Talking dogs: Take responsibility for your dog's actions

May 4, 2015


Recently, 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."

Once 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.

Thankfully, 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!"

In 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.

Fortunately, 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 other dogs.

As for the owner of the offending dog, here is what should have happened, for the benefit of each dog involved:

First, 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.

Next 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.

Finally, 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.

 

 


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