Okay, it’s time to write this post. I’ve caved after another afternoon spent trying to stay upright in ankle deep mud with a powerful dog flailing round on the lead at the end of my arm.
It’s a little thing really, but it bugs me more than anything else as a dog owner. Yes I think it’s symptomatic of wider issues but we won’t go into that right now.
I know my dog. I think I am a very responsible dog owner. Since Bailey came into my care nearly 4 years ago a lot of time and money has been spent getting him trained and analysed so that I can continue to take care of him, and know, for as long as possible.
He is a rescue and it’s clear that before he was in my life he wasn’t socialised properly and that unknown incidents left traumatic residue that he has never overcome, despite the constant care and attempts. 18 months into having him, he was attacked by a huge mastiff while on his lead, and that was the final straw. Now. He can barely deal with any dogs.
It’s sad, but he’s part Akita, and his personality is lone. He adores people, but prefers his own company to that of other dogs. It’s part early socialising, part breed. With his dog pals and those he doesn’t get freaked out by he has a quick sniff and he’s gone, on his way, to do his own thing.
Why this backstory? All will become clear.
So, because he is soooo unpredictable with other dogs he spends most of his life on the lead unless we are in a space I can see all angles within and stop him bolting. So, no town beaches, no parks. Yeah, I live in Cornwall, it’s hard. Three or four days a week we head off somewhere more remote so he can walk relaxed.
If I see another dog off the lead he immediately goes on his lead. If he is already on the lead I stop, momentarily. Yep, we are getting to the point. If possible, 9 times out of 10 it is, I lead him away, practicing avoidance, trying to get as far away from the other dog as is safely possible. If this means mud, brambles, puddles, so be it. I don’t care. If it’s not. I sit him. And stand in close to him. Between him and the dog but so he can see. And I grip his harness.
My dog is massive, and he’s strong. And he doesn’t like dogs in his face. He can’t deal with it, he freaks out, which leads to anger and aggression. I know this. I do all I can to ensure another dog doesn’t get near him. Two reasons. 1, I don’t want him attacking another dog. 2, I don’t want him upset or anxious or freaked out. He’s my world.
I spend the entirety of my walks with him both aware of him and also every other dog.
I’ve found a number of walks where he can roam free on path, cliff, field or beach and so I can enjoy our long walks too, but obviously in a place like Cornwall, a county flowing freely with wonderful canines, it’s not always possible.
So what happens? Well, more often than not and I am talking probably 90% of the time the dog off the lead races over, or saunters over, and wants to say hello, sniff, play etc. Obviously. They are energetic and curious and Bailey doesn’t like it. His hackles go up, he rears up and I pull him to me, he growls. He freaks out.
The same 90% of the time the owner of the dog off the lead says “Oh, he/she’s fine”.
Yep. I know your dog probably is fine. I can see that. I saw your dog and put mine on the lead/avoided you massively.
I reply “Well, he’s not great, he’s very unpredictable”.
10%* of the people who haven’t seen me put him on the lead, or drag him into a bush/swamp, call their dog off and apologise.
25%* call their dog off, but the dog doesn’t listen, either because they don’t listen to their owners (because down here I bet they rarely get called off approaching other dogs) or because the owners attempts to call them are weak and pathetic and they may as well not have bothered. Again, see the note in brackets above, it applies. So Bailey goes ballistic and we have to wait until the other dog has enough or Bailey gets close enough that the dog KNOWS it had better shove off.
The other 65%* do nothing. They allow their dog to do what it pleases, under the dictum that their dog is fine.
*Percentages are approximate.
That’s cool. I am happy for you. My beautiful dog was rescued from a life of hell and is adored and wonderful but he isn’t fine. And if you were to look at any of the signs in that 30 seconds before your dog arrived in his grill, you’d see that. He is clearly distressed. One look would tell you, and he’s huge, you can’t miss the signs. I put him on the lead, I walked him away.
Yes, I may have assumed your dog wasn’t fine and did it for my dog’s protection but look at my dog. Glance. And think, oh, maybe he doesn’t want my placid and playful labrador, collie, husky jumping around freely in front of him.
The difficulty is that it’s a courtesy thing and it’s mostly selfish on my part. The other owners are not irresponsible owners. Clearly they have good dogs. I am aware of my responsibility because I have a troubled dog and take it very seriously. What I can’t understand is that if you love dogs, why would you want to see another dog distressed and scared and anxious?
Why not just get your dog to leave him alone, so he can sit and watch your dog saunter by at a distance, and we can all just go on with our walks?
I know the law isn’t on my side. I practice diligent precaution taking because I know, that if he got the chance, he may do serious damage, albeit out of fear, to another dog. I don’t want that, for him or the other dog.
I’m not asking much am I? For you to just glance over and think about the other dog in the scenario and think, oh, we will leave him be. It’s taking a tiny step outside your own scenario, a tiny gesture of concern for another dog. You wouldn’t be doing it for me, but my boy.