Although the past year has introduced a cat into my life, I am foremost a dog person. Our mixes, Perdita (a Dalmatian/Pibble who was born deaf) and Charliegh (Aussie/Border Collie who is crazy) are pretty fantastic furry friends. I love dogs. But sometimes I do not love dog owners.
Starting about three years ago, I would walk the dogs through the neighborhood on a leash and gentle leader (a tool that looks terrible but is actually much safer and kinder than a harness for controlling large dogs). Without fail, no matter which dog I was with, this group of four Yorkies came charging down the street snarling, snapping, growling, humping, yipping, and clawing at me and my dogs. Their owner would saunter up about five minutes later having been unable to catch them if he wanted to. He laughed off their behavior and shooed them back home. During these encounters my dogs would not engage, although Charliegh did climb me like a cat up a tree one day when one of them took a bite out of her ear. But no matter how much they were attacked, neither would fight back.
One day as the owner finally caught up with his brood, he laughed, “You know they think they’re big dogs.”
Having had enough, I replied, “Yes, but my dogs ARE big dogs. Thank goodness they behave like ladies and I follow the law.”
It was a snippy, self-righteous thing to say, but it just agitates me to no end when people don’t control their dogs. Our city has specific leash laws that this guy (and a number of other people) ignore. I will say, although they are not the only ones who are guilty, that small dog owners seem to be worst violators of not just leash laws but rules about dogs in general. I’ve seen tea cup sized canines peaking out of purses in the grocery store, sitting on laps in church, and one time sneaking out of a fanny pack and Disney World. And never are these dogs on leashes.
My point to my neighbor was this: he was not in control of his dogs. This presents a safety issues–those dogs ran across streets without paying any attention to traffic. And it was clear that he could not catch them. More than that, they were ill-behaved. Just because they’re small doesn’t make it any less dangerous. A few years ago our niece was mauled by a Jack Russell Terrier. My husband’s childhood puppy was killed by a Cocker Spaniel. We see these stories in the news every day about big dogs, but little dogs can be just as dangerous.
I also meant what I said about my dogs. When we rescued Perdita and discovered she was deaf, someone suggested we take her to a local trainer who worked with deaf animals. We decided that both dogs should receive the same training. Both of my dogs know about ten commands that are not “tricks” but are functional ways to keep them, other dogs, and other people safe–leave it, stay, heal, come, sit, go to your house (their bed), release, sit, gentle, no, and down. Charleigh knows a few more that are more fun related, but she’s a bit easier to work with since she doesn’t have to be looking at you to receive commands (Perdita has a set of signs we developed with her trainer.)
Perdita weighs in at about 60 pounds and Charleigh at roughly 40–if either wanted to stop the Yorkies, they could. And it wouldn’t be cute or funny. Being a pet owner is a responsibility and that includes teaching your pet how to be safe and how to behave. Moreover, if you know your pet has issues, don’t bring them around others. Case in point, after my son was born and I would take him on walks in his stroller, I found that Perdita would growl if people got too close to the baby. She never did more than that and I believe she was just being protective, but I stopped taking her on walks with him. Instead, she and I go on walks on our own and she’s a perfect lady.