There’s always one. You’re out for a stroll with your leashed dog when suddenly another dog comes crashing through the bushes. You can’t see the owner, but in the distance, you hear someone yelling “Don’t worry! My dog is friendly!”
Or they’re screaming “Fido, Fido, come here Fido” over and over and over again.
What is with some people? How do we make sure we aren’t one of them? I’ve put together some helpful tips to help you avoid becoming a crappy dog owner.
And if you know you’re one of the good ones… amazing! Keep reading to find out how to best deal with crappy dog owners. Because, unfortunately, they’re all around.
What Does A Good Dog Parent Look Like?
There’s more to being a good dog parent than regular vet appointments and decent food. Being a good dog parent also means that you’re aware of how your dog’s behavior can impact the other dogs and people around you. Awareness of the safety of your dog, and the dogs and people around you, is a huge part of dog ownership.
A good dog parent is someone who has reliably trained their dog. Your dog should respond to commands and stay near you instead of running off. You should also be aware of your surroundings so you can keep your dog safe and respect the distance other dogs may need.
When you’re out with your dog, safety should be absolute top priority. Your dog should always be leashed unless you are in a designated off-leash area. Even the most reliably trained dog can get distracted and end up in a pickle before you have a chance to respond.
If you frequently allow your dog off-leash, in designated areas of course, your dog should respond immediately when called. Shouting a warning isn’t enough for the person with a leashed dog that is suddenly approached by a strange off-leash dog. This is a recipe for disaster.
Why Should You Be Concerned About Dogs On A Leash?
If one dog is on a leash and your off-leash dog is friendly, then what’s the problem? The problem is you don’t know why that dog is on a leash. It may be a reactive dog that will respond with aggression out of fear. It may even be an aggressive dog. The leashed dog is an unknown factor, and you don’t want to be responsible for causing stress to the other dog or their owner.
The other dog may be working on training. If you’ve leash trained your dog before, then you know how one tiny distraction can set training back. Imagine a larger furry distraction barreling your way as you’re learning to walk on a loose leash.
Dog behavior also plays a major role in why you need to keep your unleashed dog away from leashed dogs. The dog on a leash does not have the freedom of choice. In that moment, they have no control… which can result in reactive behavior.
A reactive dog on a leash plus an unleashed dog can end in injuries to the dogs and the people. Instead of putting someone in the position of having to get in between two dogs, be responsible, and train your dog to be recalled when off-leash… or better yet, keep them leashed.
How To Be Sure You Aren’t The A** H*le
If you really want to be a good dog parent, start with courtesy. Follow the leash rules in your area. Just because you think your dog is well-behaved doesn’t mean you get to ignore the rules.
Train your dog. This is one of the most important things you can do. A well-trained dog understands boundaries, has impulse control, and is generally much safer in public. If you routinely let your dog off-leash, be sure they can be recalled.
Just because your dog has decent recall when there’s little to no distractions, or your dog seems so focused on playing fetch they wouldn’t possibly go running off, doesn’t mean they won’t get distracted and run off chasing a bird, a squirrel, or running over to see another leashed dog.
If your want your dog to have great recall, you have to take the time to train recall in MANY different places, and you must train them with many repetitions around any and all distractions that your pup may encounter when out there enjoying the freedom off leash. This is especially important if you choose to unleash your dog in parks or areas that are not designated off-leash areas.
If you want your dog to have some off leash freedom, but your dog isn’t 100% reliable, put them on a long line (a long leash that can be up to 50ft long). This will give your dog plenty of freedom to explore or play, but you will still have enough control to help keep everyone safe.
Have situational awareness. If you are in an area with a lot of leashed dogs, make sure you know where your dog is at all times. Do not allow your unleashed dog to approach dogs that are leashed. Give them their space so they can train or exercise their dogs without the stress of being approached by a strange off-leash dog.
What If Your Dog Is Approached By An Off-Leash Dog
What do you do if and when that off-leash dog comes trotting up or crashing through the bushes? The first thing to do is stay calm. Your dog will pick up on your tension… which will escalate the situation.
Here’s where an awareness of dog body language is useful. Is the other dog approaching with intensity and stiffness, or are their ears up and their tail neutral? This will let you know what kind of an encounter may be about to take place.
If there is enough distance between you and the other dog, redirect your dog, and change directions. Slowly walk away, and keep control of your dog. Try to place yourself between your dog and the other dog to prevent confrontation.
If the other dog follows, attempt to distract them. Don’t yell or cause a scene. If you have any treats on you, try tossing one to distract their attention while walking away.
If things seem to be escalating, you may need to find a barrier to place between you and the other dog. As a last resort, you can try startling them.
With any luck, the owner is in the area, and you won’t be placed in a dangerous situation. If you do see the owner, calmly let them know if your dog is reactive, or training, and ask them to remove their dog so yours can calm down. Their dog may have slipped out of their collar or jumped a fence, and they may be stressed and worried about their dog as well. Staying calm will help the situation defuse so everyone walks away safely.
It’s never too late to get your dog into a good training program. Take a look at private lessons with Cosmic Home & Pet. I offer private, one-on-one dog training to help you manage real life scenarios just like this one!