Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mindful Dog Walking

Today I'd like to talk to you about something of the utmost importance: mindful dog walking. Those of you who live in more rural areas might have a different experience, but here in the city I've had repeated experiences that are just too disturbing to remain silent about. That's right.

It's time we get serious and talk about those of you who walk your dogs in urban areas paying no attention to your surroundings.

On three separate occasions yesterday I was accosted by leashed dogs. Their owners were wandering around in la-la land and allowed their dogs to run right up into my face. On rather frightening beast snarled and exposed his teeth at me. I'm being generous here because at least one of the humans (companion to the snarling beast) was aware of what was happening and didn't do anything to stop the behavior.

How do you feel when a stranger runs up to you and sticks there nose in your face?

You don't like it? Well we dogs don't like it either. There is a certain dance well socialized and well behaved dogs do when they meet each other. We use very loud and obvious non-verbal language to communicate with each other. I let people know I'm submissive, for example. I usually will crouch down and look to the side when I see another dog approaching. My tail will go down between my legs. I'll lick my lips. In doing this, I communicate I am not dangerous, I am a friend, and I will not hurt you. I wait for the other dog to signal their intentions: when they do we will circle each other and sniff. That's how we shake hands. Then and only then we will play.

Back to the nose in the face. Yesterday these three dogs payed no attention to my non-verbals and ran right up into my face. This signifies and attack of my personal space and a potential attack of my human. I will respond. You can expect barking, you can expect teeth to be exposed. I will fight if I must, even though I'm little and very scared. I will protect myself and my human as best I can.

You can also expect that my human will respond very rapidly by placing himself sideways between me and the other dog. It's usually enough to stop the other dog when he blocks, prevents the two dogs from having eye contact, refuses to make eye contact with the dog himself, and provides a stronger non-verbal to the approaching dog.

Knowing that I don't have to protect I will run behind my human and cower. I'm an easily frightened dog.

The human is also known to verbally bite. He's tolerance has run out for these sorts of interactions. Beware as he has not yet had his rabies vaccinations. I'm not sure if you can get rabies from him yelling at you. Be on the safe side thought, okay?

What's my point here?

Too many humans are watching dog trainers on television and think they have it all figured out. You don't have it all figured out. Just like children need to have adults supervise their play on the playground to learn important social skills, dogs need to have adult supervision on a playground so they can learn proper canine interpersonal skills.

The adult humans, by the way, need to have supervised play with their dogs too. This learning, which only can happen with the guidance of an excellent human coach, helps humans become aware of how to safely support their dogs when approaching new dogs.


  1. Blows my mind watching people walk their dogs past my house and they are striding along, not letting the dog stop and sniff or pee on posts, or worse, they are listening to stuff with headphones or yakking on their cells. Where's the fun in any of that? Where's the joy in being out and about with your dog?

  2. Thanks for commenting, Io. You know my human has been known to blog, text, and tweet while walking on me. Once I peed on his foot. You think he'd learn, right?

    Seriously though, the way some people think about their dogs is a little crazy. I've heard more than one person say that we puppies should only be allowed to pee one or two times (at most!) while walking. A dog that stops to pee too many times is being "dominant" and an owner that allows this is no longer the "pack leader."

    I say poppycock!