Over the last few years when out in public with my dog I have witnessed people doing questionable things to their own dogs or handling behavioral situations in a way that make me cringe. For the most part I do not say anything since at times in the past things got a bit heated, particularly at dog parks where people and dogs can be in close quarters.
This past weekend I was walking my dog at a street fair called the Iris Festival that happened to be just a couple blocks from where I live. It was a beautiful day and an easy way to enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, and give Buster Boy a break in his boring routine as of late. I ran into two situations while there that got me thinking of all this.
The scene was a bit chaotic. The streets were full of people, rides set up and running in the middle of the street, a tent with a band playing off of one side and many people with dogs, children running all over the place. Lots of loud noises. For dogs, it is sensory overload. Something like this makes dogs tense, on edge. For dogs with fear issues, it can be traumatic.
Buster I believe is rather de-sensitized to all of this. The loud noises do not bother him, and in a crowd he cannot focus on one person and does not feel threatened. Outside of a crowd, if one person is walking on the street toward him, he gets nervous and starts lunging. In the crowd children are coming up and petting him, and he is fine, but none the less I am always aware of my surroundings, I have him on a short leash that keeps him close to me, and I stop and pet him and praise him frequently to keep him relaxed, and I am relaxed. If I am relaxed, he is relaxed. If we encounter another dog I just keep walking and more or less keep his attention on me. That is how I handle it. Unfortunately that is not how most other people handle it!
Two situations arose. One was just rather annoying and the other disturbed me. I will start with the annoying circumstance.
As I am walking down a crowded path that has booths along each side, I walk by a tiny little five pound dog that goes ballistic. He is charging my dog barking snarling and looking like a crazed, blood thirsty fuzzy rat! I just keep walking, and the dog follows still in a rage. Buster is growling but otherwise not reacting. Meanwhile, it becomes obvious the dog is on a very long leash, at least 20 feet, and the young woman instead of running out and grabbing her dog, or pulling in her dog, is JUST WALKING WITH ME! People around us are just laughing and making stupid comments, (which is actually common when a small dog is being aggressive- people think its funny.) If the woman was saying anything to her dog, I couldn’t hear it. So I had to turn and walk in a different direction to get away from this situation where the other dog owner was doing NOTHING. As I was leaving I could hear the woman say in response to someone in an annoyed sounding voice, “it is what it is.”
At no point was I concerned about my dogs safety or the other dogs safety, but the actions of this clueless woman, just really annoyed me. It is because of the inaction of little dog owners like this woman that little dogs have a reputation of being yappy, nippy, and aggressive. It is not the dogs fault. It is the people who have no understanding of dog behavior or training and react by doing nothing.
Other people react to situations like this by taking totally inappropriate action that can be disturbing. My next enounter that day was with someone who was walking a pit bull in the crowd. The situation was actually similar except for the fact it involved a pit bull. To a pit bull, my dog is small. He is between 20 and 25 pounds and about the size of a small beagle. For some reason MY dog reacts badly whenever encountering a pit bull. My dog wants to attack. So when I saw this pit bull in the crowd, I knew my dog might react and I needed to keep walking. I don’t know if my dog growled first, or if the pit bull lunged first, but their eyes met and the pit bull started lunging toward my dog. This guys reaction was to immediately tug on the leash and reach down and smack his dog. I kept walking feeling a little sorry for the pit bull. A little bit later we crossed paths again, and the same thing happened, and again the guy smacked his dog. About a half hour later, I am sitting with my dog on a piling, some sort of big tree/pole whatever…a couple of kids are sitting next to me petting Buster while he is lying on the ground totally relaxed.
Guess who walks by once again…. this guy and his pit bull. He is directly in front of me maybe 10 or 15 feet. I have an up close look at this dog for the first time and I am looking right at his face while he is looking intensely at my dog. The image I saw next is frozen in my mind forever. The pit bull actually did not appear to be acting aggressive. He was not barking, or growling, or jumping up and down. He was simply pulling forward on a very short leash in an effort to approach my dog. He was intent on reaching my dog and fixated on Buster, but I do not know the dog well enough to read him to know if he was aggressive, but if he had reached my dog it would not have mattered because my dog would have gone ballistic.
As I was looking at this dogs face, I could see this guy raise his arm above his head and swing his hand in full force against the side of the dogs face and see the full impact jar the poor dogs head. The dog closed his eyes at the exact moment of feeling the stinging pain for a second or two while this giant douche bag was pulling the dog away. The dog never made a peep. The man never even looked at me, and as they were walking away I could see the leash was actually way TOO short…so short that it was always taught and pulling on the dogs collar so the dog could never relax. The dog was continually pulling in all directions as they went off into the distance. Meanwhile, I don’t think Buster ever even noticed the dog and was very content getting a back rub from a ten year old.
I never spoke out and said a word to this guy. He was probably about my age- at least in his 40s if not 50s, and he kind of looked like trailer trash to me, but I shouldn’t judge. He could just as easily be a banker for all I know, but he did not appear to be the type who would take comments very well and it would have turned ugly. If he had let his dog loose it is likely my dog could have been hurt badly. So I just shook my head in disgust.
Would you have said something to this guy? What would you do in a situation like this?