An open letter:

Dear people at the park on Sunday:

I couldn’t help but overhear your dogs having a very bad reaction to each other. I also heard that it went on for a very long time. I don’t know whose dog started it. You, with the Golden and the Maltese, were probably very surprised when that Airedale came around the corner. I also have a dog who doesn’t like to be surprised, so I have a lot of sympathy. And I know that sometimes dogs can be jerks. I’m not blaming either of you. Kudos to you both, in fact, for knowing that your dogs were not model citizens and having them on appropriate leashes.

What I want to talk to you about is that you didn’t do anything to intervene in the situation. In fact, the opposite. Mr. Golden, you stood perfectly still, while Ms. Airedale walked by very slowly. Dogs can be jerks. Sometimes it’s hard to get away. Sometimes you just wish the ground would swallow you up. But it isn’t going to. When you let bad encounters go on and on and on, all you are doing is making the future worse.

First, Airedale lady, there was no reason that you couldn’t turn around and walk away. Given the layout of the park, you were not possibly walking toward your car or back to your house. I’m going to guess you had some idea that maybe if you just kept walking your dog would settle down and get over it. Would you settle down and get over it if I made you walk very slowly past a snake? How about if I covered your chair in spiders? Would that make you a better person? I don’t think so. Or, maybe you think that your dog is just “being a dog.” He isn’t. Please, be humane. When you can easily leave a situation that makes your dog have a meltdown, leave. Was walking over to that stagnant pond really worth so much psychological cruelty? If your dog “doesn’t usually act like that,” please be aware that this is exactly how “acting like that” starts.

Now, Golden and Maltese man, I am worried about you. Leash reactive dogs can easily redirect to the closest dog in their line of sight. Please be very careful having two reactive dogs of such disparate sizes. Also, I don’t think you had as much room to walk away as Ms. Airedale, but you could have done something. Even a few steps can be a huge help for your dog. There was enough room, even, for you to move quickly past the Airedale. I’ve found that leashes with built in traffic handles are great for sticky situations like that.

Both of you need to seek some professional training help. In the meantime, though, please learn how to walk away.

My Imperfect Dog

9 thoughts on “An open letter:

  1. You’ve poked one of my sore spots today…I have no problem walking away…I often go off the path completely to give the passing dog(s) plenty of space…but then their fool owners don’t bother to pull in their leads at all (flexi lead owners are the very worst) and even though I’ve obviously avoided a meeting they give their dog(s) all leash they need to reach us…some people just aren’t thinking


    1. One of my goals is to be more proactive about Silas and call out to people in advance. Just in a friendly way–“We’re going to walk on by, if you don’t mind shortening up your leash a little!” Or “He’s really nervous, do you mind not petting him?” I’m shy and I hate to talk to strangers, but I’m just going to have to.

      I actually have learned to walk Silas past other dogs even when the space is tight, because the ONE scenario where he’s dog reactive is what you described–I pull him over to the edge and stop walking, and the other owner just moseys by and lets their dog get in his face. He’s okay if we’re moving.


  2. So I was that idiot recently who just stood there. In my defense, the other dogs were passing a half a block away and I thought they would keep going. We’ve been doing soooo well with reactivity, I thought, I’ll just pause here, the dogs can handle a brief glimpse of the other dogs and it can be a learning lesson for us to quickly get back under threshold. Except the other dog, off leash, didn’t keep moving. It stopped, stared and then charged. It was completely a deer in the headlights moment for me because I thought I knew what would happen (dog a block up crossing the street would keep moving) and when it didn’t, old “i don’t know how to handle my reactive dog” instincts kicked in and I didn’t walk away like I should have. I hope that these people were just caught unawares and that they should be given the benefit of the doubt. I know better too; I just froze at that moment but anyone watching would have thought I had no idea how to handle my reactive dogs.


    1. Oh, momentary freezes happen to us all. I can’t claim perfection (ha!) there myself. Says the woman who just stood there while somebody reached for Silas–and got seriously barked at–just Tuesday. This went on for multiple minutes.


  3. I think sometimes people are surprised and if they have not experienced a situation before, do not know how to react. I have no qualms telling people to hold their dogs, or shorten their leashes though or even to walk the other way. I have to do what is right for my dogs. 🙂


  4. Love this! This drives me INSANE! I would assume people aren’t freezing because they are startled – these are their dogs, so they should have some idea of how they might respond to certain situations – so I assume it’s because the don’t know any better. And I so very much wish they did.


  5. I had never seen two leash reactive dogs turn on each other until earlier this summer. I was driving by a woman with two larger dogs – lab sized. I saw them freaking out about another dog they saw and she was trying to control them. Suddenly they turned on each other and it looked like they were fighting. It looked kind of scary to me. Gretel is leash reactive (well, really, just reactive) but she has never turned on Chester.


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