A question I get almost daily on our walks around our neighborhood.
It both saddens and frustrates me so I wanted to write to those fearful people and possibly help them work on their fear in a productive way.
I understand that people have different fears and possibly traumas from previous experiences with dogs. I also understand that your fear causes you to sometimes walk in a huge bow around us when passing or crossing the street. It would be the same as people avoiding elevators because they were afraid of small rooms, and that is totally okay. No one is bothered by it and no harm is done.
Now, I do not have scary dogs. They are both fluff balls sniffing their way through the walk (of course I am biased), but they are not very interested in what goes on around them unless another dog is in sight. I obey leash laws, and always call them next to me when we pass people, only letting them greet if a person directly asks me if they can say hi, and sometimes I even say no to that. In other words we mind our own business when we walk. I realize that not all dog owners are like me which might have caused you to react in the ways that you do, but here is what I would ask of you, both for you and the dog you encounter to stay safe.
When you pass try to ignore the dog. Do not stare at the dog or even seek eye contact as that might make the dog interested in you. Pass the dog calmly, without changing your pace or body language and please please do not start screaming. Don’t ask me to move away from the street, we have as much right to walk here as you. Do not kick towards the dog or act in any other provocative way (An incident happened to me once. Chester and I were crossing a street. Chester was walking nicely next to me, not caring about the other people when a lady passes and suddenly kicks at him, luckily not hitting him, where after she says – I’m afraid…definitely not the right way to handle your fear lady!), and finally do not yell at them. We are not bothering you, we are even making space for you to pass and we really wouldn’t care about you at all unless you are acting in a provocative way. If you start making abnormal movements or sounds you will not only become noticeable but also interesting for the dog, possibly even making the dog nervous and causing a reaction from the dog. Pass normally and most dogs will hardly even notice you.
Then I would also suggest that you learn how to speak dog, and by that I do not mean that you have to start barking, but learn to read a dog’s body language. This specially comes in handy should you run into a lose dog. If the dog’s eyes are almond shaped and shows no white, have a relaxed body with a loosely wagging tale (NOTE! Just because a dog is wagging his tail does not mean he is friendly as a wagging tale can mean many different things depending on the wag), mouth slightly open, drooling tongue and just mind his own business then you can just pass normally. If the dog starts to follow you, you stop, sit down and turn away from the dog and ask the owner in a calm voice to call their dog. If the dog displays a tense body, growls, show his teeth, barks (a bark does not always mean that the dog is unfriendly, it can also be from excitement) and the hair is risen then you immediately stop and slowly move away from the dog as calmly as you can, again asking the owner to call their dog.
It goes without saying that responsible dog owners would never just let their dog run up to strangers but always call them and have them under control both unleashed and leashed but sadly not all dog owners acts this way so use these tools should you encounter a…let’s call them free spirits 😉
The final thing I would ask you is that if you have children don’t pass your fear on to them. Either by dragging them away from the dogs or telling them how dangerous they are. Instead teach them how to act around dogs in a safe and nice way. More on that in next week’s post.
Let’s all be allowed to walk peacefully among each other by all taking responsibility and giving each other the space that is needed by making informed and educated choices.