Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pooches: Sidewalk Space and Dog Etiquette

Living in the city, you need to be prepared to deal with tight quarters. Even though we live in one of the more residential neighborhoods in the city, on our block alone there are probably 60 families and 19 dogs. This doesn't even count the random people and pooches passing through. Our block looks similar to this one:
Living so closely with other people, we're always aware of our sidewalk space and interactions. I always make sure the pooches are only on one part of the sidewalk so other people can pass by. I am aware that some people might be afraid of the dogs, so if they look fearful we'll step aside until they pass.At the same time, I expect other dog owners to be just as courteous. Our Pack just wrote a really good post about proper introductions; basically it's the idea that some dogs just don't like each other and they should never be forced to meet head-on. Our pooches also know walks are for training, and it's not a time to play. If we did let our dogs meet and play with other dogs all the time, it would condition them to get excited whenever they saw another dog. Plus, it would be dangerous to play on leash because the leashes could get tangled. For these reasons, I am very diligent about giving other people their space. We often cross the street to avoid head-on meetings, and I would hope other people would be as courteous.
Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. The other day I was walking the pooches and Miss M decided to go poo in the middle of the sidewalk. She had her back turned, and Mr. B was sitting next to her. From further down the block, a guy was being pulled down the street by a large "designer dog". As he approached I asked him to please wait and not approach my dog's turned back. Instead of listening to a small girl walking 2 dogs, that happen to be pitbulls, when she asked not to come near her dogs, he continued to let his dog pull him forward responding "It's ok, my dog's friendly" as his dog proceeded to smell Miss M's turned back. Of course, Miss M. made a correction as this dog snuck up on her, and Mr. B bounced around making scary noises. To this the man replied "You shouldn't be walking violent dogs" which made me so angry that I told him he should have "gotten an instruction manual when he designed his dog". I know what I said wasn't nice, but I was so angry that this man approached me when I asked him not to and he was insinuating my dogs aren't well-trained.
A similar situation happened a couple of days later, when I actually took my 2 dogs to step aside down the sidewalk as we were waiting to cross, and a man let his shepherd come lunging and snarling at our dogs, letting his dog go half-way down the sidewalk before going back his original way. I thought I was imagining how inappropriate it was until another woman walking her dog noted how that was completely unnecessary.I know my dogs and I don't like to put them in uncomfortable situations. Unfortunately, it seems not everyone who frequents our neighborhood is dog savvy. On one hand, I want our dogs to be good breed ambassadors showing people how family-friendly pitbulls can be. On the other hand, this makes random people want to approach us and I really don't want to deal with the excitement, leash pulling, and reverse conditioning; it's almost like I wish those people were afraid of us so they would just leave us alone.
Does this ever happen to other people? If there isn't enough time to explain why I don't want my dogs to be introduced on walks, how else can I deal with these types of people?


Rosiroo said...

Good post, as always! This happens a lot where I live, too. People don't seem to care whether your dog is comfortable with other dogs (ours isn't, normally.) It's tough, especially when you have two dogs.

Unknown said...

I just wish everyone could be as knowledgable and as good of owners as we are! :) I would've been extremely frustrated with that man and his "designer" dog as well. I am always concerned when we encounter other dogs since Ollie tends to be a little leash aggressive. Flash is excellent, but Ollie does not like anyone checking him out if he's on his leash.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I'm impressed you didn't say more to that idiot. For whatever reason, some people just think all dogs should want to meet. I don't run up and hug every person I see on the street. Why should dogs be allowed to do essentially the same thing to other dogs?

I tend to do exactly what you do since Mayzie is reactive to other dogs coming straight at her down the street. I belong to a shy dog list and they're always talking about how important it is to advocate for your dog even if you come off as totally rude. Put up your hand and say sternly "STOP!" Or my personal favorite that several people on the list use: Stop, my dog has a contagious skin disease. Ha! Apparently that one keeps people moving right along.

It's just too bad that some people just don't "get it."


Anonymous said...

I tell people that my dogs aren't allowed to meet other dogs on our walks, as it's training time and I need them focused on me.

If that fails, I will physically intervene and block another dog however I need to. I asked you to keep your dog back - since you are obviously unable to do that, I have no qualms about doing it for you.

Dexter said...

Happens all the time which is an added reason why I can't walk Mango. We have a little Bishon in the neighborhood that goes mental when he sees another dog. The owner thinks it's cool. I was walking Mango and crossed the street when I saw the bishon and was doing OK until the Bishon started pulling lunging and barking and Mango lost it and started pulling, lunging, and barking. The worst part is that the owner just stood there laughing.

Here's another one. Family out walking with their kid on one of those big wheel things. Again, I cross the street, walk up a driveway and put Mango in a sit, but the big wheel set him off and he started barking and lunging. What does the family do? They STOP and start walking towards me WITH their toddler on the big wheel. I had to yell STOP STOP STOP STOP and start going further up the driveway and finally I just cut through the yard I was in to get away. How dumb is that?

Mango Momma

Lindsay said...

That happens quite frequently to us as well. I do the crossing the street when there's a potential head on meeting or a loose dog. We also very often get the "it's okay, my dogs friendly" response. I don't know why people think that's alright. I don't have a bully breed and I don't have to worry about as much direct stigma with my guys so I've started being blunt when I have Heffner. If someone is approaching or has an off leash dog, I yell out "he's not friendly with other dogs." The majority of the time that seems to work. I do still get the friendly dog response. People will never cease to amaze me with their stupidity!

Mack and Mia said...

That is a tough situation, especially since you asked the man to not approach and to stay back. The only thing I can think of to deter ignorant people is to physically block them from Miss M and tell that guy since you can't follow directions I will MAKE YOU.

Kudos to you for always having dog etiquette and giving this idiot a warning in advance even though it didn't help. Just know you did the right thing. Unfortunately, there are ignorant people everywhere. It's frustrating, I know...

brooke said...

People are idiots some time. We were at a bar in our neighborhood that allows dogs inside, and usually Darwin is the only one in there. Once we went in and this guy with his dog approached us and his dog started barking/snarling at Dar which set her off and he kept trying to come back to make them be friends. OI. Then our friend showed up with their dog (whom Darwin LOVES) and the guy comes back again trying to force all the dogs to get along. Eventually we were like, I dont think this is a good idea, please take your dog away. LIKE DUH. Dogs don't all have to get along and be bffs. Accept it. And if your dog isn't well socialized, a small bar is not the place to try and do that. OI

Rescued Pittie Family said...

All the time.
We deal witht the same problems, circumstances and frustrations all the time.
What I love the most is those people who have those invisible fences.
Scares the crap out of me and my kids who seem to do much better around other dogs who have a human attached to them.

Needless to say we do a lot of crossing the street and turning around too.

Mary said...

What you said was tame (but hilarious)! There might have been more expletives coming out of my mouth! But good for you for sticking up for yourself. As you know, we are also city dwellers and have to fight for sidewalk space as well. I've gotten used to crossing the street or moving to the side. But I get really tired of people who hog the sidewalk (with or without a dog). The thing that makes me the most irate is retractable leashes. I HATE those things. Here I am controlling my dog and they let their dogs run right up to Levi. It's never a problem because he loves other dogs, but he does get very excited and people can misconstrue that for aggression.

Which reminds me (sorry for the lengthy comment) of something that bothered me at the vet on Sunday. There was a couple sitting in the waiting room with an enormous bully breed dog that was obviously kind of nervous to be there. They had him on either a very short leash or held his body to keep him close to them. A couple walks in with a cocker spaniel on-you guessed it-a retractable leash and that dog walked right up to the big guy. Nothing bad happened, but it just amazes me how moronic people are about space issues.

saratogajean said...

Poor Miss M! First, the embarassment of having to poop in the middle of the sidewalk. THEN, some rude man + dog invades her space.

I find myself biting my tongue a LOT on walks. Then, all of a sudden, I just have to say something. Sounds like you were able to remain fairly civil, while still standing up for your dogs. Good on you!

Anonymous said...

Amen!!!! Stupid people are just that, stupid.

When I say my one dog is shy, she doesn't like strangers, especially men - you would think the people would respect that and just pass. Nope that would make my life too easy. They have to make eye contact, make some remark about the backpack and walk up until my one dog starts moving away from them and then the protective barking starts. Thanks Dude!

I like most of you, when I walk the dogs or the husband and I are walking them we are in training mode. It's not play time it working time. I wish people would just respect that.

Bobby said...

I am grumpy if a dog runs up to sniff my butt. We have to be on a lead in the streets by law and we only play at the park or beach. We can go in the graveyard to walk as well, but we are not allowed to play.

The Adventures of the LLB Gang said...

As a smaller dog owner I tend to keep Dory and Bilbo to early morning walks only. We also cross the street when we see other dogs/humans coming. Although Dory would try to befriend any dog/person she met, it is my job to keep her focused and safe. So we stop if we are coming head on to another dog and wait for the dog to pass.

Love this post!!

Anonymous said...

Poor Pooches! People like that guy drive me nuts! Those are the same people that think EVERY pregnant women wants her belly touched by complete strangers!! I would use the "my dogs have a contagious disease" line. Heck, I'd say I had something contagious too, just to be sure and get my point accross!

Bella's Mom

houndstooth said...

I'd have been torqued by the guy with the designer dog, too.

We pretty much expect attention on the girls wherever we go. They're a bit unusual, and for that reason a lot of people want to approach them and ask us about them. If I don't want to talk, I give brief answers and no openings for more questions. That doesn't deter everyone, however. If it's a situation I don't feel comfortable with, I get them close to me with the traffic lead part of their leash and don't give the opportunity out for them to get far or others to get too close.

terra said...

i have to say good for you! I hate how people have these ideas that all dogs are supposed to be friendly and tolerant of everything, and when they encounter my reactive dogs, they freak out and tell me I should not have my "dangerous" dogs in public. I have more control of my dogs that the mongrels that they have on flexi leads or better yet off lead.

pibble said...

Good for you! I love your comment to him and he deserved it. You warned him appropriately, and he just assumed. And we all know what happens when people assume.

Of course, the fact that HE couldn't control HIS dog at all wasn't an issue, YOUR dogs were the violent ones.

People like that will never see that they're a problem for others, and he'll certainly never try to offer a solution.

parlance said...

An interesting post and an interesting lot of comments. I have a slightly different take on it all, because Penny is my first dog and I went through the ignorant stage of thinking it was okay to approach other dogs and say, oh it's okay, Penny is friendly. I used to think other dogs weren't well-trained if they didn't like her approaching.
I'm pleased to say I had the intelligence to learn from more experienced dog owners and I wouldn't allow this now.
So, I guess in this long comment I'm appealing for patience with silly dog owners - if you're patient with them they may eventually learn to behave better.

Unknown said...

That is unfortunately all too common.

I always make a big show of taking Mina off to the side and putting her in a sit. When I look so focused, people avoid me and Mina.

With Celeste, who is picky about her dog friends, I just say she doesn't like other dogs. It's sad - I never say that with Mina (it's not really true, for one) because of the negative responses I get. But with Celeste, who is not a Pit Bull, no one bats an eyelash (aww, that's sad, they say).

Anonymous said...

I hate the "it's okay, my dog's friendly," comments. I usually shout, "but my dog's not!" (even though that's not entirely true). Dingo Girl hates the surprise butt-sniff (don't we all!) and will correct as well. We end up looking like the bad dog owners when it's the clueless owner who should be given a talkin' to.

I liked your response. I'm going to have to to use that one at the dog run.

Kari in Alaska said...

so many people in my neighborhood don't leash their dogs for walks. Luckily those are all nice dogs. There are also people with little evil dogs (now that I have a little evil dog I feel that I can say that) who use flexis and let their evil things stretch them to the max and go after all other dogs while saying "They're small, they can't hurt your dog:

Mel said...

Kari in Weho - Completely agree with you on the flexi leashes! The most disturbing experience we had was when someone tied up their little dog with a flexi leash without locking it. We were a little freaked out when the dog started running at our dogs without stopping since those flexi leads go up to a good 20 feet.

Rebelwerewolf said...

For some reason, people like to bring their dogs up to mine while he's pooping. I don't understand why they think that's a good idea. How would they like it if I barged into their bathroom and tried to introduce myself?

Courtney said...

Do you carry your Direct Stop spray on walks? If so, I'd have pulled it out and pointed at those jerks and told them their dog was going to get a face full if they didn't back off. (They don't need to know that it isn't pepper spray, considering how rude they were.)

Sounds to me like neither of them understand that face to face meetings involving dogs can result in aggression, since dogs don't naturally greet each other that way. Unfortunately, a lot of people are this way. They forget that what is normal behavior for people is not normal for dogs.

I've been reading http://notesfromadogwalker.com/ and have picked up some valuable tips from there.

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