The problem with, “It’s OK! He’s friendly!”


Hello, friends! And welcome to another edition of: Maggie climbs up on a soapbox and rants about dog stuff! It’s been a while since I’ve been up here, and I sure do like this view…

Recently, we’ve had a bunch of run-ins with dogs around town that I wanted to discuss. You might be familiar with these scenarios. And if you feel called out as you read this post, I hope you’re willing and open to reconsider your behavior.

A white fluffy dog runs through a field of grass. The text overlay says: The problem with,

In our neighborhood, there’s an equal mix of fenced-in yards with physical fences and with electronic fences. There are two houses with a front-yard tie-out and a few houses with none of the above.

These houses are mapped in our brains, and we’ve created routes and routines for walking Cooper that either avoid or circumvent places where there are problems.

First court on the left? Skip. A tiny white dog isn’t contained and bops around the street.

Recently-remodeled grey house just past the white house with the slate front porch? Proceed with caution. There is a loose dog who sleeps in the yard all day and isn’t really a threat because she’s so very old, but she does leave the yard on occasion.

Guy with the two poodles? Avoid at all costs. One dog roams free and the other is on a flexi. Watch for and change directions!

And so on.

Those of you with reactive dogs probably have similar maps stored in your heads… the houses to avoid, the streets that are usually safe, the yards with dogs tied up out front.

But here’s the thing: It’s an imperfect system.

Why?

Well, because who knew the people across the street had a Basset hound?! The dog literally never once has been walked since we’ve lived here but wandered out the fence once when their yard crew left the gate open.

Or, another time, a dog hadn’t yet been hooked to his tie-out and charged Cooper and John, chasing them down the street.

Or, the time that old dog did wander after us down the road and came right up to the stroller, which thankfully allowed us to remove Cooper to the other side of the street.

Whenever something like that happens, the person who realizes their dog is loose or the person who leaves their dog off leash on purpose or the person who doesn’t yet realize their electric fence shorted out starts yelling:

“It’s OK! She’s friendly!”

Same goes for people who take their dogs off their leads on on-leash trails or in parks or open soccer fields. As the dog barrels down on us:

“Don’t worry! He’s friendly!”

Except.

It’s NOT OK. And I DO worry.

Even if you don’t have a reactive dog like Cooper, chances are you don’t appreciate an unknown pup rushing up to you and shoving his nose in your dog’s nose or butt. Who wants to be ambushed by someone they don’t know? I certainly don’t, and I wouldn’t expect my dogs to want (or even tolerate) that either.

For those of us who do love a reactive dog, well, we are generally very good rule followers. It keeps our dogs safe. We go to on-leash parks. We hike on-leash trails. We avoid known trouble spots… but I guess my point is that there shouldn’t BE trouble spots.

Everyone should follow the rules.

Contain your dog in your yard, and if you’re going to use an electric fence, make sure it’s operational. If you’re in an on-leash area, keep your dog on leash. Or, consider going to a dog park where your dog can run free and leash-less to your heart’s content. We sure as hell won’t be there to ruin your dog’s day, so don’t let him run off leash around us and ruin our day!

My dog is not “unfriendly.”

He is, however, anxious. He feels nervous around new people and dogs. He eventually warms up to both people and dogs, but not when they rush up to him unexpectedly and plow into his face or bottom while someone screams, “He’s friendly!”

Cooper does not like that. I do not like that. I do not like that on his behalf, on behalf of all the other sensitive dogs like Cooper, and I do not like that on my behalf because I’m forced into the position of yelling back, “My dog’s not! Get your dog!”

And then I feel angry–on top of the adrenaline of a loose dog rushing us–because I want to defend Cooper. “It’s not that your dog isn’t friendly. My dog needs space. He needs to feel secure, and he needs to be safe. We’ve worked really hard to create that space, security, and safety for him over the years, and your loose dog wrecks it for us.” Or something.

If you are someone who lets your dog run loose in on-leash areas…

If you are someone who lets your dog roam your yard–he almost never wanders off!–without some kind of containment…

If you are someone who relies solely on an electric fence, and you don’t often check to see if it’s operational…

Reconsider. Please.

Leash your dog. Check your fence. Let your dog run at an off-leash park. Simply follow the rules. Shouting, “He’s friendly,” is never, ever sufficient.

And if you’re someone who follows the rules, even though your dog isn’t reactive, THANK YOU! We are grateful for you!

Finally, if you’re someone with a reactive dog, what would you add to this? What else do you wish people would do (or not do) to keep you and your dog safe?

Stepping down off my soapbox for now. Packing it up in the closet for next time. (:

Read more: What I wish you knew about my reactive dog

Photo: Blake Barlow on Unsplash



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