An Open Letter to the Man Who Smacked His Dog

Black ChihuahuaHi there! I passed you this morning while walking my dog along a mountain trail. I’ve seen you with your dog before, and you’ve always been pleasant as we exchanged greetings. I’ve also noticed how your dog is reactive toward other dogs, so we give you a wide berth.

This morning, as we hugged the far side of the trail, you allowed your dog lots of leeway on the long line. He ended up in the middle of the trail lunging and barking at us. I had just a moment to notice that he was wearing what looked like a wide-muzzled head halter, before you smacked him with the leash across the nose. He was startled, and stopped what he was doing immediately. You kept walking, and after you’d passed us I turned to see you yelling at him and smacking him again over his muzzle. This time he was cringing, ears back, trying to move away from you.

Here’s the thing: you seem like a nice guy. I don’t think you beat your dog; in fact, I’m guessing that at home, you take good care of him. When you smacked him the second time, I said calmly, “You don’t need to do that, he’s already stopped.” You replied, “I don’t want him doing that!” But let’s think this through. Although I’m not a fan of smacking dogs, at least the first correction was delivered as your dog was doing the thing you wanted him to stop doing. Clearly, he got it. He stopped. The second time, he’d been doing nothing but walking obediently along beside you, and got smacked for his trouble.

Look, I know what it’s like to be really irritated with your dog. If we’re being honest, most dog owners do. But how about using good management by keeping him closer to you, and better yet, teaching him what you expect? He seems intelligent and eager to please. I bet he’d love it if you gave him some instruction on what to do—for example, walk next to you and pay attention—instead of what not to do when passing other dogs. It’s so much easier for a dog to focus when he knows what specifically you’d like him to do. You saw my dog put herself next to me and look up at me when I said, “With me,”  and she got rewarded for it, especially because it was a difficult, high distraction situation. Believe me, she did not come fully trained, in fact she’d apparently had very little guidance if any, and had with such a high prey drive that it made training a challenge. Still, I’d rather have her happily complying than being fearful of being struck, and I’ll bet if you think about it, you feel the same way about your dog.

Again, I don’t mean to get on your case. It just pained me to see your wonderful, sweet dog being hit across his sensitive nose, and cringing that way. I truly don’t think you’re a bad guy. I just hope you’ll have an open mind and consider your options so that you, your dog, and everyone you encounter can have a nice, pleasant walk. Have a good day!

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11 Responses to An Open Letter to the Man Who Smacked His Dog

  1. C.E.Robinson says:

    Hope the guy gets your message virtually. It was kind & focused on behaviors. Lessons to be learned, or a reminder of why he ever thought a dog would fit into his life. And how he would raise it. I wonder, does he has kids, and how does he treat them? I don’t have a good thought about that! Christine

  2. Barbara says:

    I wish I was confident he’d see this…. or that any of US who have done this, will see ourselves.

  3. Pat K. says:

    Thanks for posting. Last night I was at a restaurant where I saw an older Golden Retriever service dog get a horrific choke chain “correction”. It broke my heart and angered the you-know-what out of me. The dog had done nothing in my eyes. The Mom of the disabled child was handling the dog and it made me mad that this Northern CA center that raises these pups sends them to their families with choke chains. Hope the man you write about sees this post and learns to capture and reward the good things his dog does.

  4. bronny1 says:

    I’m curious what sort of training you have used to get a high prey drive dog to walk beside you? I’ve worked and worked at getting my beardie/huntaway/terrier to not pull on the leash and after 6 months gave up and bought an “easy walk” harness as walking was so stressful for us both. (I work with dogs at a shelter too, and none of the techniques i’ve used there work with my wilful creature…). But off leash…she is great at coming back, she no longer chases sheep as she knows they are off limits, but walk beside me…forget it!

  5. Bill W says:

    As always, your insight is “spot on” and realistic. I consider myself a positive owner, but even my sweet loving Brittany will “get on my nerves” when she is doing things dogs do naturally. I appreciate this blog not because I think that guy will ever see it, but because it makes me think about “me” and my beautiful Brit. I need to get somewhere, and she is busy checking out a Robin, do I give a little harder tug on the leash than normal? Do I need to do more about getting her to focus on me with distractions? Does she understand “nature vs nurture”? Yes she does, but not always when it is convenient for me. Shame on me!

  6. Dixie Duncan says:

    Good for you for saying something. I see this so often and it makes me sick to my stomach. Most people don’t haul off and smack their kids when they do something wrong but they easily smack their dogs. Hope this message is heard loud and clear. Call a trainer before you smack your dog and break that bond with your dog.

  7. Mel says:

    I’m not opposed to the first smack..but like you said, the second was just wrong. The second smack basically negates the first, as now he’s being punished for being good…this is VERY confusing to a dog! Dogs don’t understand our frustration, and that’s all that second whack was. So what could have been a learning experience for this pooch is now nothing really, as he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t! Very well written post, thank you!

  8. Robin says:

    You are Awesome!

  9. This probably contributes to his dog’s reactiveness.

  10. martasyoung says:

    Reblogged this on Barking Up the Right Tree and commented:
    Lovely post by Nicole Wilde. If you’re hitting your dog the second time, you’re not punishing the behavior he did that annoyed you, you’re punishing whatever he did just before the smack.

  11. Great story and has got me aware about not tying my dog too tight..Thanks to you…Hope people are more compassionate with their pets…

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