“Dogs being dogs” is not the answer


by Carolyn Fuhrer

Recently, I was at an event where a dog who was walking with its owner was subject to a blindsided attack by another dog. Luckily, the owner saw it coming and pulled her dog away and luckily, too, the other dog was on a leash and the owner managed to hold onto it so no physical harm occurred. But what about the feelings of the dog who was attacked? No apology was offered and the excuse was “dogs will be dogs” and “he was just snarking.”

If you own and exhibit dogs at any level or just want to walk in the park, this type of behavior and attitude by the owner is not acceptable. Since when are owners not responsible for the behavior of their dogs?

Dogs do what we allow them to do and if we are aware that our dogs have issues with certain situations we, as responsible owners, should not put them in this situation. If we must move through an area where our dog cannot handle the environment, we must find a way to manage the situation and keep our dog under control, such as a head halter, no pull harness, etc. Dogs who lunge and go after other dogs should not be afforded opportunities for this kind of behavior and certainly owners should not excuse this behavior. If your dog is reactive, realize that you have a problem and get some help. A dog in this state of mind is not a happy dog. The greatest gift you can give your dog is the ability to be calm and exhibit self control and confidence in stressful situations, and if you are going to take your dog to public situations where there are other dogs, You are responsible for your dog’s behavior. Do not make excuses – “oh, he’s a rescue.” “He was abused.” “He doesn’t like black dogs,” etc. You are responsible to help your dog negotiate difficult situations by teaching your dog what behaviors are acceptable. Lunging after other dogs is not acceptable.

We, as responsible dog owners, must start to speak out about owners who are not responsible. Each year we lose more places that dogs are allowed because of incidents of aggression or threatening behavior towards humans or other dogs.

For the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test a dog must accept petting from a friendly stranger and must exhibit polite behavior when meeting a person with another dog.

Having these skills allows you to take your dog out in public and should be part of every dog’s education.

Dogs do what we allow them to do and we want them to trust us. Our dogs should not be subjected to dogs who are allowed to lunge at them or dogs who aggressively lunge when you pass by a crate or a car at a respectable distance, just as we should not feel unsafe walking down a street. Dogs have the right to feel secure when traveling with you under control. Dogs who lunge aggressively are not acting appropriately and it is time we address these behaviors and take responsibility for our dog’s behavior.

If your dog is not ready for a stimulating environment, you need to do more work – for your dog’s sake and out of respect for your fellow dog owners.

Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 90 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 2 Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. You can contact her with questions, suggestions and ideas for her col-umn by e-mailing carolyn@dogsatnorthstar.com.


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