Command Control for Companion Animal News
The sun is out and we now see more dogs than ever on walks in our neighborhoods, at off-leash areas, and on the trails of our parks. With so many dogs and people occupying the same space it seems appropriate to address some basic etiquette. This reader asks a great question:
“Why do people take mean dogs out for walks? The other day I was walking my sweet Daisy and when she went to greet another dog it tried to attack her. The owner was picking up poo and had his back to us. Shouldn’t he have been paying more attention and warned us? Or better yet, keep his dog at home? This seems to happen to us pretty regularly. Why are there so many people with mean dogs? And why do they always act like it’s my fault when their dog attacks Daisy? She’s super friendly and just wants to play.”
Your owner is very lucky to describe you as “super-friendly!” Either you have a genetic predisposition to be friendly, with lots of positive hormones circulating in your brain and body, or your owner did a great job of socializing you through 18 weeks of age. Or maybe you hit the jackpot and got both! Your owner didn’t say what breed you are but not all breeds of dogs communicate using the same language.
I’m sorry to have to tell you this Daisy, but there are many dogs that are not as lucky as you. Sadly, far too many unfortunate dogs very likely did not receive the adequate socialization during their critical period of development and have become anxious and fearful as a result. These dogs may also have endured a traumatic event at some point in their lives and have the equivalent of PTSD.
Behaviorists are seeing an epidemic of anxiety in dogs in our country. Currently, we are unsure of the reason but it means we need to be conscious of this fact. These dogs aren’t “mean” they’re just scared and don’t like to be approached by other dogs, especially when they’re on a leash. Being on a leash completely changes the emotional state of these dogs: They feel trapped and can become reactive or even aggressive if they feel threatened by another dog or person coming too close.
My advice: Your owner should always assume any strange dog you see could be suffering from anxiety. Do not approach other dogs to greet them. Play it safe. Your owner should cross the street or take other evasive action to avoid you coming into contact with strange dogs. The owners of the scared dogs get mad because they think your owner should know better. Now she does!