Do YOU know what’s happening at the end of your leash?

A leashed dog lunges at a smaller breed dog during a walk. Would you have seen this coming if this were YOUR dog?

Has your dog ever bitten anyone? Would you be able to tell if they were about to? By that question I mean do you know your dog’s body language well enough to recognize they have a problem with someone? Would you be able to prevent a bite incident from happening based on your knowledge of that body language?

I am about to say something that for many dog owners will be controversial, I am about to tell you that if the answer to the question I just asked is no, then you have a problem. That problem is that you are not being a responsible dog owner if you can not tell your dog is about to go rogue and take a bite out of someone.

Okay, okay, I hear you screaming at me that Fido is a mild mannered dog that has never shown aggression to anyone. I hear you telling me that you have no need to watch your dog in a crowd because he is just a big marshmallow that would never hurt anyone. You my friend are a bite incident waiting to happen. Why? You ask, do I feel that way? Let me explain.

Those of us who are guardians to dogs of any kind have a responsibility to society to see that our dogs do no harm. It is our responsibility to be in care and control of our pets at all times. If we are not, then we are not living up to that responsibility, and really have no business living with a dog.

What many people do not realize is that many bite incidents that take place could have been avoided if the dog owner in question had known their dog’s body language a little better. If they had seen the signs that an approaching person made their dog apprehensive, or they had heard that low in the throat growl that says “you make me nervous, and need to stay away from me”  they could have prevented a bite incident altogether.

The truth of the matter is, many dog owners really don’t know their pet. They are incapable of seeing the signs that Fido is uncomfortable or apprehensive until it is too late. Truth is many dog owners could have prevented their dog from biting if they had been paying attention! But for some unknown reason the average person thinks that once a dog is trained there is nothing more to do. They don’t have to maintain that training as far as they are concerned the dog has learned what it needs to know to live in human society and their work is done. Not so, and here is why that line of thinking just doesn’t work.

Lets look at the mental development of a dog. Your dog when fully grown will have the average mentality of a five year old human, for the rest of his life! Those of you with children know that the average five year old constantly needs reminding of what is acceptable behavior and what is not. No one would dream of taking their five year old child to a park or backyard function and allowing them to run around unsupervised, so why is it they feel it is okay to do so with their dog? That is just the point I am trying to make here, it isn’t okay to allow your dog to run around in a crowd unsupervised, that’s just asking for trouble.

Loose dogs in crowds are not the only issue. Even when you are out walking your dog at the end of a leash you have to pay attention. The other day while walking my dogs on the beachfront here at home I noticed a woman walking along with a Rottweiler. I always notice the other dogs out for a walk, and like to stop and talk to dog owners whenever I can. It gives me time to socialize my dogs with other animals and people they do not know. As a result my dogs are pretty well behaved in a crowd and I can take them anywhere. I stopped to talk to the woman with the Rottweiler. As always when I stop to talk to another dog owner I put my dog in a down stay position, and keep an eye on them while I chat. This woman was totally oblivious to what her dog was doing at the other end of the leash. Had I not been paying attention to my own dog, a dog fight would have started and this stranger and I would have found ourselves with the monumental task of separating two large breed dogs. Her Rottweiler (still a puppy at eight months) suddenly got the bright idea to try and mount my senior female. I saw it coming and separated the two before he got close enough to piss off my usually patient female. Niki will tolerate a lot of things, but unwanted sexual advances from a young upstart pup are not one of them. My dog’s body language clearly told me that a dog fight would be the result if I did not take action. Had I not taken responsibility for my dog, two dogs would have been headed for the vet.

As I stepped in front of the pup and tightened up on Niki’s leash the pup’s owner looked at me with a puzzled look and asked what I was doing. “Rex is only trying to play with your dog” she said. “Why would you stop him?” She was oblivious to the fact that Rex’ body language was telling me and my dog a much different story. Rex’ body language told me, and Niki that Rex’ was in a dominant mood, and being unfixed and a young pup he would of course try to act on that dominance. I knew that my alpha female would not stand for this young upstart trying to dominate her, and in the way of all dogs she would tell him with her teeth. That didn’t seem like a good idea to me so acting like a responsible dog owner I derailed the incident before it could take place. I took responsibility for my dog by preventing the incident.

I stayed and talked with Rex’ owner for a while longer explaining to her that her dog would never be trained enough that she could ignore him completely, and trying to make her understand that she was the last line of defense between her dog and any negative incident that might take place. I told her that it was her responsibility to ensure that her dog was never put in the position to bite someone or their dog. I explained that it was up to HER to ensure that Rex did no harm. She tried to put the onus on the possible bite victim by saying “Well it isn’t up to me to control other people’s children!”

Rex’ owner is wrong! It IS up to her to control other peoples children, if they are approaching her dog in the wrong manner she has to take responsibility, step up and say “Stop! Please do not run at my dog.” and show then the right way to approach her dog. She should know Rex well enough to be able to judge his moods and stop people from overwhelming the dog with behaviors that invade his space. Not only is it her responsibility to control her dog, but it is her responsibility to protect her dog from situations that could cause him to strike out.

Okay we have talked about owner responsibility as it applies to dogs in public. Tomorrow we will discuss the responsibility of parents to control their children around dogs they have never met. Preventing dog bites is a two way street!

Until Next Time Remember

PEACE, LOVE, & FREEDOM for Pit Bulls!



2 thoughts on “Do YOU know what’s happening at the end of your leash?

  1. I completely agree with you Colleen, as you well know. I have written many posts in the past about offleash dogs, and will probably write a few more as time goes on. That is another part of owner responsibility that I often discuss, but people just don’t seem to get it.

    Thanks for bringing up the Calgary Model of Animal Control. We will be discussing it in upcoming blog postings.

    I probably shouldn’t be leaking this just yet…but I will tell you that I am currently beginning work on a book entitled: “The Responsible Dog Owner’s Handbook: Everything You Need To Know Before Getting A Dog” I am hoping to be able to release the Ebook version in the spring.

  2. Another thing people will forget, as long as they think dogs understand things the same way people do and that they “understand’ English or what we are trying to tell them ! That is why we need the Calgary Model desperately in many, many places and freaking people need to leash their animals. Just yesterday I saw a little bull terrier dart across a street to go at a little dog on a leash. the owner picked up her little dog, but the bull terrier was jumping up at it, it wasn”t growling or biting and the bull terrier ( think don cherry’s Blue). I stopped my car dead and the Bull Terrier’s owners were after it very quickly. a bite of the human owner of the little dog or an attack of the litter dog were not the worst things that could have happened. That dog could have been hit by a car and killed and if the person who could have hit and killed that dog would have been an animal lover like me, they would have had a horrible time living with that fact all because a dog was loose and able to dart across a fairly busy road ! I don’t understand how people don’t get it and I don’t even have a dog ! ARGH !

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