Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pooches: Walking the Gauntlet

As a teacher I'm aware of the huge problem in Chicago where a lot of our students encounter violence, having to cross into hostile gang territory, just to make it to school each day. It has become an ongoing discussion topic in my classroom where students feel like they're walking through a gauntlet each time they leave their homes. Since we've been discussing it so much, I started thinking about how I have to walk a different kind of hostile gauntlet. Every time I take the pooches on a walk, we really have to be on guard as we're walking into many situations that could be dangerous for our dogs.
Living in the city, you really need to have your dogs much more socialized. Growing up, we would just let our dogs out in the backyard, and they really didn't encounter other dogs. In the city, where nobody really has a yard, we're all forced to take our dogs on daily walks. This means dogs will be coming face to face with other dogs on a daily basis, and you have to hope that the dog you're meeting is friendly, or at least being walked by a responsible dog owner.
It doesn't matter how friendly your dog is, some dogs just don't like each other. It's not really fair to put them in an uncomfortable situation where they might be scared or uncomfortable and lash out. The worst part is because we have pit bulls, if anything were to happen we would be to blame.
While we can deal with the on-leash dogs, it's the dogs on the retractable leashes, or even off-leash that are the big concern. When we first adopted Mr. B. we were taking him on a walk when a neighborhood Lab came running at him from nearly a block away. Miss M. was tense from excitement, and I was pulling her back, which I think Mr. B. read as us being in danger. As the dog came bounding up to him, Mr. B. stood up like a bear and started scuffling with the dog. Luckily nothing happened, but we know that if the other dog got hurt, we would have been blamed even though the other dog was off-leash charging our dogs.
It happened again the other day with a girl walking a Shitzu, on a retractable, and a Weimaraner. She dropped the Shitzu's leash and the dog came running full force at Mr. B, who was freaked out and tried to run away. Then as the girl was coming to get her dog, the Weimaraner lashed out and tried to bite Mr. B. Luckily nothing happened, but again, the dogs were put in an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation.
We do our best to cross the street and stay out of the way, but on our morning walk the other day I counted 5 dogs walking off-leash.
Beyond the face-to-face meetings, dogs are faced with a myriad of obstacles. Every day there is a dog up in a balcony barking menacingly at our pooches:
Some owners leave their dogs unattended in the small fence area in front of their homes. They don't exercise their dogs, and just give that small area to run back and forth, so they become fence aggressive. They do keep a "Beware of Dog" sign up, but I've seen the gate left open on several occasions. The worst is this house which has a huge, fluffy white dog who is camouflaged in the snow and jumps up and freaks out the pooches. Here's Miss M. checking to see if he's there:Then there's the people who leave their dogs tied up to things and the dogs become territorial of the sidewalk. Besides being dangerous for other people, it's harmful for the dog because a lot of people steal dogs to either sell, use for fighting, or use for bait. Just look at this poor guy left to fend for himself:
And on top of that we have to watch for all the terrible city drivers and people zooming out of alleys. We've taught the dogs to wait and look before all alley entrances and streets:
We do our best to keep our dogs socialized, and I do carry Direct Stop to ward off danger. I just feel like there is an extra burden on us because we do have pit bulls. What types of things do you encounter on your walks?


Anonymous said...

Whew! I was all nervous reading your post! It always makes my mom and dad upset when they see peoples walking their dogs without a leash on a street. And we don't even live in a great big city like you do! Me and my Brudder Ranger are good dogs but it would only take a second for us to chase a rabbit into the road and get hit by a car. I feel very lucky that we have leashes to keep us from losin' our minds like that!

We usually do our walkies in a big open field so we don't run into too awfully much. It's mainly peoples who let their dogs run right up to us without their leashes. That makes me and Brudder Ranger both really nervous.

Wiggles & Wags,

PeeS. My mom can't quit thinkin' about the cupcake maker thingie.

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

I am so thankful for dog owners like you that are just plain awesome, especially the fact you have adorable pitbulls! smart post that could be really a guide for every city in the U.S.

Kari in Alaska said...

yup we encounter all of that stuff too. So many people here walk their dogs off leash. The traffic is also crazy (obviously :-D)

Anonymous said...

We live in a rural area where we encounter loose dogs all the time. Last September I was taking my little 40lb boxer/pit mix Bella on her daily walk (on her leash) when two 80lb dogs came charging out of their back yard straight for us. They were both on her in an instant and Bella is so nonaggressive she didn't even fight back! She just tried to squirm away. I emptied an entire can of Spray Shield in the two dogs faces and it didn't even faze them. The owners were watching/hiding inside their house but didn't want to come out and "claim" the dogs. I stood in the street screaming at the top of my lungs for help unable to do anything to get their dogs of off my dog. They finally came out and called the dogs in and said nothing to me!! Just left me standing in the street with my bleeding dog (who required surgery to reattach the large paw pad on her front foot and had MULTIPLE bites wounds to her neck, sides and legs)!

Bella recovered completely (thankfully!!) and is still the friendly out going pup she's always been. I however have an anxiety attack whenever we come in contact with ANY dog (even leashed) and can't take her for walks without freaking out, so we don't go and I miss it terribly!

It was a horrible thing to experience and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

dw said...

While I had Rainy she loved to go for walks. Now she was a very very small pug, so every other dog we came across was bigger than her, including an 8 month old Boston terrier. She was real good with other dogs unless they were very big. When we would come across a big dog, she would just freeze and usually wait until the other dog left. Then she would continue on as normal. Thank goodness we never ran into anyone who was aggressive. I had to hold her leash close when we were on the curb when crossing streets. We once had a car that had already stopped at the stop sign, but motioned us to cross. Rainy trotted across with her ears flying and a smile on her face, like she knew she was cute and being noticed by people. And yes, the woman driving the car was smiling at her.

Lindsay said...

One of the things that drives me absolutely batty are people who thinks it's absolutely adorable to bring their frightened smaller dog up to my dogs. Or dogs who are lunging and pulling on leash to rush up to my dogs. I will pointedly avoid these people and go out of my way to make it obvious that I don't want their dogs to greet mine. I've even had people yell after me that they want their dog to say hi. Mostly it's the dogs who are misbehaving on leash that drive me nuts and I won't tolerate those people letting their dog come up to mine.

Bobby said...

Well we are thankful we do not have the City problem. On the other hand, we meet some really nice dogs who play. If I were like some types I would be carrying little Pip around with a blue ribbon in his hair. To me that is not how a dog is meant to be. As I have so many foster dogs in, once I know they will come I let them off lead so I can give a full report on their behaviour. I would hate anything to happen but I have found that the dogs off lead run about play and enjoy each others company, the ones on lead are usually more aggressive. I am glad as I said we have got space to let them run and most dogs we see often so they know each other, but I have had five foster dogs at one time and I have touch wood not had any bother so far. Dogs do sense the owners feelings.

pibble said...

I LOVE you guys. Responsible dog owners; go figure.

When I first got Charlie, she was terrified of everything. So I just kept her on short leash walks. One day I said "this is it, kiddo," and we went for a long walk. Mind you, we live in a suburb, and most people leash walk as well.

Well, she was afraid of everything. Branches on the street, the fire hydrant, a soda bottle! We passed a house and a Vizsla came running. I thought Charlie was going to attack the dog, because she was a real bully at home. I had the same fears: Charlie is a Pit Bull, this is going to be MY fault.

Nope. Poor Charlie curled up into a ball, the poster child for shelter dogs. I felt so, so awful for her. Luckily the Vizsla only sniffed her and no fight ensued, but it definitely left an imprint on my poor girl.

Loose dogs are a problem, and not just Pit Bulls. I don't know why more people can't understand that.

Unknown said...

I really liked your breakdown. And I liked that you basically stated facts without judging. Our finest experience was luckily walking Linguini, my largest pack member. Luckily I and my tiny sis weren't there that day, or we'd be gone by now. A neighbor's garage door was open when their hostile back yard-only dog charged M and Linguini. The owner watched my M fight his dog off our Linguini. As soon as it was under control and M handed the bad dog's leash to the owner, surprise! The guys second not-socialized dog came out and charged and attacked M and Linguini. Fun, huh? Nobody got very injured--physically.

Olivia said...

I just came across your blog and love it!

I try to walk my bloodhound mix (not sure if her other part is great dane or boxer...) quite often and sometimes it is so frustrating! With all of the dogs that come running at mine without leashes and their owners present, I get worried about what a tiny lady like me will have to do to protect me or my girl-pup. An angry schnauzer was for real this [ ] close to getting kicked for coming at my restrained, tame, and large dog on one of our walks. **sigh**

swaitela said...

OMG I know what you mean! I've gotten in shouting matches with people with off leash dogs that are charging me trying to walk my own. The biggest problem now is our puppy who we desperately want to take with us...but we can't even walk him anymore for fear that we'll meet an off leash dog...he gets too scared and then starts nipping everything insight he gets so frantic. Then there are the people who insist on walking right up to you even though you tell them to stay back that the puppy is scared and will nip because of it. " ain't nothin'...they just want to sniff!" SHEESH!

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