Taking control

When you share your life with a dog, some things are essential responsibilities. For me, the list starts with love and attention. Add in good nutrition, regular veterinary care, and frequent grooming. Obedience skills and good manners are on the list, as well; these provide terrific opportunities to bond with your dog.

I’ll add control your dog in public to that list.

I live in a dog-friendly community. From trails to outdoor markets to parks, you’re likely to find nearly as many dogs as people. Some events, such as the annual Dogwood Walk, are all about dogs and raising both awareness and money to support our local animal shelter. When I take Sasha to a crowded event like this—as I did yesterday—I have multiple strategies planned to help her enjoy herself.

Sasha’s irritation with unleashed dogs extends (no pun intended) to dogs on retractable or overly long leashes. Knowing that, we always give a wide berth to such dogs, and to anything that might trigger stress. We settled on a bench off the walking path and beyond the reach of dogs on a standard leash. The exhibitor booths ringed the big meadow on the opposite side of the path. Sasha parked herself at my feet, clearly content to see the action without actively participating. Dogs and people passed by on the path, which gave me plenty of opportunities to say “Look at that” while doling out bits of Ziwi treats—her favorites, second only to cucumbers. All went well until a dog on a long leash came from behind us and rushed Sasha who, predictably, panicked.  When we told the owner, “Control your dog” the woman said, “Shut up.”

No.

I’m not going to shut up. I’m not going to allow any person or dog to abuse my Sasha. Instead, I’ll use this forum to remind people of a few basic facts of responsible dog ownership.

Respect space. Don’t assume all dogs—or people—are comfortable being crowded by strangers. While I was still calming Sasha, a woman we’ve met before came by with a lovely Sheltie and a Pomeranian. She stopped beside the path but came no closer, and all three dogs sat calmly during our brief visit.

Some dogs feel the need for personal space more than others. This is often misunderstood—or ignored—by people who insist their dog is friendly and just wants to play. Those folks would be well served by learning more about Dogs in Need of Space (DINOS).

Be polite. Four Great Pyrenees came strolling along. (I’m not sure Sasha knew what to make of anything that big.) The dogs were on long leashes and one headed our way at a leisurely pace. When I told the owner, “We’re keeping our distance” he said, “Understood” then nodded and moved his dogs along. No fuss, no drama, just good manners and thoughtful behavior.

Practice Responsible Ownership skills, and be courteous to others in the community.

Control your dog. Unless you’re at a designated off-leash dog park, keep your dog on leash and under your control. Save those long lines for open meadows and fields, and use retractable leashes only when it’s safe to do so. Be aware of your surroundings, and accept responsibility for your own actions as well as your dog’s behavior.

You might be familiar with the AKC Canine Good Citizen program. Practicing the skills required for each test can help you control your dog.

***

Sasha is a smart dog. I’ll keep working every day to help her feel comfortable and confident in her surroundings. And until others learn to be responsible owners, I’ll continue to protect her from scary dogs and careless humans.

8 thoughts on “Taking control

  1. One of my dogs didn’t want another dog near me. He started to challenge strangers we walk by. I started asking each person did they an animal, they did. He was getting the animal’s scent of the person and was protecting me. I managed to break him of this action. He went on to earn his CDX.
    Betty Louise

    • Thank you, Laurien. You’re welcome to share as you like.

      Sasha has been fearful of other dogs ever since an American Bulldog attacked her–twice! The first time, the bulldog was just a pup and just startled her. The second time was months later when the same dog charged her, and the intent was definitely NOT friendly. It’s been a long road to get her confidence back since then.

  2. I was so happy to read this. I try to tell my dog friends about this and hopefully by sharing it with them on Facebook, they will be more mindful. My dog Tyler is a rescue and you never know which dog he will like and not like. He did pass his cdc and is truly amazing. I just do not want to tempt things. Thank you once again!

    • Kay, thank you for sharing. And congratulations on Tyler earning his Canine Good Citizen! Sasha has mastered every test item EXCEPT test #8 (Reaction to another dog.) We’ll keep working on that. And while we’re doing that, we’re working on the next level in the AKC Trick Dog title.

      • We were lucky that Tyler got that one ok. Now he would probably fail it. He does a few tricks and I would love to get back into training again. Maybe we will. Good luck to you and Sasha!

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