Our boy Dylan has some issues with other dogs. In fact, he is very reactive. So we try to go to these parks at off peak times, usually at the b*&t crack of dawn. Sometimes we get there a little later and often there are other people using the space. Great. That is what it is there for. In those circumstances, we keep the two youngsters, Dylan and Megwyn, on leash or long line. Actually, we always have D on a leash or long line – his recall is just not there yet. Moli and Mic always start out in the wagon and when appropriate, we let them out to stretch their legs. In short, our dogs are under our direct, physical control whenever there are other beings in our sphere.
Last week, we went to a great outdoor facility that has trails, tracks, soccer fields, skate parks and even woods. It was mid morning so we were not alone but that is really no big deal. As we were getting the dogs out of the car, we saw two beautiful Springer Spaniel looking dogs about 75 yards away from us, off leash. Still no big deal. We are still in the parking lot, Mic is sitting beside the car, Moli is in the wagon and D and Meg are still in the car. As we were getting organized, the two Springers decided to run over to us. They were bouncy and seemed relaxed – probably very friendly, social dogs. The first problem is that two of my dogs are not really all that social. Problem number two was their owner – still 75 yards away and making no move to call her dogs to her. So I chased them off. Waving arms, yelling, actually chasing them away. And they left. And for a moment I felt bad. Then I got mad.
For years I have felt bad/guilty/like a failure as a dog parent because one of my dogs doesn’t really like other dogs. I even had a behaviorist assess my dog to see what was wrong with the way I was raising her. The verdict? She’s just not a social butterfly and that’s OK. This was a few years ago and it was a huge weight off my shoulders. That would be Moli.
Enter Dylan who has actually had some really bad interactions with other dogs and goes to general quarters if one is even a block away and barking. He had to do two training classes behind a barrier. He has come a long way, though. I can get him to look at me when we are out and we pass houses with dogs. But he is not OK with dogs coming up to him. So last week I elected to be that person who shoos away the happy go lucky mutt who just “wants to say hi.” I chose my dogs’ comfort and sense of safety over being ‘polite’.
After Mike and I chased the probably-quite-nice spaniels away, we finished getting our dogs out of the car and on the path. The owner of the loose dogs finally called them and in a round about way, they went to her. Then she gave me the look. You know the one – “you’re an a**hole”. And I got mad. My dogs were not the problem. They have problems but they were not the problem last week. Her dogs were not the problem. She was. And she doesn’t, and probably won’t, get it. I stayed mad for many minutes. Then shook it off – mostly. Clearly it still bothered me.
Within two days of that experience, several Facebook posts crossed my path dealing with the issue of uninvited dog to dog interactions. The bottom line in all of these posts was that, basically, it is OK to say no to the dog that ‘just wants to say hi’ for a multitude of reasons. And the reasons don’t really matter. If I say no, then no. I thought of those Springers, and other than feeling sorry for them, I quit feeling bad for chasing them away. In fact, I quit feeling bad for all of the less than perfect dog meetings in the past. I mean, I never let Moli just go up to a strange dog off leash to ‘say hi’ but I did try to do it on leash. With embarrassing but not disasterous results, thank goodness. Which I know now was wrong. And I vow to do better in the future. Corgi on.