** Today’s post was written by a very special guest blogger, Ryan Dove! Full disclosure, he’s my husband. 🙂 Ryan’s first leap into dog ownership was with our hyper-intelligent yet hyperactive dog. Since then he has been involved with countless fosters as a result of his choice of spouse. He is also dad to our two kitties, one of which has accepted him into the family. ~Lindsay **
As the owner of a 35-pound, hyperactive, reactive and prey-driven dog, I consider myself hypersensitive to dog behavior. My dog is by no means perfect, and I am by no means a perfect owner. I have, however, generally learned to read dog behavior and communication and to somewhat be able to predict when a situation might occur. This comes through both experience and training. Every dog owner should have training. Notice I said dog OWNER. Sending your dog off to be trained and getting him or her back with a 5-minute explanation of how to interact with your dog is doing you no good.
As I walk my dog, I am constantly scanning for things that may ramp him up – people on bicycles or with carts, as an example. As a matter of course, I try to avoid other dogs because it can be hard to tell with dogs on a leash how they will react when up close. I’ve noticed quite a few small dog owners on my walks that seem to be oblivious to their small dog’s misbehavior.
Take this morning, for instance. Our walk started with a 12ish pound white dog running from across the street to the end of its retractable leash barking, biting and clawing, just asking my dog to fight. Just because a dog is small does not mean you can ignore its behavior. Around the corner, I hear jingling behind us only to see that we are being run down by a 15ish pound Scottish Terrier. The dog reaches us, barking, and starts nipping at my dog. I am doing my best to keep the other dog away from mine as it was behaving very aggressively, a quick trigger for my dog. After getting nipped once or twice my dog had had enough, but he did a good job of walking away with me even though I could tell my dog was ramping up. The little dog continue to pursue us, and finally I saw some kids running up the street and they eventually caught it.
I turn the corner again only to see someone had opened a door to let their 15ish pound Dachshund walk to the street to go to the bathroom without a leash and with the owner on the front porch. Seriously? Fortunately, this dog did not challenge mine and mine patiently waited in a sit while I pretended to change radio stations so as to not put my dog in between a stranger dog off leash and its owner.
Moral of the story: small dogs are still dogs, treat them like it- I don’t want to be dealing with the police after a poorly trained hyper or aggressive dog with an oblivious owner gets bit by my dog because of the other owner’s irresponsibility. Here are some pointers:
1. If you, the human, have never been trained on how to understand your dog, take a training class WITH your dog. Find good trainers who will explain why your dog is doing what it does and what stimulus your dog will react to.
2. There is no valid reason for an owner to have a retractable leash. They frequently don’t lock correctly and your dog could get hit by a car or succeed in its lunge at another dog. During a walk, the dog ideally is following you at your side. If the dog is 10 feet in front of you, it is no longer on a walk with you (see #1).
3. If your dog locks up and stares at another dog’s eyes, that’s a challenge. No, it is not the responsibility of the owner of the bigger dog to deal with the challenge issued by your smaller dog while you talk on your cell phone. Be aware of your dog’s behavior at all times on a walk, especially around other animals (see #1).
4. “So my dog charges to the end of the retractable leash, barking and biting and clawing, I’ll just pick him up, so what??” I say this to the small dog owner – picture a 65 pound bulldog doing that. I bet you would say “Wow, that’s not ok.” So no, it’s not ok for your dog, either.
I am not saying small dogs are bad, or that all small dog owners are irresponsible. I am saying if you own a small dog, please treat it like a dog. Otherwise, I know some great rescues that have some cats available.