The friendly dog
This morning I took my dog out for her walk as usual. As we arrived at the field in front of the wood, we watched a friendly dog and her owner. The little dog was running around, totally ignoring the calls of her owner, and then spotted another dog and went careering over to say hello. “It’s OK, she’s friendly!” shouted the owner and walked away, calling her dog.
Eventually, her dog returned to her but immediately ran back to the other dog. At this point, the other dog’s owners were obviously getting a bit fed up and had recalled (successfully) their dog and had it close. Finally, getting no interaction, the little dog ran off towards her owner.
Then the little dog spotted us and came rushing over. Now don’t get me wrong, she was a really lovely, friendly little dog. Gorgeous. And my dog is also a really lovely, friendly dog. Gorgeous. But she doesn’t like being harassed. Twice she politely told the little dog to go away and was totally ignored. The third time she was a bit more forceful and growled at the little dog, who finally got the message and disappeared off to her now out of sight owner.
OK you might think. Where’s the problem? Bear with me.
A bit further on in the woods, we met the little dog again. Gorgeous, friendly little dog, couldn’t wait to say hello again…….and jumped all over me. With very muddy feet. Unfortunately, this morning of all mornings, I didn’t have my dog walking stuff on so the muddy foot prints happened to land on my nice clean outfit. Which annoyed me and led me to complain to the owner, quite reasonably I felt. But apparently not. As I was on a dog walk, I was told that I should expect this to happen. Now, you may or may not agree with this, but apart from the annoyance caused to fellow dog walkers, there are more implications to this dog’s uncontrolled behaviour.
It’s not just a dog walk and some people are afraid of dogs.
The area that we walk in is used by a variety of people, including dog walkers. It is also used by non-dog walkers, by school groups and by families. So imagine the same scenario with the friendly little dog meeting mum and her toddler. Dog runs up to say hello and jumps up at the toddler. Who, let’s say, is frightened of dogs. So, notwithstanding the fact that the toddler is now covered in mud, has possibly been knocked over, he’s also screaming in fear because the dog has jumped straight into his face. Even though she’s friendly, it’s not OK. This brilliant blog post gives some more reasons why some people are afraid of dogs http://wrongguytoask.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/some-people-are-afraid-of-dogs.html. This dog’s uncontrolled behaviour could create a real problem for someone.
Let’s also not forget the recent amendments to the Dangerous Dogs’ Act which could allow someone to bring a prosecution against the dog’s owner for having a dog that is “dangerously out of control”.
Dogs rehearsing undesirable behaviour.
Every time a friendly dog that has little self-control runs up to another dog, particularly to a dog that struggles with its own social interactions, there is a risk that the recipient feels the need to practise and rehearse behaviours that their owners would rather not see. These are largely normal canine communications, but if these are ignored, the recipient may well have to escalate his responses in order to make himself understood. The more often a behaviour is rehearsed, the more likely it is to happen again in the same situation, resulting in a dog who begins to respond inappropriately immediately.
Potential for serious injury to the friendly dog.
The earlier scenarios in the field could have ended very differently. Imagine that the first dog was recalled to the owners because he struggled to interact with other dogs (perhaps he’s frightened or anxious). Or that our friendly, uncontrolled little dog had rushed up to a dog that was on a lead because his owners were aware of his difficulties in interacting with other dogs and had responsibly decided to manage the situation this way. Or again, that our recipient dog has repeatedly been harassed by a friendly dog. It is not unlikely in these situations that the friendly dog could find herself in real trouble and even suffer serious injury. It doesn’t happen often, thankfully, but it does happen.