My name is Lucy and I own a dog without manners. She's only been with me for a couple of months and prior to that she's been through numerous homes, rejected each time for her challenging behaviours. She's young, exuberant and of a highly athletic and motivated breed; she's a Siberian Husky. So, when I walk her in public places for the sake of her emotional and psychological development (she's exercised properly off lead in private places) I may look incompetent to other dog walkers.
What do I do that looks so odd? I pause A LOT. At times it may be more accurate to call what we do "going for a stand" rather than "going for a walk". Quick progress down the street and through the park is not my priority; as I say, her physical exercise happens elsewhere. What impression does this make? A young woman holding a seemingly well-behaved dog in rainbow-coloured equipment, stood randomly in the street, by the road, or in the woods, may draw some stares and sideways glances. If I see you at a distance and stop, perhaps I stand to the side if we are on the same path, and wait for you to go by, don't judge us because she looks angelic and peaceable. This dog is a whole lot of fun and you probably don't want to see her bouncing towards you (upwards, downwards, sideways and round-and-round) to say hi. She especially likes to nose-dive humans and lick them on the lips. Please understand that my dog looking "under control" is a massive achievement for both of us.
On the other hand, if you've allowed your dog to rush towards us, tried to grab out to stroke her or done something else to interfere with her while we're on our walk, don't look at her like she's demonic or judge me for not having trained her properly. Guys! We've only just begun so the springs in her body will come into action if you invade our space!
I can see why my clients feel stuck between a rock and a hard place when they set out teaching their unmannered dogs in public. You can't win either way! Strange looks for managing the situation calmly, scathing looks if your dog bounces, barks or [insert inappriate behaviour]. It would be significantly easier to avoid walking the dog, or only venture out in the middle of the night when no one will see.
My dog's a friendly and sociable girl. But she has very little self-control and poor social skills that require practice in a non-public setting. On top of this she moves at super-speed in all directions which would make any-dog nervous when she gets going. So perhaps it would be wise to keep your friendly dog under close control when you see me walking my dog on a lead.
What message would I like people to take home from this post? If you see a dog on lead, don't approach it. Don't allow your dog to approach it. If you've been blessed with naturally easy dogs all your life, it will be hard to understand the perspectives of those with trickier dogs. Try not to judge owners who stand to one side, turn around or stay still with their dogs, they are probably following a training protocol. This may allow their dog to take walks that look more ordinary to you in the future. Please remember that public places are for everyone to enjoy, and your dog rushing over because "he just wants to play" may get more than they bargained when they arrive. It's your legal responsibility to have your dog under effective control in public places, if your dog's recall isn't reliable, don't let him off until he's trained. That person maintaining distance from you, keeping their dog on lead (or even muzzled), is doing a great job of managing their dog. And they're courageous, because they've come out in public despite knowing they may be perceived as a bit daft or one of those "bad owners" who's not socialised their dog properly.
If this post applies to you then well done! Keep going in a way that is safe, underwhelming and fun. I hope you enjoyed this post and please let me know your experiences by clicking this link and commenting underneath.
Happy training everyone!