The Importance of Socializing Your German Shepherd
November 20, 2008
Memories of the Forever Loved
December 22, 2008

I have a real problem with people that don’t obey the leash laws. I can’t tell you how many dogs I find wandering loose in their yards when I’m out walking my Furkids. This is to me, a real safety issue.

I realize that some people have super well-behaved, submissive dogs, those that politely stay on their yards and would not be considered a threat under 99% of circumstances. These dog owners are thinking of their dog as a dog, period. They are not thinking in terms that their dog is an animal, and that no matter how well they may be trained, animals are instinctual creatures first and foremost. All it takes is that one split second where the dog becomes so focused on something that all training is forgotten and in that split second something very bad can happen. This could be something as innocent as a scrambling squirrel or a darting rabbit that could set the dog off in chase on a dead run. Have you ever tried to stop a prey-driven dog on a dead run hell-bent on catching something? This pursuit can move very quickly to the street and an oncoming car.

a dog is *not* just a dog

People who don’t leash their dogs are just way to trusting in a creature that literally has a mind of it’s own. They don’t seem to understand that dogs are animals first and that an unleashed dog can pose a real danger to a leashed dog and the dog-walker. No matter how social, submissive and well-behaved that loose dog is, they can be considered a threat by a dog at the end of a leash and can quickly become a threat to themselves and their owners. Not necessarily a physical threat in the sense they may attack, but my understanding of this is that a dog on a leash can literally consider themselves a target when approached by an unleashed dog. This can be particularly true if the approaching dog doesn’t follow doggie “meet and greet” protocol. This situation can be a tragedy waiting to happen. The leashed dog is “confined and restrained,” the unleashed dog has the advantage and they know it. It’s much the same as cornering a dog. Whether or not you own a dog, you should know for your own safety that one should never ever corner a dog under any circumstances, no matter how personable and sweet it is. It’s kind of the same principal as a leashed dog in a no-leash dog park. If a dog feels threatened, they are going to go into what they consider to be “survival mode” and even the best behaved dog may move to protect itself if it feels threatened. Now, keep in mind that a dog’s interpretation of feeling threatened can be totally different than a human’s interpretation in any situation.

how innocently and unexpectedly a dog fight can start

I remember an incident we were involved in awhile back. I was walking my Furkids and a lady from a few blocks away, also walking her dog, came into view ahead of us. Her dog (a good sized very striking male Collie) is very dog-unsocialized and quite dominant. He’s definitely friendly to people, and even though he’s probably two years old or so, he has a lot of that “let’s play” puppy type energy. Because he’s not other-dog-socialized, he has absolutely no clue how to properly (and safely) meet another dog. He drags his owner around pulling on the end of about a 12 foot leash and she does absolutely nothing to control this. We tried several times to help her with her walking technique and explained the dangers involved in allowing the dog to walk the dog-walker. A dominant dog on a leash can quite often be identified as such because it is out in front of and pulling the owner on the leash. This is a dog to be avoided. This lady’s opinion is that her dog is not mean or nasty to either humans or other dogs. She’s absolutely right, but that doesn’t change the facts that this dog needs some real training and dog-to-dog socialization. The key here is that she doesn’t understand dog behavior and how dogs interpret one another’s actions. She’s thinking like a human, the dog is thinking like a dog and the two can be very different.

the dog you may think is at fault is not always the culprit

One day we came upon one another and I asked her if she’d have a few minutes to try a little exercise with me and my dogs. She agreed and after I explained that I just wanted her to walk her dog past me and my dogs from behind, she stepped into a nearby driveway while I put my dogs into a sit.

As I turned to tell her to go ahead and start walking, she took a couple of steps forward with her dog and suddenly out of the blue, her dog lunged at us. He wasn’t being mean or vicious, it was a lunge that he wanted to play and at the same time he zero’d in with direct eye contact on Riley. Riley immediately took this as a threat to himself and to me as he was between the Collie and me. The Collie’s action and direct eye contact immediately sent Riley into protect mode. He was not about to let this Collie anywhere near us and so the fight was on. We managed to get them separated, but not before her Collie wound up with a nasty scratch to the bridge of his nose. Poor Nissa got dragged around in the scuffle. Other than the scratch to the nose, all humans and dogs involved were ok and the scratch healed very nicely. To this day, I have no idea if it was from Riley’s tooth or toe nail because things happened so fast I couldn’t tell.

About two weeks later, she and her Collie were out walking and a couple of Labs came bounding out of their house. Now, Labs are pretty social dogs, they are considered to have active personalities but it’s not often you hear about a vicious Lab, I don’t think I ever have. What do you suppose happened? You guessed it, the Collie lunged at the Labs just like he had lunged at us and once again the fight was on. You’d think after two instances of the same kind of behavior that she might get the idea that her dog is at the bottom of all this commotion, but she really doesn’t get it. Instead she tells people how her dog was attacked not only by a German Shepherd but by a couple of Labs as well and she actually reported the incidents to the Police. Think about it, which dog actually caused these fights to happen? It wasn’t the German Shepherd or the Labs, it was her dog! You will never ever get her to understand this, admit it or do anything about it. Both she and her husband are of the belief that you cannot put two male dogs together because they will fight. That just simply isn’t so, there are any number of male dogs out there that can and do interact with other male dogs without a fight taking place.

About a week later I was able to speak with her and check out the injury to her dog (for the second time) which was healing up very nicely and may not even leave a scar. However, we now avoid any and all contact with this woman and her dog. If we see them coming, we go to the other side of the street or take a turn and go the opposite direction. I fully admit that I picked the absolute wrong dog and owner to try this exercise with, so partial blame belongs to me.

This was two leashed dogs. I shudder to think what would have happened had we been passing by their yard had the Collie been loose? Here is a sweet dog that just has absolutely no clue how to properly approach another dog and you can see what happened. Socializing and training one’s dog is the responsibility of the owner.

We have also passed a home where there are two hunting type dogs that are constantly loose in the yard. Their approach is to run towards us. Again, some dogs will take this as a threat, especially if the dog being approached in this manner is leashed. It’s instinct to protect themselves and their family. How do you blame a dog for reverting to it’s instincts? You don’t.

Now consider the fact, the loose dog(s) may be a small breed. Little dogs with dominant personalities tend to charge at dogs (and sometimes humans) that come along in their efforts to assert their dominance and protect their territory and families. We once encountered a Daschund that came barreling out of it’s house one day as we passed by. A charging dog (of any size) is a definite hazard and danger to himself! Little dogs have no clue they’re smaller than a larger dog. Even the tiniest Terrier has no fear! Size has no bearing in the animal world. If a little dog came charging at Riley, not only is his prey drive going to kick in but the charging action and excited barking activity is going to throw him immediately into protect mode. You may be able to teach a prey-driven dog some restraint but you will never totally remove it or train it out of a dog. I have no doubt, the little dog is going to lose and may die because of it’s own actions. Luckily for us the owners of the charging Daschund were right behind him and I was able to keep him from getting to close to Riley. With some quick action we managed to avoid the little guy getting hurt and his owners were very apologetic for their dog having gotten out of the house. Should something bad happen and this type of thing were to go to court, the dog that will be blamed by the public and probably by the court will not be the little dog that caused the problem in the first place. It’s going to be the big dog, particularly if it’s a big dog that’s considered to be a protective breed dog.

how a dog fight is like a bar fight

Think about it folks. Let’s say you’re in a bar and there’s a guy dressed like a Harley biker. He’s big, he’s burly, he’s wearing a wife-beater shirt and his arms are tattooed up and down. Looks like trouble, right? Not someone you’d want your daughter to date or that you’d even consider taking home to meet Mom. Then there’s the innocent looking, quiet shy guy sitting at the end of the bar who’s one you’d never in a million years expect to be the one to start a bar fight. But you know what? Sometimes he is and sometimes it’s the biker-dude who comes to the rescue and steps in to get the trouble under control. Same principal with dogs. People who think their dog would never harm a fly let alone a person, especially a child may be just the one under the right conditions to do some serious damage. Just like we can’t think like a dog, our dogs cannot think like humans. The two species translate things differently.

I can’t even count how many people around here leave their dogs loose in the yard. I avoid walking in the area of these homes and if I can see a loose dog ahead of us at a home I’m not familiar with, I must take steps to avoid a potential confrontation. This really cuts down on where we can walk and that’s just not fair.

Leash law violators make me very angry. I feel it’s very irresponsible pet ownership to allow one’s dogs to be loose and more importantly, it’s dangerous. There are leash laws in our city that are outright being ignored by some dog owners. We have to be careful where we walk, which is not only nerve-wracking and makes for a tense walk, it’s flat out unfair to to those walking their dogs on a leash. I do not like walking my dogs while constantly having to be on guard for a loose dog. I would like to experience relaxation when walking, that’s one of the things walking your dog is all about! I can’t relax totally if I’m always watching for loose dogs and having to come up with quick detours in order to keep all dogs safe. The bottom line is, I shouldn’t have to!

I decided that I will report these people to the Police. I note addresses and locations of homes that I find have loose dogs and I let the Police Department know about it. I expect, if I continue to report them, eventually they’ll start receiving citations and that they should start leashing their dogs or building fences. Perhaps if more people would do the same, we could make walking our dogs a safer activity for all dogs and humans. In most instances, whatever you report to your local Police Department can be reported anonymously if you do not wish to provide your name or other identifying information.

4 Comments

  1. Britt says:

    The example you gave about the collie, from what I gather, It was your “fur kid” whom you didnt have under control and it was Her dog that got hurt. Not the otherway around. If you came up to me and told me how to walk my dog i`d be very offeneded and I`d of told you to mind your own buiness.

  2. Britt says:

    An owner should be able to have there dogs loose in there back yard. In a fenced in back yard. Having a dog on the leash in a fenced in back yard is too much. If you call the cops on an owner who has there dog in a fenced in back yard your an over-protective busy body.

  3. Tomas Shacklee says:

    I found this article very interesting and to the point that it affects every one of us. The news papers today, carry constant stories of babies, small children and grown adults being attacked and even killed. The dogs owner when found, can only say I am very sorry and do not understand that they should be responsible .I have myself been attacked several times as well as my wife and can attest to the costs involved for hospitial or vet charges.
    I would like to contact the author of this fine article, and get permission to reprint it in a local public paper that may bring a different understanding and change of peoples attutide. THANKS AGAIN For swell article.

    I can be contacted by mail at: Tomas Shacklee
    Unit 29234 Box R495
    APO AE 09102

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