Mind Games

Brody and I went on one of my favorite hikes yesterday. It’s a 3 mile loop, the first half straight up and the second half straight down the side of a mountain plunked square in the middle of a suburban center.

It’s unusual to have such a pleasant, heart pumping yet short hike so conveniently located. And at the top, you get an amazing 360 degree view of the entire county.

As such, it is the most popular trail in San Diego. If you can deal with the ankle-twisting rocks, the crowds, and the difficult parking it’s a great way to spend an hour in the morning.

Not all of the trails in the county allow dogs, so on top of all the people running around, there are also a bunch of dogs. I would say 95% of the people and dogs on the trail are respectful and considerate, which is great considering how tight some of the stretches are and like it or not you’re rubbing shoulders as you pass.

This is one of the times I without exception use the Gentle Leader, as it allows me the best control over Brody’s head. We are making lots of headway with the jumping, so with him the main thing is simply that he looks at everyone. His head cannot help but turn, and if he gets a positive response, he’ll go in for a pet.

I know that not everyone wants a groin full of Golden nose at 9 in the morning, and I respect that, hence the leader. There was a woman today who shrieked, an AIEEEEEE like that God-awful cell phone commercial with the spider, when he did no more than peer at her. Not everyone is a dog person, alas. So when I walk him with the Gentle Leader and the leash choked down to a good 18 inches or so in the tight spots, we keep to ourselves very well.

So picture us, having made it to the top after a long and steady climb. Brody’s panting like a perverted prank caller, so we find an empty rock amongst the crowd and stop for water. I’m talking to him like your typical crazy dog person- “Who’s a good boy? YOU’RE a good boy! Thirsty, huh?” etc etc.

We pause for pictures, and as I’m fiddling with the camera I hear someone behind me grumbling just a little too audibly, the way passive aggressive people do when they have a complaint but rather than just voice it directly, they talk loud enough so that the object of their disdain cannot help but overhear.

“People with aggressive dogs have no business bringing them to a crowded trail!” he was saying to his companion. I silently nodded agreement, wondering who he was referring to. We met at least 5 dogs on the trail on the way up, but none of them were aggressive.

His companion agreed. “Bringing a muzzled dog here is just wrong.”

And then I realized- they were complaining about ME. Still, after 10 + years on the market, we have to deal with this silly song and dance about head halters? Why doesn’t anyone accuse horses of being man-eaters every time they have a halter on, huh? Brody, who was sitting quietly on his rock looking just like he does in this picture, being glared at. It makes me really feel for the people who own so-called “dangerous” breeds, doomed for judgment before they even get a chance to open their mouth to give you a happy lick.

So anyway, I sat there for a moment, debating what to do. I turned around surreptitiously. The guy looked like a jerk anyway, which is a terrible thing to say but if he can judge my dog based on a purple flowered piece of fabric on his nose then I can judge him by that Burt Reynolds pornstache hanging onto his snarled lip for dear life.

I thought about correcting him and telling him about the lovely benefits of the head halter, but going back to my prior feelings about cost-benefit analysis decided against it. If his position was that muzzled dogs shouldn’t be on the trail, I would be nothing short of impolite if I didn’t oblige.

So I took off the Gentle Leader and hooked him up to his collar, all while muttering in an equally loud voice, “Now be a good boy, OK?” They left shortly thereafter.

We passed them on the trail a little ways down, Brody playing along by neglecting to maul either guy as we passed. Β Golden: 1, Pornstache: 0.

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  • Lisa W

    Awesome! I think I would have had to say “Brody, attack!” as I walked by them, though, just to see what happened to the pornstache!!!!

  • Poor Brody, he hardly looks menacing! Mommy had a leash aggressive dog when she was younger – and they were terrified to take him anywhere! Even at the vet, people were always trying to pet him without asking, and Mommy was constantly worried he’d bite someone. We’re so glad that Henry is so friendly – it’s so nice to be able to take him anywhere without the anxiety… but Henry wears a gentle leader on occasion, too (he’s a Wheaten, nearly Golden-like in his enthusiasm). I’d be so if someone said something like that!

  • Tonya

    You know, I’ve thought about using a Gentle Leader on Clyde for that very reason. He’s not a puller, and he’d just as soon all other dogs ignore him when he’s on a walk. What he really does not like is children running up to him. In his life before me, he either had a bad experience with children or just never “knew” a child. I think if I walked him with a Gentle Leader, parents would be less likely to let their children run up to him because they would incorrectly assume he was muzzled.
    And Brody looks ADORABLE in his purple flowered piece of fabric! πŸ™‚

    • Leigh

      It’s true, less people will approach him. I have a huge yellow lab, and people will walk IN the street or cross the street in order to not walk by him. With his mouth open, tongue hanging out, tail wagging, happily walking. Although at the park, people watch his actions and see that he is a nice dog, so they do approach, but tentatively, and say, “Can I pet your dog?” (Which is fabulous in itself, because then we are inadvertantly teaching humans good dog manners!)

      So I would say, get one, absolutely. And the Gentle Leader is recommended for fearful or anxious dogs… it gives them more confidence, and if he is a bit iffy near kids, you have WAY more control, too. (Not saying your dog is bad! It’s just nice to have in case of an emergency, anyway.)

      • Tonya

        Thanks for the response. That is exactly what I was looking to accomplish – having people ask to approach him. He loves adults, but he is very wary of children. More control over him AND the humans approaching him would be wonderful!

  • Cathey

    Yeah, Brody, he looks like a real killer there!

  • Karen

    LOL, people can be so crazy! I could see how if they didn’t know anything about dogs and Brody had his mouth closed, maybe at first glance it’d look like a muzzle. but with the way he’s panting with his mouth wide open…you’d think they could tell that obviously if he wanted to, he could still bite somebody!

    Also, i never noticed how giant Brody’s tongue is!!! He is so adorable πŸ™‚

  • This:

    “Brody’s panting like a perverted prank caller,”

    Is the best line EVER. OMFG. I was eating Raisin Bran when I read it, and I think I aspirated a raisin.

    Incidentally, a guy I know who happens to have a fair number of tattoos was flying from LA to the east coast a couple of weeks ago. He was seat sitting next to an elderly woman and her daughter. At one point, his seatmate whispered to her daughter, “He must be an ex-con, with all the tattoos…” and then proceeded to say how uncomfortable she felt sitting next to him. Only, they’re on an airplane, so she had to whisper really loudly so that her friend would hear her, and it was loud enough that he heard.

    So of course he decided to mess with her. I was going to try to recount the entire story, but since he blogged about it, I figured I’d just link it here: http://blog.joethepeacock.com/2011/07/tattoos-ex-con-or-yet-another-joe-on.html

    He tweeted/Facebooked about it as it was happening, and I was laughing my tail off. πŸ™‚

    • That is the greatest post ever. I’m dying!

  • I’ve had so many clients refuse to try a head halter because they’re afraid of people thinking it’s a muzzle. It’s sad and infuriating at the same time.

    My favorite GL story, though, was the time I was out with a friend, both of us walking dogs, hers a springer spaniel on a GL. Someone passing us made a similar “dogs with muzzles shouldn’t be in public” comment. My friend stopped dead, turned to the person and went on a rant. “Excuse me, but doesn’t my dog’s tongue hanging out give you any sort of clue that she can open her mouth just fine? Hello? Do I need to give her a couple treats to show you she can still work her jaws? How about if I stick my hand up in her mouth, will that clarify things for you? It’s not a muzzle when a dog can still use her mouth, you ignoramus. Look up ‘head halter’ when you get home, and the next time you see me walking my non-muzzled dog, feel free to apologize for your moronic comments.”

    I about fell over laughing. The ‘ignoramus’ stood there, jaw dropped and silent, as we walked away. Win!

    • Did she actually use the word “ignoramus”? Wow! πŸ˜€ I don’t understand that either. Brody is always panting when he has the GL on.

  • Tamara

    People are stupid…enuf said πŸ˜‰ Brody is a sweetheart! Your description of this trail reminds me of Camelback in Phoenix – a great hike and, yeah, parking and the crowds and the steep climb are the only drawbacks. I’m glad you and Brody had fun. Pornstache-guy needs to get a clue.

  • What confuses me maybe even more, is that if you DO have an aggressive dog, and take the time to muzzle it so you can be in public, isn’t that a good thing? I’m ignorant on this topic, so are muzzles inhumane?

    • Leigh

      I am inclined to agree. How dare you take a dog (who, if in need of a muzzle, is obviously fearful or undersocialized) and take him out in the environment in order to build positive associations and decrease fear. Leave him in the backyard or a bedroom and leave him sensorially deprived, that will certainly make him a more stable dog! (Hopefully my sarcasm is evident.)

    • That is a really good point. Basket muzzles, which allow a pet to pant normally while preventing bites, are a great option. (Some muzzles hold the mouth shut and are only good for a few minutes at a time.) In general, I wouldn’t bring a muzzled pet with aggression issues to *such* a crowded place, but that is because of concerns for the dog’s anxiety and the worry of being counterproductive more than concern for safety.

      So the short answer is yes, *if* a pet were aggressive, having a humane muzzle on would be much more responsible than not having a muzzle on and risking a bite!

      • Leigh

        I went to Karen Pryor ClickerExpo this past january, and they *LOVE* basket muzzles, I went to the vet tech track. The speaker said she loves the basket ones because then you can pass peanut butter or CheezWhiz into it on a tongue depresser. But they are HARD to find, you have to order them online.

  • P.S. I get it that this is NOT a muzzle, it is a GL – I’m just curious about the actual muzzle and why it would upset someone.

    • Chile

      Because some people will ASSume that a muzzled dog is dangerous and a biter without knowing the person or the dog. Just like a lot of people ASSume that my Rottweilers are evil, people killing, baby eating dogs.

  • Sorry to hear of the treatment you & Brody received, but I REALLY enjoyed the Burt Reynolds pornstache comment!!

  • Chile

    It’s always the idiots with the pornstaches ain’t it?

    As soon as I saw the photo of Brody with his GL I knew where this was going. I used a GL on Blade and would take him to area art festivals or car shows and would have at least 5 people comment on “that bad muzzled Rockwiler.” You’re a better person than me, because I would always whip around on the person and educate them in not a very nice way. I mean come on, my 120 lb male wore a collar with chile peppers on it. It didn’t have spikes and he wasn’t snarling and growling. More often than not he was happy and smiling like Brody is in that picture. And I get the same hate spew when Cookie is out with her GL on. I keep saying I’m gonna get a shirt made that says “Dog doesn’t bite but owner does.”

    I just love ignorance when it’s coupled with breedism.

    • “I just love ignorance when it’s coupled with breedism.”

      I totally agree with you…my mutt apparently scares some people purely based on his size (he is only 80lb but we live in a city I guess so…) and when I used to use the GL on him people would always ask about why he wears a “muzzle” or not ask me and look at him as they cower to the other side of the elevator….and it would be even WORSE when they would ask what type of dog he was…if I mention Chow mix they will not even ask about the GL and say “yea they can be aggressive”….drove me nuts!!!

      I have been tempted to go back to the GL recently because even though Milo walks wonderfully after relieving himself…in the beginning of a walk he can be a bit pully again. I had stopped using it since he had gotten better with the pulling and I was sick of explaining my “muzzled dog.”

      • K

        Laura, a good friend of mine raises Chow Chows and her dear Hailey was the sweetest, best friend to my tiny little Shih Tzu. My dog would jump on her, hang from her face fur, sleep on her, generally annoy the crap out of her when mine was a puppy, and Hailey had the patience of Jobe. They became the best of friends in life until Hailey went to Kevin. (Sniff) Mine will still get all excited if she sees a fluffy big white dog….RIP Hailey girl. SHe was the best dog. And PS- anyone who can’t read a dog like Brody’s energy as 150% love muffin is going to have a hard time in life, period.

  • lin

    You’re in good company. Guide-puppies not uncommonly wear head halters during their rambunctious stages, and a puppy-raiser told me that, they too are mistaken for being muzzled.
    Pupper Dog has worn both head halters AND muzzles (though not at the same time). Halters during her fear-aggressive training and a muzzle at the vet visits. Have never heard bad comments, but maybe we live in a tolerant neighborhood, maybe we never went in very crowded situations.

  • Julie

    I can forgive people for not knowing what a Gentle Leader is – I wouldn’t know either if I didn’t have a dog that pulls. But that they aren’t smart enough to tell that the dog can obviously still bite with one on? And think that you shouldn’t bring a muzzled dog in public? If your dog did need a muzzle, you would be doing the responsible thing by using one. Some people! And I do get comments on the GL often when I walk Gilbert with it, thinking it is a muzzle.

    • I know, isn’t that funny? People always come up and ask when he’s standing there with his mouth wide open. I am OK with people asking- I mean, it’s better than not asking and remaining unaware. Unless they are being a passive aggressive jerk, in which case, well, I do what I did.

  • TaxiLab

    Purple flowers on the nose beat a pornstache any day! Brody is a rock star and love the last pic with him smiling happily πŸ™‚

  • Laura in KY

    “…but if he can judge my dog based on a purple flowered piece of fabric on his nose then I can judge him by that Burt Reynolds pornstache hanging onto his snarled lip for dear life.” — LOLLLLL

    As a horse person, I would be inclined to say very politely, “It’s not a muzzle; it’s a halter, like people use on horses” and then smile sweetly. I think people grasp the concept of halters on horses, so you just need to make the parallel. Even if a snide remark about “who puts halters on DOGS” were to follow, I think you will have made your point and possibly even opened eyes. And you can always follow it up with, “Brody likes to pretend he’s Secretariat, so I indulge him.” They’ll think you’re nuts, but at least they’ll be more worried about you than the dog! πŸ˜€

    • Great suggestions. I use the horse halter analogy in all instances where the person isn’t being a jerk (which, the vast majority of the time, they are not.) πŸ™‚

      • On a horse-related note, I’ve had to explain to many, MANY people that fly masks on horses aren’t blindfolds–they’re see-through, like a screen door. I mean, what would be the point of keeping a horse blindfolded??

  • I’ve had the same experience with the GL – it’s unfortunate that people feel the need to be rude and act like you can’t hear them (cowards!). Obviously, they just don’t like dogs or else they would be able to tell that Brody is a big sweetie pie, and we all know that anyone that doesn’t like dogs, cannot be trusted. πŸ™‚

  • Hi Y’all,

    Oh, I must say that I love it! I couldn’t help but BOL! My Human laughed! Best yet, I love Laura in KYs comment about “Brody likes to pretend he’s Secretariat”!

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  • JaneK

    OMG you are too funny! I wish I could formulate my thoughts as well as you. Part of me wishes you had said something to the stupid asses but then I do realize it does not one bit of good… being that I am now getting a divorce from one of those passive aggressive idiots who talk loud so people will hear them b/c they don’t have enough balls to actually say anything productive…. anyway…..I love your commentary!

  • Oh my gosh, you kill me, “[…] I can judge him by that Burt Reynolds pornstache hanging onto his snarled lip for dear life.” Thanks for making me laugh, as always.

    On a sidenote, my friend has a German Shepherd and gets terrible looks from people when they go for walks. Some people even cross the street to the other side. On top of it, this German Shepherd is particularly vocal, which doesn’t help her cause (she’s in dog training class working on it). I wish some people would be more open-minded.

    I’m so glad Brody participated in the snub of Pornstache.