The Life of the Owner of a Reactive Dog
To all dog owners who have nice, friendly, sociable, unreactive dogs that love everybody and everything and want to be friends with all the dogs and people around. We, reactive dog owners, would like you to take a minute and read this, and understand what it is like for us to walk our dogs out and about.
To the dog owner who said to me “my dog is friendly and only wants to say hello” as your dog is running towards my reactive, fearful dog: it really doesn’t matter how friendly your dog is. Mine isn’t.
My dog is terrified of other dogs (because he’s been attacked before or hasn’t been socialized as a pup and never learnt to interact properly), no matter how friendly they are. If your dog runs up to mine, my dog will most definitely have a go at him, no matter how much I will try to avoid it, and it will destroy all the hard work I’ve put into rehabilitating my dog and teaching him that he doesn’t have to react, but it will also be a very bad experience for your young and friendly dog.
Yes, being told off is sometimes useful for young, inexperienced dogs, but being told off by a confident adult who has had enough of your pup’s jumping around, and my terrified, reactive dog are two very different things. Nobody benefits from this situation, so please, call your dog away.
To the dog owner who scowled at me when I politely asked him to call his dog away – I genuinely don’t mean to be rude to you or your dog. I’m trying to protect my dog, make sure his behaviour rehabilitation is successful, but I’m also doing it in your dog’s best interest. Being bitten or growled at is not something you want your dog to experience, and I’m just trying to make sure we can both prevent it.
To the dog owner who said to me that it was their right to have their dog off lead and let him approach any dog he wants – I’m afraid it’s not true. You need to have your dog under control – so either on lead or be able to call him away, otherwise you are not able to prevent him from running up to not only dogs, but also other people (including small children and those who are afraid of or don’t like dogs), cyclists, joggers and others who do not appreciate your dog’s company.
Also remember that there are a lot of dogs being walked on lead not because they are reactive, but because they are ill or recovering from illness or surgery, and there are also assistance dogs that are working to make sure their humans are safe – remember that according to the newest legislation if your dog injures an assistance dog, you are liable. So if you see a dog being walked on lead, make sure you have your dog under proper control and don’t allow him to run up to on lead dogs, unless the other owner is happy for him to do so.
To the dog owners with their dog on an extendable or short lead who walks up to other on-lead dogs for their dog to “say hello” – again, sometimes it might be absolutely fine to do so, but DO ASK FIRST. Dogs on lead have a limited opportunity to use their body language properly when greeting other dogs and may feel trapped when unable to move away – even very friendly dogs can find this situation very uncomfortable. If the leads get tangled up and the dogs end up very close to each other and unable to move away, a fight is almost imminent. Don’t risk it.
To the dog owner who said we shouldn’t be walking our dogs as they are reactive, how else would you like us to exercise our dogs? We can assure you we choose the time to walk our dogs carefully – never during school runs or right after everybody comes back home from work; we choose secluded places and don’t take advantage of the lovely dog walking areas you have at your disposal; we pretty much never venture out during the day on Saturdays and Sundays, and either get up ridiculously early in the morning or walk very late at night to avoid bumping into hundreds of dogs and owners enjoying their weekend walkies.
We genuinely do our best not to put our dogs and other people’s dogs into difficult situations. But we do have to get our dogs exercised, and if we want to rehabilitate our dogs, we need to encounter some dogs at a distance too, and sometimes it is when you are out with your very friendly dog, too. All we need is a bit of understanding and space for us to pass with our dog so he doesn’t react to yours. So please, put your dog back on lead for a minute.
And finally, to the lovely dog owners who call their dogs back for us and put them on lead as we walk past trying to keep our dog’s focus on us as much as we can. Thank you for your understanding and for not looking at us disapprovingly. We are trying our best to make our dogs’ lives better, we spend endless hours watching dogs at a distance, following behaviour modification programmes, taking tiny steps forward, and sometimes crying over steps back. It isn’t easy, and sometimes we would do anything for our dogs to just stop being “silly” and become sociable butterflies like other dogs are. But life’s not always that simple, and we love our dogs and want to help them. So thank you for helping us, too.
Owner of reactive dog should act fast to avoid confrontation - SFGate
He Just Wants To Say "Hi!" | Suzanne Clothier