Dog’s Eye View: Just say ‘no’
March 17, 2016
Some time back, I was meeting a client to work with his reactive dog. I arrived at our location ahead of time to make sure there were no activities going on that would conflict with our session. Since I had some extra time, I took my dog for a quick walk.
A lady, with dog on leash was approaching us on the walking path, so I moved off the path and asked my dog to stay. It was obvious the approaching dog had intentions of meeting my dog, so I asked them to move on. The lady said her dog was friendly, to which I responded, "I don't care. Please move on."
I'm sure she thought it would be perfectly fine for her dog to meet my dog, but my dog was not interested in any interaction with her dog, and the lady thought I was being rude to deny her "friendly" dog a chance to greet my dog. I was not being rude. I was protecting my 10-year-old, 15-pound dog from an encounter she would deem life-threatening, since the oncoming dog outweighed her by 50 pounds. It's my responsibility to protect my dog from harm. She trusts me to intervene on her behalf.
Once we finished our walk, I put her back in the car to wait for my client. When he arrived with his dog, we were as far away from traffic as we could be to find dry land to practice the skills he is teaching his dog. Things were going great, when I looked up, and here came an off-leash dog running across the parking lot.
Since my client's dog is dog reactive, he was prepared and slipped a muzzle on his dog while I moved forward to prevent the oncoming dog from making contact. I yelled "No! Get home!" to which his owner replied, "It's OK, he's friendly." I told her to call her dog as I was getting ready to block him from going past me. She finally got him to come back to her, and yelled at me for preventing her friendly dog from making a serious mistake.
Are you kidding me?
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Most people have no idea what it's like to live with a fearful or reactive dog. And guess what, folks? We love our dogs, too, and we have a responsibility to protect them in uncomfortable situations. My dog is friendly, too, but she is not comfortable with larger dogs. My client loves his dog, and they have a wonderful relationship. He is working very hard to make the best life for his dog. And our training together far away from traffic gives them a chance to be out and about in the world together.
Our dogs need fresh air and exercise, too. We keep them on leash for a reason. First and foremost, it's for their protection, and it's for the protection of other dogs, as well. With training, reactive dogs can learn to stay close to their handler and focus on them. It takes time to teach your dog you will protect him from making contact with other dogs. With practice, these fearful or reactive dogs learn they can trust their owner to step up and stop an encounter.
I think it's great that so many people and dogs are so social and friendly. If you want to run your dog off leash, use our wonderful off-leash dog park. You will not find us there.
Those of us who obey the law and keep our dogs on leash need to stand up for our dogs. Speak up loudly when you hear those words, "Don't worry, he's friendly," and tell them to put their dog on leash and move on.
Just as you don't feel comfortable with strangers getting in your face, please teach your dog to show the same courtesy toward others. Please be considerate.
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with more than 25 years of experience. She has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, as well as certified nose work instructor certification through the National Association of Canine Scent Work. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado.
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