What sort of dog walker are you?

February 8, 2011


At last signs of spring and today sunshine, snow drops and lighter nights coming! Isn’t life good!

I had a client last week, a lady and her a very good-tempered dog. I will not make it possible for you to identify her, other than to say this is a lady who I would say had good social skills, has taken time and trouble to train her dog and I am sure would think herself a very responsible dog owner. As a general rule when being consulted on any dog behaviour I have to get a picture of the dog overall and the lifestyle of my clients, it  is a big help when people are open and free in describing how they live and train their dog, as this owner was! It was a piece of this information that I wanted to share with you all and get your thoughts and comments please?

My client described how her dog would come to call generally very well, was social with other dogs and a pleasure to walk. The only time my client had any issue on walks was at weekends when there were likely to be walkers out without dogs, as on these occasions her dog would not recall and would often approach and bark at the people walking. Not that she would bite, in my client’s opinion, her dog was not behaving aggressively! On one occasion my client was shocked at one woman screaming in response to her dog approaching her and her walking partner, and informed the woman “there was no need to worry as her dog would not hurt her”. The only response was the walking partner waved a stick at the dog to deter her from getting any closer, my client was not pleased to have her dog frightened in this way.

I would love your thoughts on this, what would be your reaction in similar circumstances?

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15 Responses to “What sort of dog walker are you?”

  1. Phil Says:

    I would feel disappointed that recall wasn’t working, apologetic that the walker felt threatened and probably thankful in a way that the dog had been frightened by the stick and hopefully therefore had learnt a lesson. At least that is how I hope I would feel. I can see I might perhaps have others feelings in the heat of the moment. Might also depend on subtleties at the time. For example not sure I would feel the same if the stick was not just being waved but there was a real attempt to hit the dog.

    There are certainly a lot of people out walking dogs off lead in fields and woods in this area who don’t have complete control over their dogs. I have been guilty of this as well and am trying to be more careful as to when to take the lead off. However, it is very difficult. In a lot of areas you can go for a walk 9 times out of 10 and not see another dog or person and even if you do they are a long way off and plenty of time to get the lead on. Sometimes of course they just appear from around a corner and before you know it the dogs are together. The only solution to this is never to walk off lead at all or only to do so when the dog is 100% trained so will always come back. Tricky.

    • Marion Says:

      It is a tricky one Phil and i guess no one can be completely confident their dog will come back every time they call it. My gripe isn’t with people walking their dog off lead, indeed i wish i could walk Sid off lead but you’ve met him and probably realise that’s never going to happen!! My moan is with people who assume that just because they tell me their dog is trustworthy around people and other dogs that must make it ok if they worry me or my dog. I have no objection to any dog coming to say hello just don’t let it wind my dog up until he’s so excited he can’t cope!!!

      • Andrea Langton-Beck Says:

        I agree with your reservations about owners allowing their dogs to approach other dogs and assuming that this is welcome. I owned a very fear aggressive GSD for 13 years and I had to stop walking this dog where we would meet other dogs because every time we met a dog that was off lead, would not recall and was a bloody minded Cocker Spaniel that enjoyed challenging a raving GSD!!! it was a nightmare for me and my dog as it was a most unpleasant encounter and reinforced my dog’s fear as I had to hold on to a very tight lead and make sure my feet stayed on the ground. It made my dog look really bad but the off-lead dog was making the situation so much worse. Try explaining that to the owner, needless to say I fell out with everybody and we withdrew ourselves to fields where i could scan everything and avoid these confrontations. The point is that not only some people but also some dogs prefer not to be approached or meet other dogs.

  2. Bella Says:

    As someone who has repeatedly been assured that a dog approaching me and my on leash dogs is “friendly and only wants to play” I am afraid I heave a big sigh. It is not acceptable to be subjected to any dog charging at you and barking. Several people I know would be terrified if this happened to them. Only the other day an off-leash mid-sized terrier came roaring up to me and Snifter. I know Snifter does not take kindly to this so I squared up to the dog and stared at it; using body language to tell it in no uncertain terms to back off. It did, but then charged up again. I again squared up to it and it backed off. The owner meanwhile was feebly calling it back, to no avail. On the third charge I gave it the body language and shouted at it. The owner got quite annoyed with me for shouting at it. I felt entirely justified, and would do it again. I would also quite happily wave a walking stick if I happened to have one, and I am a dog lover as you know. Is it not an offence now to allow your dog to frighten people?

    • Andrea Langton-Beck Says:

      Your last question is an interesting one and I do not know the answer myself but I soon will, I’m going to a lecture on Dog Law in May. I can let you know the answer then!

  3. Anne Says:

    My ‘obedient’ dog will run over and hassle children, that’s the right word, hassle. She is just being friendly of course but why sd anyone put up it with it? Not everyone likes dogs.. And some people are terrified, even of soppy spaniels. A dog must be able to be recalled to their owners. I’m still working on it, aren’t I Coco… coco… coco……? COCO…. COCO….

  4. Marion Says:

    I too have been repeatedly assured by people with off leash dogs their dogs are ‘alright’ when out with my on leash terrier Sid. Unfortunately Sid is often not alright and can become aggresive especially when he feels threatened as he did recently when mobbed by two huge dalmations one of which was a youngster and wanted to play. Their owner was very smiley and told me it was ok because his dogs were alright. Sid very swiftly wiped the smile off his face by growling and showing his teeth and when the chap called his dogs to come of course they totally ignored him. I had to get between Sid and the two dalmations until they cleared off. I must say this isn’t the first time something like this has happened and wonder what would happen if my on lead dog bit an annoying off lead dog!!

  5. Thelma Bromley Says:

    my reply is that you have to respect that not everyone likes dogs. I am a lifelong dog lover/owner and have small dogs. I find it very intimidating when a large dog looms up to me and my dogs with the owner stating as in this case that the dog was “alright” and although a doglover through and through I would find it also intimidating if I was walking without my dogs and this happened, people are not mind readers, how are they to know someone elses dog is “alright” if it won’t return to its owner basically disobeying commands who can say? My opinion is that the dog owner was in the wrong in this instance.

  6. Andrea Langton-Beck Says:

    Dog owners sometimes do not realize that some people are actually really frightened of dogs and a dog running towards them barking can easily be perceived as a dog possibly attacking them. My niece is such a person and she would behave in such a way that she might actually elicit some aggressive behaviour in a dog
    by responding in what she thinks is defensive behaviour on her behalf but the approaching dog might experience it as a threat and respond accordingly which then again confirms the person’s initial misconception of the situation. So this lady needs to keep her dog under control and away from the walking population. Personally, I would not appreciate a dog running up to me barking and i like dogs a lot.

  7. vikki Says:

    I belive that actions speek louder than words if my dogs was not to lisen to to my reacall when being a nusance to people walking then i would get to my dog as quick as possable and use my body to back my dog away from the person if my dog was to far away from me to reach him quickley and my dog was prone to this behiver when meeting walkers i would invest in a remote control spray collar that when actevated will spray a harmless sent spry into the dogs face and distract him from barking at the person giving you a chance to call the dog back to you or time to get to your dog and corect the behaiver. Runing up to walkers and barking at them is unacceptable to me and i think that walkers will apreciate dog owners takeing action insted of just keep calling a dog that is not listing to owners recalls

    • Shane Says:

      Vikki,
      I suggest spellcheck before posting. I couldnt concentrate on what was written just shocked at the awful spelling mistakes.

      • Phil Says:

        That’s not very nice Shane. Actually if you couldn’t concentrate on the content perhaps it is a sign of your own shortcomings. Arocdnicg to rsceearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pcale. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit pobelrm. Tihs is buseace the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

  8. Sue Says:

    Very good Phil I could actually read that 🙂 and just for the record I think the lady in question was totally in the wrong. I would be more scared by a dog barking at me if I didn’t have my dog with me as I would feel it was threatening me and can understand why she waved the stick.

  9. Marion Says:

    Well done Phil I could read that easily as well. Wonder what Shane’s take is on the whole dog walking issue because he didn’t say!!

  10. Jane Says:

    I am very interested to know how you would stop a friendly dog barking when approaching other dogs or people. I am wholeheartedly sympathetic with the walker as, before having a dog myself, I would have been terrified.

    My late golden retriever developed this habit. To me she seemed to be over zealously saying ‘hello, how lovely to see you!’ but I totally understand that that’s not how it was perceived to those she was careering towards. I did exactly what Vikki said each time and made sure I got hold of her quickly to tell her off. I think this also made her look more threatening to the other party, which is probably why there is a tendency for owners to say ‘she’s harmless, she won’t hurt you’ as reassurance.

    My dog didn’t bark EVERY time and mostly came back when called, so it’s a mystery why she did it sometimes.


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