Be Careful…Your Dog is Reflecting You
I live in a wonderful neighborhood. Almost every day, I am out walking and running a few miles. I change up my route all of the time, so I am getting to know all of the little areas pretty well. By my best guess, I would say that probably around sixty to seventy percent of our neighbors are dog owners. I take pepper spray with me when I run, not because I worry about people, but because I worry about their dogs. Before I started running, I had absolutely no reservations about meeting up with dogs in public. I do now, and I am learning a lot about what their behavior says about their owners.
To be fair, when a person is speed walking, or running, it is a behavior that would understandably make a dog nervous. Why are you running? What is the hurry? Are you running away from something? Although I understand this fact, it doesn’t make up for the knowledge that I don’t make some dogs nervous at all. I was brought up around animals, big and small, and I have never had any trouble making friends with them. I am a woman, my voice is in a high pitched, and I am not particularly tall. All of these things should make me less threatening to dogs, and yet a little Pomeranian tried to gnaw my leg off the other day, when its owner dropped the leash.
I am the most wary of the dogs who are sitting in their own yards, because I know that they are in a position to defend their territory, and often I don’t see their owners anywhere around. I first started carrying the pepper spray when I went by a house where the windows were open and a seriously vicious sounding dog was attempting to push out the screen as I ran by. I love my pets, I really do, and I am not writing this to put dogs down…actually, I am writing it to point out poor behavior on the part of their owners.
I passed a man on the sidewalk the other day who was disposing of his dog’s poo in one of our neighborhood poo disposal bins. His dog was a Garman shepherd, and she was sitting patiently next to him waiting. The man was not holding the dog’s leash. As far as breeds go, not only are Shepherds very defensive of their owners, they would also be one of the first breeds that I might expect would be made nervous by my running. Not this one, as I ran by, waved and said hello to the man, his lovely dog just sat there on command. He is an excellent pet owner. My own dog would not do the same, she would have gotten in my way and begged for attention. I have not trained her on a leash much though; she poops in the yard. If I were planning on taking her out on the leash more often, I would definitely put in the time to train her properly.
I am not picking on little dog breeds either, because I have run by many well-behaved little fluff balls who were only interested in meeting me, and didn’t bark at all. And I don’t mistakenly believe that any of these dogs that bark or try to attack me are mean; they are nervous, period. If a person is unconfident or nervous, even about the fact that their dog is poorly behaved, the dog will pick up on the nervousness, and then they will act defensively. The only difference between the little dog that attacked me and the big dog that happily sat there while I ran by; is that the calm dog owner exuded a sense of comfort and safety to his dog. As far as the dog that almost came out of the widow at me…that is what I am talking about when I say poor pet-ownership.
I do not understand the mentality of people who have decided that their dogs are just the most sweet, wonderful creatures in the world, and feel that they need to prove it by putting their dogs in environments that make them uncomfortable. Frightened dogs are very, very dangerous. I cannot stress this enough. Why on earth anyone who has a dog who was afraid of children, and many dogs actually are, would take them to places where children play, completely boggles my mind. Why people who have dogs that are afraid of water, subject them to pools and oceans, completely escapes me. When a dog lays into a toddler because they are afraid, the dog gets put to sleep, not the owner…why are these people endangering their pets, and other people? If you love your pet you are supposed to protect it right?
Yes, our pets are cute and they bring us a lot of joy, but they are a big responsibility, and they are also a huge reflection on their owners. When I observe a dog’s behavior I can learn a lot about the people that they spend their time with, and the environment that they live in. Yes, they do indeed have their own personalities, but their behavior says a lot more about us than most people are aware of. When I lived in Portland, there was a man who lived on my block, who would take a walk every morning with his cat and his dog. They both followed along behind him and had a nice little stroll. No leashes involved. Now that was a cool guy!