An Encounter with Ignorance

You would think staying out of the actual dog park within a public park would be enough to ensure avoiding altercations with other dogs and owners…but sadly, no. I was walking Sierra and Bodhi this past Saturday morning along one of the trails that surround our local park. There are very few people out at that hour, so I was surprised to spy a large man walking his 40-something pound Akita mix off-leash on the narrow trail. They were headed directly toward us, and there wasn’t much space to maneuver.

I stopped while they were still at distance, and waited. We were in clear sight of each other, and most people in that situation will leash their dog. He didn’t. So I shouted, “Could you leash your dog, please?” He yelled back, “No, not really!” and kept walking toward us. Well, that was odd. I tried again: “Please leash your dog. It’s for his own safety.” I didn’t know how Bodhi and Sierra would react if a dog charged toward them. For all I knew, one might feel defensive and attack the dog, and the other would join in; or, Sierra would become aroused and redirect on poor Bodhi. I led them off to the shoulder of the dirt trail, had them sit, and rewarded them with treats for waiting calmly. The man finally leashed his dog. When he reached us a moment later, I said, “Thank you.”

What happened next took me completely by surprise. With a most unpleasant look on his face, the man yelled, “You need to train your dogs, you stupid bitch!”
Excuse me? Rude epithet aside, it seems to me that two dogs sitting calmly by the side of the road virtually screams, “Well trained!” But hey, what do I know.
Now perturbed, I looked directly at him and said, “There are leash laws here. Your dog needs to be on a leash. My dogs came from shelters, they used to be reactive with other dogs, and I don’t want to take a chance with your dog running up to them.”
“You’re killing them with what you’re doing!” he exclaimed. “My dog came from a shelter too. I trained him! You need to train them!” All of this flew from his mouth as he removed his dog’s leash again, having barely passed us. He then turned and added, “You stupid bitch!” in case I didn’t hear it the first time.
This is where I’d love to report that I took the high road and just walked away, but you know what they say about not taking the New York out of the girl. “You f’ing a-hole” I said (and no, there were no abbreviations involved), “Everyone at this park is going to know about you. Just keep it up.”
He answered, “F___ you, you stupid C___!” Seriously? The C word? That really crossed the line. I waited until he’d walked a bit further away. And then I called the police. I told them I wasn’t sure whether I should be calling them or animal control, and described exactly what had just happened. I gave them a full description of the guy. To be honest, I doubt they ever showed up, but it sure made me feel better to have called.

These sorts of altercations are upsetting, not to mention totally unnecessary. Look, I understand the desire to walk your dog off-leash. On those super early mornings when there’s pretty much no one around, I do it with Bodhi. But when I see another person, even at a distance, I leash him immediately. It’s not only the law, it’s respectful. Some people don’t like dogs, or are afraid of them; they shouldn’t have to be subjected to my dogs approaching them. And if the other person has dogs, I sure don’t want Bodhi running up to them. Even if Bodhi was perfectly behaved, the other dogs might not be, despite outward appearances. It’s courtesy, and it’s common sense. It’s mighty unfortunate when people have neither.

The troubling thing about the encounter, other than the risk of canine aggression and the socially inappropriate behavior from the two-legged of the pair, was the underlying belief the man seemed to hold, namely, that treat training is a terrible thing to do to dogs. Granted, I’ve never quite heard it stated in quite that extreme—that training with treats is killing a dog—but there are an awful lot of people who still believe dogs should do what we say when we say so, and that reward-based training is ridiculous and unnecessary. (Actually, I’m not positive he was refering to the treats—he might have been referring to keeping them on leash, but at the time it did seem he meant the treats.) Like so many people, he seemed to subsribe to the theory that choke chains or similar tools meant to “correct” a dog are not only the appropriate way to train, but the only way. And that those who believe differently are misinformed, or perhaps touchy-feely fools. It’s sad, not only for the level of ignorance, but mostly, for the poor dog.

I know I’m not the only one who’s had this sort of encounter. It’s easy to become disheartened, but it’s also helpful to remember that for every disgruntled, unbalanced, misinformed person who refuses to play nice with others, there are five pleasant, dedicated dog parents who respect the rules and each other. Here’s to hoping the balance shifts even further to the positive.

55 Responses to An Encounter with Ignorance

  1. monsteroyd says:

    The funny part will be when he shows up at one of your seminars with a messed up dog wanting help. You will have the last laugh.

  2. delightfuldoggies says:

    I can totally empathize. I had an encounter yesterday with someone and while they weren’t as rude as this guy, I just get highly annoyed with people who don’t obey leash laws. I had two dogs run directly at my reactive foster dog, who has also redirected at my adopted dog (who isn’t reactive). I had to get in front of her and put my hand out, and then continue to keep these dogs at a distance, using my own body to block and my other dog as a buffer. Meanwhile my foster was highly over threshold and completely stressed. I hate calling ACO but I told them they had no biz being in a park like this with off-leash dogs that don’t have total recall skills. If I see them again, I will call and report them to authorities. Our society is too individualized and people are ignorant about dogs in need of space. It is very unfortunate and as the weather warms, I worry about her and other dogs’ safety.

  3. Marni says:

    Wow! Gotta love humans.

    You should have added something like, “Do you kiss your mom with that mouth? Maybe she should have trained you better too!”

    Yea, probably good thing I wasn’t there with you. :0

    • Linea says:

      As my friend says, one can train one’s dog, but not the humans they will encounter. I believe in treat-training when one is attempting to teach the dog a new thing & I’m thinking with my current canine friend that I need to give him more treats to reinforce training.

      One day, we were out in the walkway behind our building & a couple of people started walking toward us, the man asking me a question. Ranger was barking so much that I couldn’t hear what the man said & I told him that. So he walked closer & closer to us. I finally told him that the closer he got the louder my dog would bark, so he gave me a dirty look & left the way he’d come. Two things here: 1) What kind of idiotic human walks closer & closer to an agitated barking dog?? 2) I’d only had the dog a short time & he was doing his job as he saw it. I’ve been working more with him on this barking behavior & trying to get him to understand when I ask him to stop barking, that everything is ok. Oh, I forgot to mention that Ranger was on a leash, one of those that I can make shorter or longer depending on the situation & of course I had him on a short leash.

      There will always be idiots out there, and there seems to be no way to train them out of their idiotic behavior.

  4. Jonsie says:

    Sounds like the owner needed to be leashed and muzzled as well!

  5. Jennifer Daly says:

    I have to agree have met this before when out with my 2 wolves & have to say, overtime I’ve met an aggressive dog there’s an aggressive man on the end of the leash!
    Best howls

    ps love ur book wolfdogs A-Z

  6. Pat Engel says:

    Yikes! How awful! I always carry pressurized Citronella when I am walking with my dogs. Like this story illustrates, I try not to invite trouble, but sometimes, it finds you anyway.

  7. Marion says:

    What do you think about using a yellow ribbon to let people know your dogs are not so friendly or fearful? That guy should of had one!

    • wildewmn says:

      Hi Marion, I think the yellow ribbon would be a great idea and very helpful, but only if people actually knew about it, which the majority of people don’t. Perhaps some large company will take up the cause and put funds behind advertising. I could see a potential problem though if a dog wearing that ribbon was approached by another dog and acted in self-defense, as he was clearly the one with the “problem.”

  8. Ashley says:

    Nicole, I want to say how sorry I am that this happened to you. I totally understand that as a woman walking dogs on your own, having a larger build man approach you aggressively can be very frightening (as well as wildly inappropriate, clearly). As a dog professional, I also have had encounters like this (rarely, thankfully), and I know how stressful they are. What I can tell you is that he was already walking around in a rage before he encountered you – who knows why – he may not even know himself. I have resigned myself to the fact that some people move through the world in a very unpleasant (and probably uncomfortable) mental state of varying degrees of anger or rage. I choose not to; I am intelligent enough to “manage my state”, to take good care of myself and the dogs in my care. I do believe that people like him are in a minority, and that the vast majority of dog owners would understand and appreciate your actions, as those of a responsible person keeping all concerned safe. Please don’t let him rattle you. You do so much good work; your posts are always a good read and teach me something new. Karma will get him!

    • wildewmn says:

      Ashley, thank you for the kind words. 🙂

      • Laura Walker says:

        Totally agree. This guy had issues before you showed up and will have issues long after you’re gone. Obviously he’s very reactive. If you walk that trail at that time again, I’d bring a 6 pack of beer. Toss the first beer to him at a distance, then a little closer, then a little closer, until he will take the beer from your hand. While he’s still drinking that beer, leave quickly, maybe dropping a couple beers behind you to keep him busy. 😉

  9. Dianne says:

    What exactly did he mean by, “TRAIN them!” I wonder? Are there aversive trainers in your area who are really zealous about it? Was his dog on some kind of punishment collar, which would give you a clue as to what he meant? I’m just so astounded by this story. Does he have any idea why there are leash laws in the first place? The people in our area who won’t leash their dogs just play dumb when something is said to them – not to say that’s any more acceptable or even less annoying, but the violent tone of his comments is surprising. And I think that’s where the clues lie – “stupid bitch” tells me way more than, “train your (already obviously trained) dogs.” This has more to do with a creepy guy with a misogyny problem than someone who is simply ignorant about dog behavior. He’ll be lucky if he ever gets to addressing the second issue. Oh, and never take New York out of the girl!

  10. Tracker's Mom says:

    So sorry you had your day ruined by this narcissist. Glad your dogs were confirmed in their training, would have been a serious set back for my Tracker as we are working hard on his reactivity. Lesson for us, hold your head high and don’t back down. Report and hope the authorities haul his ass up.

  11. chiluv101 says:

    WOW! I have met rude people but never someone as bad as this! I am so sorry you had to experience this.

  12. Diana Mc says:

    I had a very similar occurance with my reactive dog too. A dog left it’s property to approach us and the owner was most put out that I was in the street hollering for him to come retrieve his dog! Apparently my dog on a leash wasn’t trained enough to be out in public… argh… there are not enough facepalms for these people…

    • Evelyn Haskins says:


      When I had a very dog-aggressive dog. she was accosted by an off-leash dog near our own property. The owner was simply looking on indulgently. Instead of asking him to call or collect his dog, I said loudly to my dog, “No Honey you cannot kill him here, wait till we get home!”
      Surprise surprise the dog was called back innmediately and we had no more trouble with him or that neighbour 🙂

  13. Virginia Moore says:

    I’ve had similar experiences, but, in case you think that we R+ trainers aren’t making any progress in the general public. . . here is what actually happened to me in my very crowded townhouse complex. Start the walk with my 2 dogs, leashed dog across the street reacts. Owner has the dog watch, then sit, feeds treats until we are 20 feet away. A yellow lab is playing fetch off leash with its owner, who sees us. Owner immediately calls dog, who obeys instantly, owner leashes dog. Pit bull on a long line in the driveway, owner says down, dog lies down. Leashed puppy jumping all over the place with its idiot owner “Can my dog say Hi to your dogs?” “No, the corgi is not reliable with puppies” “Oh, OK, then.” I really think that things are slowly getting better. There was not one shout, no one “corrected” their dogs, no one said I was killing my two. Just wanted to share. . .

  14. Rebekah says:

    Wow!! What a jerk! I’m so sorry you had to deal with this. We occasionally encounter this on our walks, or people who have unrestrained dogs in their front yards and think its cute when their little dog charges aggressively at my three (large) dogs. It is unfortunate that their are dog owners and people out their who have no respect for themselves, others, or everyone’s dogs.

  15. Sharon Nasse says:

    Similar thing happened to me. An off leash dog approached me and my Belgian. She’s was such good girl! The dog was in her face, hackles up, tail stiff. She held it together as I yelled to the owner “please call your dog and get him on leash!” over and over again. Finally, my dog let out a cross between a yelp and a growl, when the guy ran over to get his dog. He then yelled at me and my Belgian, “Wow, she’s mean!”. Unbelievable!

  16. Jen says:

    Happily, the last time I told somebody to come get their dog, they did.

    I’m sorry that he decided you were “killing” your dogs (by having them sit? I’m so confused) and didn’t really hesitate with the epitaphs. I do hope the police did come and talk to him, because those kinds of episodes are not, in fact, all right.

  17. Donna Baker says:

    What an unpleasant encounter, indeed! I just have zero tolerance for people who are rude and this guy practically epitomizes the concept of rudeness! I took his comment about needing to train your dogs as meaning that you needed to train them to be off leash, same as his dog. I felt like his comment was meant to sarcastically denigrate the fact that your dogs “needed” to be on leash (whereas his was so “well-trained” it could be off leash). A flawed way of viewing the situation, of course, if that was in fact what he meant.

    I had a similarly frustrating encounter with a rude dog owner on a beach in Virginia last fall, and wrote about it on my blog site for a Golden Retriever rescue group:

  18. Sounds like he’s trying to be what he thinks an alpha male is. 😉 Ashley is so spot-on. This man’s problem comes from inside. I feel sorry for his dog. Our 2.5-year-old shelter Cane Corso does get walked on a leash, but that has been a bit of a challenge as he developed on-leash reactivity towards people (we’re not sure if this was an issue before he was abandoned half-blind in the street or only developed once we got him). The good news is that after six months working with a positive trainer, he has suddenly started making massive progress. He’s also very friendly with other dogs, but tends to bring out the worst in them since he never lost his puppy-in-your-face behavior. Now that he can have off-leash (but still muzzled because we don’t yet trust him around strangers) playtime with other dogs, we’re hoping that they will help him better understand canine communication and he learns to back off. That being said, if it’s clear that he’s not going to stop, I re-leash him and we walk away. Even if he’s not the aggressor, he’s clearly the “trigger”. (In addition to his obnoxious behavior, the muzzle seems to make a lot of the other dogs nervous, especially little dogs and ones that don’t like his rough-and-tumble style of play.)

  19. martie13 says:

    Unbelievable! Makes me somewhat appreciative of the fact that my fearful dog is so uncomfortable in the outside world that we don’t walk in public. We get our exercise on the treadmill and don’t have to deal with the a@@holes. I’m sorry for all of you responsible dog walkers who have to.

  20. I’m sorry to be laughing right now but this level of ignorance and rudeness is so ludicrous the only response I have is to laugh. Sadly this is reality here in Miami every day! LOL Your altercation is the problem with people and represents the height of irresponsibility, disrespect and ignorance. This presents a strong case for mandatory licensing for dog owners as I have written about here. 🙂

  21. Gosh, Nicole, you are waaaay nicer than me.

  22. Oh, Nicole. I’m so sorry. I’ve had people be rude to me when I have to protect Lilly in public from other dogs, but NEVER that verbally abusive. It makes me sick to my stomach even thinking about it.

  23. Pam Carlson says:

    I’m so sorry that happened to you..I’ve seen that so many times, and heard those same words. I think the majority of people want to be respectable and careful.. When I see people like that man, I always wonder how badly they treat their family…you can bet that guy shows no respect to anyone….

  24. Dee says:

    It seems to me you encountered more than ignorance. He had more issues than a philosophical disagreement about dog training. I’ve had similar — though not as rude — encounters. I live in a city where walking one’s dog on a leash is the law and I rarely see any dogs off leash on the street. However, those who walk their dogs using a retractable leash while talking on their cell phones — completely oblivious of their dog or what’s going on around them — is one of my pet peeves. I usually cross the street to avoid them. It’s not worth the possible consequences of a dog 15 feet in front of the “leash holder” attacking my dog while I break up the fight so they can conclude their high priority phone call. Talking on the phone while walking one’s dog is not the problem — it’s the lack of attention to the dog that causes the problem. Worse though, my neighbor puts a leash on his under-exercised, insecure, excited dog but doesn’t hold the leash! His dog always charges my insecure, submissive Jindo or any other dog. My dog’s insecure aura can provoke “corrections” from other dogs but for the most part, he sniffs and moves on or avoids other dogs when they walk by. I have always been able to stop/block the neighbor dog’s charges using body language and vocalization. I’ve politely asked my neighbor to hold onto the leash but he, “doesn’t believe in holding the dog back.” I asked him to consider that should his dog ever bite another dog or a human, his dog would quite probably be confiscated by the local animal control folks and euthanized. He replied, “My dog would never bite anyone. He just likes to pretend he’s tough.” Okay then. The next time I saw the pair walking toward me, I moved my dog from the sidewalk to the grass easement and had him sit; I stepped in front of my dog and took out my iPhone to video the two. His dog came racing towards us and, despite my blocking, went around me and nipped at my dog’s back leg (no broken skin or blood). I pulled his dog off and continued to video. The neighbor asked, “Are you taking pictures?” I told him I wanted to document that he didn’t hold his dog’s leash, which, regardless of of his beliefs, could protect his dog from being euthanized if it attacked mine — which it had just done. I didn’t report the incident to the authorities but I could have. The neighbor has not spoken to me since but I notice he holds onto the leash now. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with his dog that some responsible human interaction wouldn’t solve.

  25. Dixie Duncan says:

    Nicole I’ve had lots of these types of encounters. One in particular is of two very aggressive German Shepherds that frequent a local hiking trail and the guy has stated he hates mountain bikers and has taught the dog to lunge at them. I’ve had several encounters with him one of which where I had to kick his dog under the chin to keep it from attacking my dog who was cowering behind me and another time where I was running without a dog and he was walking them on a single track and the dog lunged at my face missing it only because of my elbow, the guy then grabbed his dog threw it to the ground and started punching it, Made me sick and I called the police, not sure if they ever came out but it at least made me feel better too. Thankfully I truly believe there are more responsible loving owners than people who should not own dogs. The guy in your case or mine should never have an animal and perhaps should never be around humans either.

  26. I didnt read it as him having issue with the treats – I have encountered this myself with my own dog…..I think his issue (and a lot of other people are in the same boat, including a recent detrator of the Yellow Dog Project) is that you shouldn’t have your dog(s) out in public at all if they cannot cope with other dogs – total ignorance and disrespect on his part……
    In all honesty his dog was probably a good dog despite his best efforts anyway, which I find is frequently the case with people that have really great dogs, they are ignorant of other peoples and their dogs behavioural issues and typically blame it entirely on a “lack of training”…it boils down to that saying (which is always made in good faith but very inaccurrate) “there is no such thing as a bad dog, only bad owners”

  27. Evelyn Haskins says:

    So Sorry, Nicole.

    But I learned here, through a VERY unpleasant incident, that the law does not allow you to protect yourself, let alone your own dog.
    (A long story which I won’t go into . Six month of grief and significant legal costs, just to plead guilty with extenuating circumstances ;-(
    To defend myself, it woud have involved acgtually being in the court-room with the woman involved and I could not even think of doing that 😦

    But I now carry my mobile phone at all times, so that I will be able to ring the police if something similar ever happens . Remember that the police represent the first person to make a complaint — even if that complaint is unwarranted. I also carry a small camera (a Sony Bloggie) so that i can get anything on camera to show the police when they get there.

    The best advice that I can now give is to simply put your hands together and say “Namaste” as you look at the ground and wait for the bully to pass.

  28. wildewmn says:

    Thank you to everyone who commented on this post, and to those who shared your own stories. With this type of encounter, obviously the better course of action is to keep calm and carry on, rather to engage. I’m not proud of losing my temper. It’s not something that happens often, and is much more likely when my dogs’ safety is involved. I would love to have reported that I acted in a polite, professional manner, but that wouldn’t have been the truth.

    My goal in this blog has always been to share information that might help someone else, whether through advice on what to do or what NOT to do; or, to share that something someone has gone through has happened to someone else. Sometimes honest sharing does not paint me in the best light, and that’s okay. As long as readers feel they are getting something from this blog, I am happy to continue to write it with as much integrity as possible in the hopes of educating and helping others.

  29. Rebecca Rice says:

    I have an “old-school” dog owner on my block. One who, I think, looks down on me a bit because my dogs are always leashed when outside their yard (a lot of people here let their dogs go off-leash, especially when the kids are out playing), and because I have a very shy dog that I am fiercely protective of when outside, who needs lots of counter-conditioning. One day, I met this guy (who I think had been drinking, just because he’s not always this “in your face” about dogs), walking his dog off-leash on the block. To be fair, the dog was doing a good heel. And he says to me “Look at that! And I didn’t use a single treat… just kicked the crap out of him.” (Could have been beat, but I remember hearing kicked.) I just kept on walking, because I didn’t want to engage in a discussion with someone who had been drinking and could be proud of such a thing. And, I also know that this is a dog that is constantly loose, harasses my dogs when we walk past, doesn’t respond to a recall, and that they are out looking for weekly since he’s wandered off, so I am not all that impressed by the results of the training!

  30. Sometimes I hate admitting that past encounters like these, and the anticipation of future ones, keep me from going places with my dogs. Such a defeating feeling. Thanks for writing about it. I guess you could have thrown back a, “Only my dogs get to call me b!@#$ and c!@#.” But I’m guessing subtle humor isn’t likely to breach the outer walls of his little pea brain. 😉

  31. Sonya says:

    Can’t believe you wrote a blog on an almost identical topic that I also wrote about this week. The lack of respect others show and a disregard of requests made. If I’d been spoken to in the way you were….I would have ended up crying! I need some “New Yorkness” LOL

  32. Stephanie says:

    I feel you! Sadly, I am now to the point that I really dislike walking my dogs because so many people in my neighborhood and the park just down the block don’t believe in leashes. I have 1-3 reactive dogs (depending on the situation) and choose to walk the 1 yo “puppy” separately because he was picking up on their reactiveness.
    One time I had an off leash pug-like dog charging toward us with owners in tow walking at a snail’s pace. My 3 barking like crazy, I yelled at them to run. They said “If we run, he will just run faster.” Fortunately, he stopped about 5 feet from us and his owners caught up. I proceeded to swear like a truck driver – and really felt bad as there were kids nearby on swings.

  33. saranimals says:

    My turn. Dogs are such an emotional issue that if anything goes awry, things can quickly spiral out of control. I’ll give myself about an A for diplomacy and maybe an F for failing to see the warning signs.

    Took my quirky heeler mix to an enormous (acres) dog area that has trails, the bay, etc. Plenty of room to get away if needed. My dog has his list of known “Gonna Be Trouble” dogs (Bassets, Bulldogs, and Boxers). Why? No idea. It just is. It keeps me on my toes. I am always vigilant about spotting them, leashing my dog, trying to go another direction, but if, say, space is tight and one of those breeds is exuberant about trying to play, I will turn mine away and do what I can to not let them mix until the owner can catch up and get their dog. I usually have to say, “Sorry, this dog has an attitude about Bulldogs for some reason. I’ll spare everyone the drama and just try to scoot him past. Thanks and sorry. Your dog is adorable.” It is certainly disheartening to own a quirky dog – I used to have the “good” dog and could feel righteously indignant about dogs that were aggressive toward her. “WOW!, I would think. Why would you own a dog like that? Ha, now I’m more familiar with body language, aggression, and etiquette than I had ever hoped to be.

    So, walking mine and another little dog today. Hardly anyone is out. Of course…we encounter a happy, adolescent Husky and I could sense trouble might be possible b/c it’s going to try to play and my 5-year-old dog is going to perhaps school him hard. The man also had a 3-year-old daughter with him. I thought *maybe* we were going to be able to get by as we headed out of the park. No, last minute my dog did he cattle dog shuffle. If you know what I mean, it’s like he gets low and peels out to rush a dog. *sigh and Ugh.

    I managed to grab him quickly, but he made the other dog scream. The owner looked like this was probably his first dog ever and his maybe not familiar with off leash dog areas. I was getting massive stink eye and he wanted to tell me off. Yes, I was in the wrong. I encouraged him to look his dog over. “HAS YOUR DOG DONE THIS BEFORE?” Well…yah. Mostly no. He’ll let Chihuahuas and things run him all over the park and is smart enough not to bully a Pitbull, another shepherd, or dog like himself. He’s not stupid, but..

    Meanwhile, out of the corner of my eye as I’m getting ‘told’, I see his daughter creeping toward the other dog with her arms wide open. “Is your dog nice?” Oh, please no. I’m already down with my first dog and reaching for the 2nd and have to politely interrupt the lecture to say, “Oh honey, NO, it isn’t a good idea to hug a dog. I can’t let you do that.” The owner finally notices and pulls her back–looks at me like I have vicious dogs. You just know you’re already a despised person at this point. Then, “HEY, there IS blood on my dog!” Oh no. “Yah! Right here!!” A little bit of blood around a back tooth. I suspect maybe he has bitten his own tongue or something. I’m not dismissing, but we can’t find a wound. It was so brief, I really thought my dog only did an ugly sounding air snap. I didn’t see any contact. BUT, I have to acknowledge it. “Why don’t I give you my name and phone number. Let me know how it looks tonight or tomorrow and I’m happy to pay for a trip to the vet. I’m very sorry.”

    Meanwhile…daughter has now started staring right at my quirk dog and is barking in his face. Yah. That. It’s amazing how many things can happen at once. So, now I have both dogs leashed and am putting all sorts of distance as the child is coming forward again. Augh. He finally notices her and says, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I am really unhappy with your behavior at dog parks lately.”

    We managed to say our goodbyes, and then I watched as he approached other people to check out his dog again and point at us. Ugh. There is so much pressure from the non-positive realm for them to want to see you slap your dog around too, I think. Separating isn’t good enough.

    “Some days a diamond. Some days a stone.” One of those awful days you wished you hadn’t left the house and also another disheartening Is-this-how-it’s-going-to-be now, my friend? When he was an adolescent, I just sort of accepted that there was going to be a certain amount of picking on him that he would probably experience. I would come home and say, “Gah. Ranger got a little clobbered today (for either being too rambunctious or too shy – take your pick).” If it was over the top, I would get between and save him. I would have appreciated the person whose dog ripped a gash in his side to have offered to pay for a visit to the vet.

    On these sorts of days you go home with a slightly sick feeling. On the other hand, I did better than I have done in the past. So..there’s that. It feels better to have managed to, for once or more, not let someone push me into that zone where I feel worse than the actual event. I guess it’s just and evolving process and it sounds like a lot of us here make an effort to be the good citizen–learn and try to improve. I admire that. It takes courage to get out there again. 🙂

    • wildewmn says:

      Wow, that was some encounter. I hear you about the slightly sick feeling, and I can tell that a lot of others here can relate. But whether it’s partly our fault or not, all we can do is try to remain calm (okay, I didn’t do a stellar job on that end) and do better the next time. It sounds to me like you did great. And it DOES take courage to get out there again!
      Take care,

    • Sonya says:

      Ditto what Nicole said 🙂 Chin up. Get out there and have a diamond day the next time.

    • Dianne says:

      Ohhhh, I can sooo feel that feeling, just as I’m reading your comment. At those moments I try to remember that I have learned to read my dog and his triggers, and the warning signs from other dogs. And, that my timing is not always perfect, but that doesn’t mean my dog is taking a turn for the worse, or regressing in some way. It’s so hard, because most of the time, the owners of the other dog have no idea what’s going on, and are either unhelpful or worse: angry and unhelpful, and you feel like you have to triage this horrific moment in a void. I guess we have to look at those “diamond” moments – those times where our dogs called off perfectly from something that usually sets them off, or the other owner snapped right to attention and did his/her part and no one was hurt, and say it’s ok, we can do this. I always tell my students that if they’re having an off day, or if they are reading the same kind of thing in their dog, then not to push it, and try the challenging thing another day. Oh how I wish I could listen to my own advice!

      • saranimals says:

        I really like and appreciate your reply. Yesterday I tried to get out there again and, for the first time in 5 years, I couldn’t bring myself to go in the area–even on leash.. Decided to walk him, instead, in the on-leash areas. Aaaand, what should we encounter on our walk? An off leash smallish-sized Boxer – exactly what he will fight with (a big hefty one *might* discourage him). Mama Mia. And, it was like there was some kind of uncanny radar going on from this dog.”LOOK! A dog I need to blast towards and pull some attitude and stare him down hard.” (Most boxers we encounter are just kind of bouncy.)

        I really don’t want to be a person who makes an extraordinary scene, so I casually arched our path away and tried to slip away unnoticed. Rats! Comes right to us. It’s a party and now I see 3 other unleashed dogs too – the types my dog WILL play with. Of course those don’t care to leave camp. I manage to turn my dog away and be the greeter with my hand out instead. It sort of worked. Luckily, THIS owner came running as fast as she could calling “He’s friendly!” (Still running nonetheless. I’ll give a big, fat A for that.) She grabbed her dog and gave us space. I thanked her profusely and gave my now rehearsed “Gah. Darling dog. So sorry, but this one is really rotten for some reason with bulldog and boxer faces. It’s downright embarrassing. I’ll spare you the drama. He would play all day with the rest of your dogs.” We laughed and no problem.

        I needed to hear the reassurance that it doesn’t mean he’s taking a turn for the worse. I’m not kidding when say that I swear the Boxer poopulation (heh, it was a typo, but too funny to change) seems to have exploded. Boxer puppies everywhere! Maybe just more dogs out in general now that it’s warm. Hate the thought of doing what I see others doing – walking with a muzzle. It’s not fair if he gets rushed by something and can’t defend. Oy. Love have a dog, and just have to continue to find workable solutions.

      • saranimals says:

        Meant to say, I appreciate ALL of your replies!

      • We’ve had days like that, where the entire universe seems to be plotting against the reactive dog, only ours s reactive to people he doesn’t know, especially if they’re not accompanied by a dog. Oh, and did I mention that he weighs 40 kg (~92 lbs). I tend to find these things happen in clusters, in part because you are nervous from a previous incident and the dog is more vigilant for the same reason. When that happens, I find it can be helpful to not go for a walk for a couple of days or to go very early in the morning when we we’re less likely to run into Scary People.

        Going back to Nicole’s original story, I might have an insight into the comment about her dogs not being trained. Our first trainer was a collar correction guy (albeit a mild one). When I would move away from strangers heading toward us, he would tell me I was “dodging the issue”.

    • Dee says:

      Wow! SarAnimals, thank you for sharing that. I always learn so much from those who post on this blog. I love the observation, “Some days a diamond. Some days a stone.” Good way to look at it. Thanks again.

  34. Heather Trainor says:

    What a horrid experience! I’d want to plank the guy. Too bad you didn’t have your camera on you, you could have taken his picture and posted in the dog park.

  35. paulcottman says:

    It seems to me that by “train your dogs” he was suggesting that because they were uncomfortable around other dogs or unreliable in their interactions with strange dogs that it was a shortcoming on your part. I understand where he was coming from but it was a bit ignorant, tactless and poorly communicated. I had a comparably wild experience about a month ago when a man with a German Shepard was walking on the sidewalk toward me as I walked with my dog (a parson russell terrier) in a heel position. When I got about fifty feet away from the man I could see him tense up and loop his hand around the leash. I also saw his Shepard begin to become reactive. Out of courtesy, not fear, I moved into the road to let him pass by as I continued o walk by, my dog completely ignoring his the entire time. When he gets a few fee past me he turns and says ” you really ought to train that bad little dog man” as his dog was barking and lunging at mine.

    It was like the twilight zone. Unfortunately we sometimes encounter people who lack the awareness to see their actions from anything direction other than their own Jaded perspective. In terms of the foul language and bitterness i can assure you it had little, if anything to do with you. He was a carrying anger and you happened to be around when he decided to let some of it go. Also, if you get a chance feel free to check out my blog at

  36. Melissa Caron says:

    My husband and I go camping a lot and and of course we take our dogs with us every time because it would not be fun without them. They are always kept on a leash, in the popup camper or in their soft cages. We have 4 dogs a Chihuahua, mini poodle and 2 rescue Chows. I can not tell you how many times people would walk past our camping site with their dogs unleashed and it causes my kids to go crazy, especially the Chows because their world is all about play and they believe the more the merrier. Rules are in place for a reason, I just do not understand why people think they are above them. As a result of one of these encounters we now have a hole in the screen on the side of the bed. Sasha (2) is very protective towards anyone but the poodle and taught Chaos (1) to be the same. It could be a blood bath if she felt threatened.

    As for the obese post I felt irritated that someone would be so over the top about a description of a person. Let me see 1. very large person 2. male 3. unrestrained animal 4. hostile VS 1. remote area 2. small person 3. restrained animals OK that says to me that it describes a possible dangerous situation. I read the conversation several times and did not find anything offensive. I would say get a life but I also could not be that rude and prefer to keep things positive. I wish the offended person happiness and able to move on.

  37. Thomas Bradford says:

    I was pinned to a tree by a German Shepherd in Bear Mt., NY and just knew I was going to be eaten alive when the owner finally walked up a minute or so later and called him off. What did she say? “He never does this! I’m so sorry!”

  38. Sol says:

    OK, the asshole behaviour aside …

    If I’m reading your argument correctly, you’re saying that both choke-chain / correction techniques AND positive reinforcement are worthwhile training methods. Seems reasonable. Am I right?

    • wildewmn says:

      Hi Sol, I’m not sure what part of the blog gave the impression that I think choke chain correction techniques are okay, but for the record, no, I don’t. But thank you for the opportunity to clarify, in case anyone else go that impression.

  39. I’m sorry this happened to you. My many experiences with people like this man is that they believe dogs have the “right” to be off leash and if your dog can’t handle it, they need to stay home until you can train them to accept any and all dogs in their faces at all times. No exceptions.

    Just about the only way I’ve found to help people understand why they need to obey leash laws is to remind them that dogs without behavior issues – seniors, injured dogs, dogs who just had surgery, etc. – can’t always safely interact with strange dogs because there is a risk of getting hurt. Most folks agree that these “good” dogs deserve to be out walking and begin to grasp why they should leash their dogs. They can also start to relate, knowing their dogs may have the same needs one day too.

    I wish I could say I’ve been able to help them grasp why it’s ok for dogs with behavior challenges to be out walking on leash too, but it’s baby steps. And in the end, I don’t care why they’re choosing to be respectful and responsible, as long as they are! My hope is that people begin to understand that ANY dog could need space and all deserve polite interactions, so it’s best to leash your dogs and ask permission around ALL dogs.

  40. Evelyn Haskins says:

    OK. Just a little voice of protest.

    I PREFER to walk my dogs off-lead. But I have them under verbal control. If we see another dog approaching I will either hold the collar or put the leash back on — for the other dog’s sake. But also because IF people see me doing this, they are more likely to call their own dog back, too. 🙂

    As for being bailed up by a German Shepherd — remember that dogs are very acutely aware of fear in others. I was speaking to a number of Police Dog Handlers yesterday, and they told me that the dogs are trained to hone in on the scent of fear. I know that MY German Shepherds have always been afraid of people who are afraid of them — Catch 22 probably, but learning to totally ignore a threatening dog can help calm everyone.

    A little deep breathing, and learning how to behave around dogs can help avoid such problems.

  41. Susan says:

    This former New Yorker thinks you showed more restraint than she would have! Wow! I have a neighbor whose dogs roam because he says “that’s what dogs do.” He has told me I’m “killing dogs by leashing them and having an enclosure for them to play in.” You showed him up by having two dogs under perfect control.

  42. Susan says:

    I have had many encounters similar to this. I have a Rottweiler, that I never let off leash. She has an excellent call back, but I am never willing to take the risk of someone reacting badly to her. She has been attacked by other dogs multiple times. A few years ago I was walking her down the street when all the sudden this little chihua came up to her, biting at her ankles. She tried to hide behind me, and if she had a tail it probably would have been tucked between her legs. I looked around for the owner, knowing the little dog couldn’t do much damage, and knowing mine wouldn’t attack. The owner came about five minutes later, after I had put myself between the other dog and mine. Mine was growling in the way I knew meant she wanted to be at home hiding in bed. She has never whimpered but has always growled a little when in pain. The man came over, yelling about having my aggressive dog near his. I was at this point standing in the middle of the street, with my leashed 120 lb, rottweiler hiding behind me and this little chihua growling at me. I honestly couldn’t even come up with an answer, I just stared as he picked up his dog and checked him/her over. He not once asked if my dog was okay. I calmly called my dog to heal, and she walked pressed against my side the whole ten minutes till we got home.
    She still is terrified of tiny dogs, which is awkward to explain when we are at the dog park and people bring there small dog into the big dog side. She has even jumped up on the benches when a dog came in one time and someone commented on how I shouldn’t let my dog jump on furniture.

    I also hate when people come up and pet my dog on the back first. I now refuse to take my rottweiler out to busy areas because I have had so many people come up from behind and pet her then get surprised when she snaps at them. I take my other dog out because he doesn’t care about this, but I always tell kids if they come up to pet him to always approach dogs from the front. I have had a lot of parents tell me that if my dog isn’t okay with being petted that he shouldn’t be near people. I just want to know how many people are okay with strangers coming up and touching them before saying hello?

    Also have you or will you do a post on breed discrimination. Because for those of you who have a ‘bully breed’ like me know how sad it is when kids come up to pet my bigger dog, but their parents pull them away from my rottweiler.

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