actually training so if you don’t mind could you not?”
Next thing his dog has pushed through the side of the Alfresco area, knocking over a pot plant and is standing over mine in the coffee shop.
I had to stand up and move my dog away as he was just standing there allowing his dog to do as he pleased.
We all love our dogs, of course we want them to be happy, of course we want them to enjoy their outings, but surely we need to consider other dogs too?
It surely is the dog handlers right to decide on whether he or she would like to be approached by an unknown dog?
There are off leash parks where dogs are unleashed and free to approach others (even though I don’t feel this is a good idea), but outside of that area I think there needs to be some etiquette developed so us dog owners can avoid ending up squabbling in front of the general (perhaps non dog owning) public.
When sitting at a restaurant, if a person would like to take one of the chairs from the table I am sitting at, it’s often “sorry to bother you, but are any of these chairs not being used?”
My child is on the swing at the park, she hops off and other parent “are you finished with the swing?”
It’s obviously not too hard to be courteous?
I had finished a training session and opened the back of my truck and lifted up the dog I was working into the truck.
I went to close the door and a hand darts past me, grabs the dog by the jowls and shakes it’s head saying “who is a good boy?”
A year or so ago we went away to a country town for a friends birthday. She is a dog person so we all brought our dogs to this dog friendly venue.
Over the weekend a staff member approached my friends dog and pointed her index finger at the Border Collie and commanded sit, down! All Ceasar Millan like.
The dog is very well trained but not for this stranger so did not comply (no reward history).
The lady stepped toward the dog, finger no pointing at the dogs face with a with a “HEY! I SAID SIT!”
The dog took a back step to avoid her, and she stepped toward the dog again. The dog snapped at her and ran out of the room.
I stepped in and asked the lady to leave the dog alone, after her giving me a dirty look she left.
The dog was sitting on a mat minding it’s own business and the lady stepped up and started yelling commands at the dog, not taking no for an answer.
Dogs off leash that are out of control racing up to people (with and without dogs), leashed dogs dragging owners down the large
Into coffee shop al fresco areas, people seeing a dog in training and going out of their way to distract the dog, reaching into cars to pet dogs…
So many people are suffering at the hands of these people surely something can be done?
What do I do?
This is far from perfect or advice, it’s just what I do.
The dog I am walking will not be allowed to jump on people or race up to a dog anywhere. If I had a dog that somehow escaped my control and did this I would as fast as I could retrieve the dog and apologise.
If I am walking a dog and a dog is going to cross my path, if my dog is fine I will observe the other dogs behaviour, if my presence is causing the other dog to misbehave, become fearful or over excited, I will divert my course to make sure the situation does not get any worse for the other dog owner.
If I see a person with a dog doing anything, I leave them alone. Coffee shop? Walk on by.
Having fun playing with their dog in the park? Choose the free side of the park and keep my dog with me.
Overall I do not want to create an uncomfortable situation for the other dog owner and I don’t want to make a public display that would make a scene that depicts “dog owner’s are a crazy bunch!”.
A few months ago, dog owners were given a benefit in a world where restrictions are high. Bunnings advised that you were welcome to bring your dog into their stores.
I thought great! Great socialisation opportunity for puppies and great exposure to dogs I might be training when they were at the proofing level.
It doesn’t rain in there and there is no hot sun, great opportunity.
A few days after this freedom was offered, I was in Bunnings (no dog) and walked into an isle. Next thing I know a German Shepherd is lunging at me trying to take a piece.
The owner pulled back the leash and started trying to get the dog to sit. The dog was clearly fearful and I probably startled the dog by walking into the isle. But, people will walk into isles at Bunnings…
Staff came running to see what the barking was and the lady told them her dog was protection trained and was just protecting her. They were a little hesitant to believe her and asked her to place her dog in the car.
It was only another few weeks until a statement was released by Bunnings to say that people can bring their dogs but they would need to be muzzled as a few people had been bitten.
That freedom that dog owners got came and went before I even got a dog in there!
We need to take responsibility for our dogs or the powers that be, will. We already have so few places that we CAN take our dogs so we need to clean up our act and make sure we keep what little we have.
Some of us may need to apply some self regulation with our dogs in some situations, because if we don’t, the government restrictions will be much more restrictive. If you think nothing will come of what is happening, consider what is happening in the Greyhound Industry right now (https://www.facebook.com/k9pro/posts/1230401250303732)
Why do these things happen so commonly?
I know there will be hundreds of people reading this saying “yes! that has happened to me!”, so why is it so common? Let’s explore the reasons briefly
Dog rushes up to yours and you ask owner to call their dog. They respond “it’s ok! he is friendly”
Know that their dog probably has no recall and they are avoiding calling him because this would highlight their lack of training ability.
Other’s perhaps can see that you are anxious or look frightened perhaps so they may be trying to reassure you that there is nothing to worry about; but if you have a dog that is not comfortable then this does not help.
Dog pulls owner up the street to greet your dog
Well it is clear that their dog does not have great leash manners but often on top of that, the owners are taking their dog for a walk to entertain him or her. So in their mind your dog being available to stimulate and make their dog happy is a good thing. Of course if you are training your dog or your dog is not comfortable around other dogs, and let’s face it, many aren’t, then this causes a problem for you and when you don’t allow their dog to do as it pleases they too get upset with you.
Dog runs up to your dog and starts rough play
The other person is used to their dog playing very rough with his or her friends at the dog park, so they see no problem with him or her jumping all over your dog. Why? I guess because they feel that their dog means no harm. Of course if their dog is much bigger than yours or yours is frieghtend of dogs, or you are frightened of dogs then this is distressing to you.
It seems crazy that just taking your dog out in public means that you will or may be subjected to this type of behaviour…
My Tips on Dog Etiquette
These won’t work for everyone, and some will just scoff I guess, but here they are anyway.
If we have access to a public place with our dogs, only uptake that option if your dog will be an ambassador and make people smile at his or her behaviour.
If your dog is not ready to or able to behave well, train him or her and reward yourself and your dog with more inclusion to these places when he or she is ready.
If you see somebody with a dog, perhaps ask from a distance if they would like to meet and if you get a no, please don’t be upset, offended or angry. I’m certain their dog just isn’t ready for yours or would not enjoy meeting.
What will this cost you?
Actually nothing because if you don’t ask, these people will be frustrated, angry, anxious and or upset with you and there will be no playing anyway, all you will lose is the upset between you and a person who lives on this earth that shares your love of dogs.
I’m sure that only a tiny percentage of the people that say no are anti social unfriendly people, the others have a good reason and they very well may be working on making their dog better, so how about not kicking them back a few levels with selfish behaviour.
If you own a dog, you share that common interest with me and everyone else who loves dogs, try to lead with an excellent example. Sure this may mean your dog does not get absolutely everything he wants, but who does…