Warmer weather is here, and that means more people will be out walking their dogs soon. One of my biggest pet peeves is dog walkers who allow their dogs to approach other dogs without permission.
Sounds like something that should be no big deal, right?
Wrong! A leashed dog should be considered a personal boundary. Just like a house door, baby stroller or your car.
You wouldn’t approach any of those places and just walk in the house, touch a baby without permission or sit in someone else’s car without asking, would you?
Why is this my biggest pet peeve? I rehabilitate dogs, and walking dogs on leash with members of my pack is one way I help them heal. When I am walking an aggressive dog and someone approaches with another dog that doesn’t ask permission to approach or allows their dog to get too close, then my dog reacts; their reaction is to blame my dog.
There are special leashes or yellow ribbons for dogs that don’t do well with others to wear to let the world know that they are not friendly. However, in Texas, it’s legal to shoot a dog you feel is a threat. If my dog has a leash that says “stand back,” are you going to immediately assume my dog is a dangerous dog? Would my dog be in danger of losing his or her life because of that warning leash?
The same applies to “Beware of Dog” signs on your fence. For years, our insurance agent has advised us and other home owners to post “Dog on Premises” signs because “Beware of Dog” can be considered an admission of guilt and you can be held liable if your dog bites someone even if they are trespassing. Unfortunately, we live in a litigious society.
What is the proper way to approach another dog when walking your dog? Ask permission to approach or if the dog is friendly. “May we approach?” “Is your dog friendly?” If your dog is in training and working on meeting other dogs, walks are a great time to work on those introductions. Always ask permission before approaching.
“Hi, we are working on our dog to dog introductions. May we approach?” That is my go-to line, and we often receive positive responses.
If someone says “no,” we just keep walking until we find someone else. Most dog people are eager to help other dog people who are working on improving their dog skills.
I do have a couple of tricks for walks when I do not want to meet other dogs, and these might sound extreme to some, but in a neighborhood with a lot of dogs, we do what we need to.
Consider walking at night wearing reflective or bright clothing. Those Army-issue PT belts come in handy even when you’re finished with the military for nighttime dog walking.
Have an in-depth conversation with your dog. I’ve never been approached by anyone when I’m talking to my dog about something important. So your neighbors think you’re a little on the silly side after seeing you having long conversations with your dog; I guarantee your dog will love you more for it.
Kathryn Leisinger is dean of the School of Wags and a Herald correspondent.