This post actually applies to dog parks and any place where people decide to let their dog be off leash despite the fact that their dog is supposed to be leashed. A very small percentage of dogs have been trained to the extent that their off leash skills are impeccable and worthy of actually being off leash. For the other 99% of dogs this is not the case, but that does not stop the vast majority of owners from letting their dogs run wild all the while not knowing how to truly gauge the temperament of their dog. The excuses are vast when dogs are growling, snarling, snapping, pinning other dogs to the ground or even attacking other dogs. We all hear it all the time, people will say how friendly their dog is and how great they are with all dogs, but usually it is that people are overall unable to come to terms with the idea that their dog might not be as friendly with people, dogs, or social situations as they thought. I have spoke to Mike Jones (the owner and head trainer of Primal Canine) about many times; it is not that people are bad owners, it is simply just that people are not in touch with or have a legitimate understanding of dog behavior, body language and basic training/dog manners.
Something I hear often is the term “socialization.” Many people perceive dog parks as a necessary step in the socialization of their dog while believing that socialization comes from a dog experiencing many unknown people, places, dogs and stimuli all at once, and over and over again. As this surely counts as life experience and definitely counts as placing a dog under environmental stress…this is NOT proper socialization. Expecting that your dog will get along with all other dogs is like expecting a human being to love all other human beings. This is unrealistic and in this situation dogs are no different. I find it troublesome when people bring dogs to public places who are clearly uncomfortable with the entire situation as they are flanked with strange dogs and people. This brings me to the next thing I commonly hear from owners, “oh he/she is just nervous, he/she just needs to get used to people/dogs/the park etc.” Well, thrusting your dog into an awkward and uncomfortable social situation is a sure fire way to set the stage for a disaster. If your dog is aggressive or nervous around other people and dogs, what you need is training – THEN structured socialization, not forced, unstructured discomfort in hopes that your dog just works through their issues on their own. Dog parks and public parks are NOT the place to socialize your dog, or bring a dog that an owner can otherwise not control on leash, so it is the last resort for this dog to have exercise.
It is exhausting and scary for those of us who are being responsible and leashing our dogs to watch all of the dog fights and scuffles that occur and wonder if next it will be our dog that is attacked or approached by a poorly mannered dog whose owner is none the wiser. This brings me to the next concern I have; I have four “Pit Bulls” and if there is a conflict even if my dog is licensed, well trained, leashed and the victim defending itself – my dog will be blamed. While walking on what is supposed to be a leashed dog area in a wildlife reserve park yesterday, my leashed American Bully was mounted and humped on three separate occasions by different dogs. Each time the owners not only did nothing, but they stood there and laughed as their dog humped my dog because to them it was funny. My dog, as most dogs, tried to get away and after about 15 seconds began trying to nip at the other dog – suddenly the owners cared about the situation and pulled their unleashed dog off of my dog. The most ridiculous part of each instance where this happened (all three times) the owners only cared about controlling their dog when they thought their dog was in danger of being bitten by a “Pit Bull.” Allowing your unleashed dog to run free out of your sight, knowing that your dog loves to be the dog park rapist is a great way for your dog to get bitten. The lack of manners on the part of owners and dogs alike does not even stop there. I have issues walking my dogs in my neighborhood where people constantly allow their off leash dog to run up to my dog and from dozens of yards away yell about how friendly their dog is. Well, that’s great but what if my dog was not? Once again suddenly my dog would be the aggressor because of their breed and the other dog would be labeled the victim because it was just a friendly Lab, Spaniel, Shih Tzu or whatever just strolling up to say hello. That situation would never be acceptable if it was reversed.
Overall, public places are supposed to be safe places where people and dogs can enjoy their outing and not have to worry if their dog is going to be safe or not. Leash laws are there to protect your dog and others dogs. Not leashing your dog is ruining the experience of the owners who are actually being responsible. Please remember to be competent about your dog’s likes and dislikes and ability to be in social situations, and always leash your dog.