Doggy etiquette issue or owner ignorance issue?


A huge part of my job is helping owners to rehabilitate their reactive dogs. A dog may be reactive for many reasons, and reactivity can come in many different forms. In order to help a reactive dog their are many different training techniques we can use. It may be a case of using one training technique or a combination of several training techniques.

This training is undertaken every time the owner comes across another dog. And in order for it to be effective the owner needs the help of the oncoming owner and their dog; to simply respect that their dog needs space. To help with this it requires one very simple thing from the oncoming owner; PUT IT ON THE LEAD AND WALK BY! A very simple tool, and from my own view point one of respect and understanding among fellow dog owners.

However I still find myself on a daily basis coaching and counselling my distraught and upset clients because they have done everything in their power to protect their dog, and to carry out training, but due to an ignorant dog owner, all their hard work is undone in two seconds. Not to mention the added psychological damage that experience has had on their already reactive dog.

It amazes me, it really does. How hard is it. If you see a dog on lead and yours is off, put it on lead. If your dog is off lead and you see another owner in the distance trying to move their dog right out the way, whilst giving it instructions, DO NOT let your dog approach because "YOUR DOG IS FINE". your dog being "FINE" will not miraculously make the reactive, fearful or aggressive dog suddenly "FINE".

I should not have to tell my client to have enough confidence to shout out to disrespectful owners "please put your dog on lead, mine needs space". Nor should they have to invest in bright yellow harnesses and jackets to put on their own dog to make it more clear to these owners that their dog needs space. It is extremely unfair on the dog which is undergoing training.

Unfortunately this does not just apply to reactive dogs in training. It also applies to any aged dog undergoing any sort of training. I have experienced myself "ignorant owner syndrome" with my fear aggressive dog Rocky (who is sadly no longer with us). The amount of times I had to shout to owners and say "please put your dog on lead" , and the reply I always had was ," but my dogs fine". Great, but mine isn't! And I'm doing my best to keep him under threshold by moving right out the way, giving him instructions and in some cases he was even wearing a muzzle, but even this didn't even seem to twig to the other owner, DO NOT LET YOUR DOG APPROCH BECAUSE IT IS FINE!

And now unbelievably I am still experiencing it with my puppy. I am training my puppy all the time whilst out and about, and I want her to learn that she can't always interact with other dogs or humans.So I have started teaching the "sit and watch me cue" as other dogs and owners walk by. Not a hard exercise to teach, but it is when you have a disrespectful owner allowing their dog to approach. How fair is that on my dog. Naturally she is going to be highly tempted to interact, which is going to lead to me having to constantly correct her and at the same time feeling like we have both failed the exercise, when in actual fact we haven't.

I am putting out a plea to all dog owners; please, please, please be respectful and if you see an owner in the distance putting their dog on lead, then please put yours on to. you can let them off as soon as you are past. Also before allowing your dog to charge up to an off lead dog, ask the owner in question if it is ok for your dogs to interact with each other. Hopefully by doing this we can prevent bad experiences and I will have less conversations with my clients about how hard it is to rehabilitate their dogs when faced with ignorant owners.

Dogs may need space for many reasons. 1) it has an injury/is recovering from an operation, 2) it could be deaf or bling, 3) it may be reactive, 4) it may be aggressive, 5) it may be in training. The list goes on.

If you allow your off lead dog to approach a on lead dog then I'm afraid you only have yourself to blame for what ever incident takes place.

Dog owners should be supporting eachother to help rear well behaved dogs. This is just one way we can all rally together and help.

your dog wont be "FINE" after it has been attacked, because you have let it approach a nervous or reactive dog.

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Gemma's Dog Training & Behaviour aim to help you help your dog. Whether its basic obedience or a complex behavioural problem Gemma can help.

Fully qualified and insured with over 10 years experience in the animal care sector.

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