Today, when I requested an owner kept her dog away from my student's fearful dog she responded "it's okay, my dog can fend for himself". From her comment it's easy to interpret that she had a lack of regard for her dog's welfare and ours. She seemed to believe an aggressive encounter would be acceptable as her dog would cope. This sort of attitude towards dogs' encounters in local parks is not rare and goes along with nonsense wisdom such as "let them sort themselves out". It's the sort of anti-social and neglectful owner-behaviour that we have probably all experienced.
However, the far more common anti-social response from owners who allow their dog to approach dogs on-lead is the title phrase: "It's okay! My dog's friendly!" But is it really okay? Let's look at a list of reasons dogs might be on lead.
The dog could be-
recovering from an operation
suffering pain from injury or disease
have a history of biting/barking/threatening
suffering anxiety or fear
new adoption (unknown characteristics)
On top of these possibilities the walker may have lost confidence or be fearful because of a previous experience. They might have been very brave to come out and walk their dog in public. They might have a physical or mental limitation that prevents them from allowing their dog off-lead. They could be afraid of your dog especially if its coming over.
Now do you really want to let your dog go over?
Aggression is contagious
It's simple to believe the problem is with the dog who's on lead. "Your dog's the problem, why should mine be under control" sort-of attitude. If you're an adult you should be able to figure this out: public spaces are for sharing, not a free-for-all space for your dog. Be responsible, control your dog and don't let him be a nuisance. The dog on lead has just as much right to be there as yours. All owners have a legal responsibility to provide good welfare ie walks. Even if your dog has always been sociable and friendly, one bad experience with an aggressive dog could cause your darling to become aggressive too. And if that dog was on lead that's absolutely your fault, because your dog was not kept under control- you allowed your dog to run over and invade another's space. You should have used a lead or had adequate voice control to prevent the situation.
Putting your dog on lead when another dog is on lead is respectful and good-manners.
Prevent your dog causing apprehension or annoyance
Having your dog run up to anyone or anydog demonstrates lack of control. Legally you are required to keep your dog under effective control. Failure to do so can result in court action even if no injury was caused. Let people with on-lead dogs know your dog is under control. Put your dog on lead or demonstrate that you have excellent voice control by calling to heel or sit. Remember, those people don't know your dog. Many people allow their dogs to race over and you might be the same. Be different, show courtesy.
One day your dog might need to stay on lead
I teach people who've had dogs all their life, experienced guardians with a history of numerous perfectly-behaved dogs over decades. And then they come to me with their tail between their legs because now it's their dog who is the "problem dog". Exhibiting behaviours they've judged others for over the years. All the times they muttered "get that dog under control" or "bad owners" are coming back to haunt them. The shoe's now on the other foot and they understand the need for good owner-manners on walks. I hope you will never be this person as I have so much empathy for the regret and shame these people feel for their previous attitude.
Calling your dog back shouldn't be hard. And if it is you shouldn't have taken the lead off.
Sign up for a class
Watch a YouTube video
practice, practice, practice
There is so much good information available for positive force-free teaching methods that there is no reason not to teach your dog the basic skill of coming when called.
Make sure your dog likes being on lead and that it's not flapping in his face or causing discomfort when you attach it. If you want to leave your dog off-lead also teach heelwork or a sit-stay.
If it's an effort to get your dog to come back then you need to work on it. Whatever age or breed or background, your dog can improve. You can be ambassadors for responsible guardianship in your neighbourhood.
I hope you've found this post useful and if so please let me know. Have you had encounters like the one's described? Let me know in the comments below.
Until next time, happy training!
Love from Lucy x