Friday, October 21, 2011

"He's friendly!" A bit of dog-walking etiquette

Liam the pug on his leash looking a little worried
A neighbor of mine has a very boisterous, very large dog. I've met this dog before, when he came to investigate my gardening skills, and he seemed quite cheerful and friendly. This dog is also, unfortunately, very reactive on the leash and responds with barking and lunging whenever he sees another dog approaching.

Barking dogs don't really bother me very much, but the owner's behavior is beginning to grate. She believes, for reasons I can't explain, that the dog is somehow misunderstood and friendly, and she is constantly yelling "He's friendly!" at me, while she holds the end of the leash and he barks and snarls away. This morning, she nearly attempted to walk him in my direction to prove her point. Liam and I had to do some fancy footwork to escape.

Here's the etiquette lesson: If another dog owner is distrustful of your dog, walk away. If the other owner is nervous and holds onto a leash with the death grip, that person's dog is likely to become anxious and aggressive. The tension moves down the leash, and you have a fight on your hands. If the other owner says "No," this means "No."

Additionally, if you have an untrained dog and you'd like to brush up on that dog's skills, let your dog practice with other dogs you know that are of a similar size. Everyone you meet is not responsible for your dog's training. They are responsible for the safety and training of their own dogs. Liam might be friendly, but he's also under 30 pounds, and there's no way I will use him as bait in a training exercise with a 75-pound dog. When a big dog and a little dog fight, the little dog loses.

I see this woman twice per day, and I know we're facing a showdown. At this point, I may simply tell her that Liam is aggressive. Maybe she'll get the message.