I took a trip with my son. As we stepped into the
check-in line at the airport, a child bolted away from
his parents and accosted my son, who was calmly standing
by my side, yelling and screaming at him, creating a
huge scene. The parent’s response? "Just ignore
her, she’s harmless."
in a while, I have an opportunity to take a trip, and
become, in public, just another dog owner. Of course,
the "son" I mentioned above was actually my
20-month-old Dachshund puppy. And the "child"
of the irresponsible parent was his own small dog. He
had dropped the leash and when his dog spotted my
Curtis, she lunged toward us and barked continuously.
Curtis did not respond directly to the other dog, but
looked up at me, and I quickly placed my luggage between
them. Taken off guard, in response to the other owner’s
"she’s harmless" comment, I was only able to
sputter "Well my dog isn’t!"
truth, my dog is stable and generally amiable when in
the direct presence of other dogs. But the other dog
owner didn’t know that, and by irresponsibly choosing
to take no precautions or responsibility for his dog’s
actions or even properly restrain his dog, he
potentially placed her at risk of getting bitten by the
dog she accosted. From the owner’s comment and
attitude, it seemed obvious this wasn’t the first time
this behavior had occurred. But I guess since she hadn’t
actually bitten another dog, her behavior was deemed
harmless and was allowed to continue.
part of raising a puppy in my world consists of lots of
exposure to other puppies and dogs, some known to us, so
direct contact can be made, and others unknown that are
simply observed from a distance. Fortunately, Curtis has
had literally hundreds of incidents where he was exposed
to other dogs with a positive result: treats from me,
accessibility to play with trusting new acquaintances,
etc., so this one negative incident is not likely to
have a permanent effect on his future interactions with
for the owner of the offending dog, here is what should
have happened, for the benefit of each dog involved:
the owner should have immediately gotten hold of his dog’s
leash and quickly, but calmly, removed her so she had no
further access, visual or otherwise, to my dog.
he should have apologized for his dog’s behavior;
wouldn’t any parent of a child who behaved so
inappropriately have done the same? No scolding of his
dog should have taken place, as that would not properly
address the situation and, in fact, could have a
negative impact and make future encounters with other
dogs even worse.
the owner should make a mental note: "My dog has
some dog reactivity issues and I need to help her get
past those." Then after returning home, he should
locate a competent dog professional, one who is
comfortable working with reactivity in dogs and learn
how to positively modify his dog’s behavior, so that
future interactions with other dogs are low stress and
pleasant for all involved.