Dog walker etiquette is lacking and it's most noticeable to those of us with reactive dogs.
It’s easy to lose count of how many times we say it “he doesn’t, he isn’t and please don’t touch her” It’s almost like dog walking people lose their minds.
We can lose a full week of successful stress management to the presence of an unruly, unmanaged strange dog that approaches our scared friend and bounces around, whilst sending everyone’s stress levels through the roof. It’s easy to lose control of your tongue and your temper to the person shouting across the field “he only wants to play”. So, this one is for the dog walkers.
The Urge To Play
If you see us with our dogs on the lead don’t allow yours to run up. Even if my dog looks friendly, ask first. People usually have their dog on a lead for a reason and that reason is not yours to decide. If you see us call our dogs away and hide on the side of the track or in a bush to allow you by then we are coaching our dogs to stay calm. Don’t allow your dog to run up to us. It has taken a long time to teach that calmness and to break it is not your decision to make. When we see you and your dog in the distance and change direction to move further away, whether our dogs are on or off the lead, please don’t continue to approach. Certainly, don’t allow your dog to run up. We are creating our distance for a good reason and should be respected.
Don’t say “he only wants to play” as your dog races towards ours, because you have no idea of the intentions, experiences or emotional state of the dog “he only wants to play” with.
Be responsible for the safety of your own dog. When walking a reactive, fearful dog, we also have your dog’s well-being in mind. We don’t have reactive dogs without learning about dog behaviour. We can see your dog might be looking for a game and don’t need it pointed out. We can also see that your dog is going to be scared or hurt at any point so end up protecting both dogs. When I’m managing my dog and you’re not managing yours, your dog’s safety is not my responsibility.
Don’t look offended when we have done everything we can to allow you to pass whilst keeping our dogs calm, then your own is allowed to directly approach, causing reactive barking from mine. You caused that, you have no right to be offended. I have every right to be offended because you didn’t manage your dog or to respect the tiny bit of space we so carefully asked for.
The Urge To Touch
Please don’t try to touch my dog without asking. She’s small and she’s cute but she’s also a puppy farm survivor and terrified. She might not look scared but this is what we call a freeze reaction, in this case to your persistent attention. I am her only safety and even my husband respects her space. You have no right to invade that space so please just allow her to walk on by, feeling secure.
Don’t be surprised if after you have ignored me a few times and still try to touch my dogs, if I shout at you. The polite requests were ignored, you left me no choice and when a tiny dog needs my protection, believe me I will protect.
Not all dogs like to be touched by strangers, do you like to be touched by strangers? A hand over your head, rubbing in your face, a huge stranger looming over you? I suspect you like control of your personal space. Remember that on your next walk.
Please don’t say “it’s OK I’m a dog person” you’re not my dog’s person and that’s all that matters to us.
Everything I have written here has happened to us in the last week. I know it happens daily, to more people than I can remember. If you have a friendly dog please consider others. Some of our dogs suffer with fear issues, we are the rescuers, we are the ones managing daily fear and stress in the dogs that other people rejected.
Please respect our space!