I am a dog person. I think most of you probably know that. I like dogs, a whole lot. I am into them. I can hang with them. That being said, I understand that not everyone else on the planet feels the same way. Dog owners who refuse to act with some basic courtesies grate on me as badly as parents who let their kids kick the back of my airplane seat. With the advent of spring, lots of people are venturing outside again with their pets- and this is a great thing, usually, but it also marks the high season of Bad Dog Owner Behavior.
There is some basic level of consideration that one should accord their fellow man for several reasons: one, it’s the right thing to do, and two, we have a responsibility to be good owners so people who are maybe not dog people will at least tolerate their presence a little better. We want more businesses and public areas to be dog-friendly, right? And as long as dog owners keep doing some of these things I’m about to list, it’s probably not going to happen.
1. Letting your dog go off-leash in a leash-required area.
First of all, if the law requires a leash in a certain area, you should do it. I don’t care how good your dog is or how great their recall is, a person who doesn’t like dogs will see this and freak out. And then they will complain and try to get the area closed off to all dogs, and no one wants that.
In addition, your dog may be the sweetest dog on the planet, but you have no idea if the dog coming in the other direction is the same. If your dog is off-lead, you’ve lost the ability to safely control them in a potentially dangerous situation. I’m amazed at how many people I run into around my neighborhood- which does have a leash law- and not only is their dog off-lead, they’re not even carrying a leash on their person. That’s flat out dangerous if they run into trouble.
2. Not picking up after your dog.
I’ve heard every excuse in the book- I forgot my bags, I didn’t want to carry it all the way back to the trailhead, blah, blah, blah. And hey, even the best of us get caught off guard every once in a while and have to improvise. No matter the reason, it’s not OK to leave a pile of poop on the sidewalk. It’s the number one thing you hear non-dog owners complain about when it comes to dog owners, and it makes us all look bad.
I used to go to a dog park with Emmett and Mulan where the people there were complete Poop Police. The second a dog would start to hunch over, someone would yell “The Golden!” and the owner would be expected to trot over and scoop post-haste. I miss that park. It was the nicest dog park I’ve ever been to, now that I think about it. The one by my current house has no such diligent culture, and only the brave venture in from the periphery. Because no one likes poop, not even dog people.
3. Forcing your dog on fearful people.
Brody and I recently hiked up the busiest trail in San Diego. It’s a conga line, basically, but it’s dog friendly, so we go when we can. About every fourth person reacts to Brody, and when they do, it usually goes something like this : pets him — coos over him — pets him — compliments him — screams. There’s always one or two screamers on the trail.
Now, I don’t feel too badly about it, because Brody is allowed there, and he’s on a short lead, and – this will amaze those of you who have met him at my house- he actually minds his own business when we’re hiking. So when someone sees him and squeals like he’s a charging mountain lion, we just pick up our pace and pass them as quickly as possible.
Sure, I’d love to stop and explain how he’s not aggressive, and he loves to give kisses, but that is pretty much the last thing in the universe a fearful person wants you to do. I always feel so terrible for those terrified little children who sit there paralyzed while a big pleasant dog tries to change their mind. Now mind you, I’m not talking about situations where a fearful adult or child is attempting contact. I’m talking about people who force their dog on someone who clearly doesn’t want it. Don’t be an unwanted ambassador. There are plenty of times when it is appropriate, and some when it is not.
I know I get a little hand-wavy on the topic, but these are not difficult things for people to do. It’s about courtesy. It’s about showing the world we, as dog owners, are considerate. It’s helping ensure we can continue to venture out in public with our pets and not find ourselves increasingly limited as to where we can go.
Am I the only one who goes crazy with this stuff? Or any big pet peeves I’m missing? (Non dog-people are welcome to chime in here too.)