It seems wherever I go, whether with my own dogs or with clients and theirs, I am accosted by loose dogs running freely at me. Often this happens when I’m working with an owner and dog whose problem is dog-to-dog relations.
A few years ago I brought my new rescue dog (Jay-J) to Pine Tree Park in Miami Beach, along with a friend’s newly fostered Rottweiler named Sophie. She’d been rescued from a junkyard environment where it seemed her job was to live outside and guard the “junk.” We had no idea what type of socialization Sophie had experienced, or how she would react if another dog approached her. More than 12 unleashed dogs came at us during our walk, making Sophie and her owner extremely nervous. We had tried to stay away from everyone by remaining on the outskirts of the park, but dogs were racing more than 50 yards to check us out.
The owners were completely unhelpful when we asked them to call off their dogs, or told them we were working with these dogs to help them. They felt their dogs were entitled to roam wherever they wanted. The funny thing is that Pine Tree happens to have a dedicated, fenced-in dog park section, but only one or two owners opted to use it. The rest were running wild. I began telling owners that the dogs we were with had parvo disease ( a lie), just to try and get some distance, but they didn’t care.
Unfortunately, even as careful as I am, I run into this situation repeatedly. Pine Tree Park is just one example. And as much as I love dogs, I really don’t want strangers’ dogs mingling with my dogs or my clients’ dogs when I’m not inviting them to do so. I don’t know them or how they are cared for. It’s one thing to be in an off-leash dog area and expect dogs to interact. It is another to put dogs in a dangerous position or to frighten people who don’t own dogs because your pet is loose and approaching them. Many people are afraid of dogs, including small, fluffy, and toothless pets that couldn’t hurt a fly.
Even if you are in an area that allows dogs to be off-leash, should your dog be? Some dog owners appear to be obsessed with the notion that their pets are entitled to roam freely without being leashed. It seems egotistical, as if the dog is actually minding them and choosing not to leave them -- something like people who live together but aren’t married.
Simply put, off-leash obedience can never be guaranteed.
There is always more inherent danger when dogs are off-leash than when they’re leashed. Even the most well-trained dog could be distracted or simply not listen to you one day. I once had a client with an adopted Chihuahua tell me he wanted to train his dog to be off-leash like the German shepherd who lived across the street. He resided on a busy highway, and I explained to him that off-leash obedience was never completely reliable. Dogs are not robots and they do not usually understand danger. The shepherd’s owner was taking a giant risk with his dog on such a busy street. Sadly, a year later my client informed me the shepherd had been hit by a car and died.
I do not know any other dog trainers who take their dogs off-leash near busy streets -- unless they have something to prove. Our dogs are just too important to us to take such a risk.
Read the rest here.
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Loose dogs in Prospect Park:
Today at 9:35 A.M. in the Nethermead, a bulldog with a 30-ish male owner, and at 9:40 2 rat terriers with a thin woman owner. A DOPR worker handed her a copy of the off-leash rules, and she handed them back. At 10:45, a German shepherd with a 35-year-old male owner in the Midwood, who was hostile when a DOPR worker asked him to leash his dog.
Yesterday, around 7:40 A.M., a large black dog on the south side of the lake with a male owner. And on Monday from about 7 A.M. to 8 A.M., the area around the Peninsula dog run had too many loose dogs to count.
Without exception, all of the owners were white.