Friday, June 4, 2010

My Dog Is Friendly - Really !!

My Dog is Friendly

How many of you have heard someone say this as their off leash dog comes running up to you and your dogs on a walk? Better yet, for those of you who like the dog park, how many times have your heard "She just wants to play" or "That's how he plays" while your dog is frantically looking for a place to hide.

Most of you have probably learned the lesson about how well people know and can control their own dogs the hard way. Lots of people take the chance but I won't anymore. I decide what dogs my three interact with if for no other reason then that a lot of people just don't understand the role of a responsible dog owner. They're not bad people, but it's impossible to tell who has or hasn't learned about dogs in general or their own dog in particular.

So what do we do in situations like this?

First, protect your dog. If she is on a leash, put her behind you, stand up as tall as you can and GLARE at the oncoming dog. Put your hand out in front of you like a policeman does while directing traffic. Make sure you tell the oncoming owner that you are not happy with the way his dog is approaching and that you will do everything you need to to prevent harm to yourself and your dog. Don't be shy, be assertive. If the other person is clueless about their dog, do you really care if you make them a friend or not?

By putting your dog behind you, you are accomplishing three things:

  • 1) You are getting your dog out of harms way

  • 2) You are telling your dog not to engage with the oncoming dog and

  • 3) You are telling your dog that it isn't her job to decide whether to greet a new dog or not.

  • Second, protect yourself. Carry a walking stick, a golf umbrella or even a baseball bat. I prefer a walking stick, although my ChuckIt (or as a friend calls it - the orange stick of death) will deter most approaching dogs. If a dog is approaching you off-leash in a super excited or menacing manner, don't worry about what the owner is going to think when you brandish your "weapon". The law says dogs need to be leashed and 99.99% of the time you only have to wave the "weapon" and not use it..

    What do you do in the dog park?

    First, learn canine communication signals. Know when the play is getting too rough or your dog is frightened or otherwise put-off by the "play" of another dog. Break things up before they escalate and leave the park if the other dog's owner is oblivous to what is happening or is making excuses as to why his dog is doing these crazy things. Owners sitting on the sidelines not watching their dogs are disasters waiting to happen.

    Second, keep your eyes on your dog. I know it's not good human manners to talk to people without looking at them, but the safety of your dog and yourself can depend on you being somewhat rude. In addtion to keeping your eyes on your dog, stay as close to her as you can. Don't sit on the sidelines watching from a distance.

    Third, make sure you and your dog enter the park in a calm manner. No rushing in or jumping around. This will signal to all the other dogs that you and your dog are no threat. At the same time, assess the other dogs that are already in the dog park. Watch how they are playing or not and how intense the activity is. The more excited and intense the activity at the park is, the greater the chance it will escalate into an altercation.

    Fourth, no matter what happens, stay calm. You can't help if you are standing there screaming or wringing your hands or running around chasing fighting dogs. Dogs have four legs and can run circles around us poor limited humans. Wait for an opening and then grab whatever you can get and toss it. Grab hair, a tail, a leg, whatever. Get in fast and then toss whatever you caught. Don't hang on waiting to get bitten.

    Fifth, teach your dog to "check in" with you every 5 minutes or so. That way, if she does get in trouble, the first place she'll go to is you.