Of all the things that annoy me–and there are a few–nothing spikes my blood pressure so quickly as being charged by a loose dog while walking my dogs. Especially when the dog’s owner blames me for getting frightened and angry when it happens.
It happened again today. A large dog that was easily twice the weight of both my dogs put together came bounding out of its yard as we walked past its house on the sidewalk. My dogs are terriers, which means they’re game for any challenge from any animal of any size. Plus, they’re both leashed, and when they are standing between me and anything that approaches us, their protective instincts are triggered. No matter how friendly that approaching dog might be, the situation is rigged for conflict and my dogs and I are the ones most likely to lose because, again, they are leashed and cannot escape.
So this dog comes at us hard and fast, and I backpedal as fast as I can off the sidewalk and into the street, putting us all in potential danger. The dog’s owner comes out of the house yelling at the dog, who continues advancing on us as we retreat. The owner yells at me, “Don’t run from him, that just makes it worse.”
I respond, “My dogs are between him and me, and they’re a lot smaller. This isn’t safe.” The dog finally loses interests as we approach the opposite side of the street and returns to his yard, but the owner says something else in an ugly tone that I can’t quite hear and my fear turns to anger. “Hey,” I say, “who is wrong here? My dogs are leashed and your dog is loose, which isn’t even legal. You need to control your dog.”
“It’s on my property,” he snaps, and I snap back, “This is a public sidewalk.” He flips me the bird and I turn around and walk away.
Now, call me hypersensitive, but it seems to me that he allowed his dog to put me and my dogs at risk because his dog was untethered and he could not control it with a voice command, so maybe he is the one at fault and he owes me an apology (not that I will hold my breath while I wait for it, mind you). How am I wrong simply for trying to protect my dogs and myself?
There is simply no way to predict how any animal will respond to a perceived threat; any one of them could have ended up injured in today’s encounter. In a busier neighborhood, heck, we could have ended up getting pasted in traffic. I defend myself and my dogs vigorously when unknown dogs approach us. I yell at them, tell them “no” and “go home,” and will “redirect” them with my foot if they lunge or snarl. Many times when the dogs’ owners have witnessed this, they have gotten angry with me because, you know, “my dog is friendly.” Well, I’m sure it is, but right now it’s charging us and you can’t stop it, so I’ll do what I have to do.
Here’s the simple solution to this conflict: Leashes outside the house/yard/car. Every dog, every time.