A couple of weeks ago I was walking my dog in Garfield Park. He’s a super senior dog and spends most of his time sniffing, peeing, and pooping and is less interested in interacting with other dogs.
A woman had her dog off-leash across the sidewalk that runs through the park. She was a good distance away, My dog wasn’t even paying attention to her dog and the dog immediately started barking and came running at full speed at my dog. The lady kept calling her dog to recall but the dog wasn’t listening. I tried moving away with my dog and the dog almost bit him. Once the woman caught up and got a leash on the dog, I told her that her dog should be leashed in the park. She said, “I know”. She knew that she was wrong and did it anyway. I’ve seen her in the park before with her dog off-leash and have noticed that the dog doesn’t really listen to her consistently.
I’m a dog walker and pet sitter and am studying the forensics of canine aggression in addition to animal behavior. One thing that has stuck with me is that any dog, no matter how well trained, can bite if he or she becomes afraid, stressed, or fearful enough to do so. Even behavior that may seem normal like playing, if in an unfamiliar situation, the dog may become dysregulated and lead to a bite, if a dog is anxious.
There are people who spend a lot of money on training and feel that their dog could never bite another dog, pet, or person. While it’s admirable that people work with trainers to create wonderful, loving, and trusting relationships with their dogs, it doesn’t mean that the pet guardian’s responsibility ends to keep their dog, other people, and pets safe. People get too confident and lose their sense of perspective and it becomes a part of a person’s personal pride rather than thinking of what’s best for all pets.
Similarly, asking if a dog is “friendly” is also a misconception that pet professionals like myself are actively educating people on this phrase. It not only implies that another pet is “unfriendly” but it feeds into the same popularity-type of thinking that is not consistent with animal behavior but rather it’s a human thought process. Every interaction between dogs is specific to those two dogs and should be monitored closely. Keep your dogs on a leash. That’s the first step. If you’d like to introduce your dog to another dog, start by asking something like “Is it ok to introduce my dog to yours?” Follow it up with “What’s the best way to introduce my dog to your dog?” In that way, you’re involving the other person in the decision-making of how best to either handle the situation. That’s a good way to work to create a positive introduction between the dogs. And also humans.
Respect your dog and others and keep everyone safe. Leash your dog when walking in public and or in a public park.