What the “normal” dogs do

While on my walk with Mia last night on the lovely first evening of spring, I started mentally composing a post quite similar to this one. Shoot. Turns out I’ve already written it.

But the question remains, what are we supposed to do when we pass another dog on a narrow path? I mean, if the other person blithely lets her dog wander to the end of its leash, I’m going to let Mia do whatever she wants to, which is usually to sniff between its legs.

Circumstances have changed slightly. It’s lighter, drier and warmer out, so we’re seeing more dogs (and we’re actually able to see the dog, and read the human’s facial expression).

I can’t read people as well as I read dogs, but the last three we passed, I sensed that the walkers didn’t want our dogs to meet. In two of the three cases, I suspect they were afraid of what their dog might do.

Scenario 1: Passing on the sidewalk
Mia and I see a woman and a golden on the sidewalk, on the same side of the street as us. Joy, joy, I think. Since Leo’s not with us, I don’t have to cross to the other side of the street. The woman veers out into the street to give us space. Her dog strains against its leash, Mia strains against her leash. Mia’s hackles go up. The woman murmurs something to her dog as I say, “You’re fine. Good girl.” (To Mia, not the other woman.)

Scenario 2: Passing on a footbridge
There’s a whole other anecdote connected to this scenario, involving a little kid running up ahead of his parents and falling down in front of me (and Mia), shrieking as if he’d been shot (c’mon, kid. You didn’t fall that far, and I wouldn’t even be crying if I’d taken that fall), and me thinking it’s just as irresponsible to let your child run out of your sight on a woodsy trail as it is to flout the leash law. But I digress. Before the kid fell, while he’s still running ahead of me and Mia (with his parents behind us), we see a couple of older ladies approaching with a small dog, perhaps a miniature pinscher. The ladies give me a look, a little like, “Can’t you control your kid,” and I just keep walking over the footbridge. The ladies sort of pause at the other end of it, but not far enough away to keep Mia from sticking her face in the min-pin’s crotch for a good whiff. I felt like the lady wasn’t too thrilled about having my terrifying beast that close to her dog, but maybe that’s just remnants of my reactive dog shame talking. I mean, if she didn’t want our dogs to meet she could have a) picked hers up, or b) given us more space.

Scenario 3: Passing on the trail
A couple emerges from the woods as Mia and I are walking on the trail. They clearly want to keep their dog from meeting Mia. I think the man asked the dog to sit, but then, like, maybe he changed his mind and kept walking (or maybe the woman knew the dog wouldn’t sit and she overrode his strategy). In any case, their dog might have growled, but stayed on its side of the trail. Mia pulled on her leash a little, but kept on walking with me, and her hackles didn’t go up. “You’re fine. Good girl,” I told her.

I guess a perfect dog wouldn’t pull on the leash and try to sniff another dog? But Mia doesn’t pull me off my feet, or bark, lunge, growl or snarl, so as far as I’m concerned, she’s behaving appropriately… at least as appropriately as the other dogs.

I suppose I could have been more courteous to the ladies in Scenario 2, but as I said, I think the people in Scenarios 1 and 3 were concerned about their own dogs’ behavior, not Mia’s.

Tell me, owners of “normal” dogs, are Mia and I doing this right? I’m happy to take your constructive criticism.


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Published by Kari Neumeyer

Writer, editor, dog mom, ovarian cancer survivor

20 thoughts on “What the “normal” dogs do

  1. I don’t know if there’s much more you could have done in those situations! I’m always on the lookout for other dogs and unattended children when we walk (two of Pyrrha’s reactivity triggers). It can be hard to communicate with people that you’re doing your best to give them space!

  2. Mom never worries much about what the other dog(s) are doing, unless they are out of control and the owner can’t get them under control. With three dogs in a pack most people choose to just avoid us if possible, but if they come at us and we don’t know them, we pull off to the side to just let the others pass. We don’t run into many dogs when we walk as we like to be up real early and do our long walk then or we walk weekdays in the middle of the day. Mom isn’t a fan of crowds, human or canine, so it works well for us. Oddly, there is a woman with three obnoxious little pinchers that we run into at times. She can’t control them and one always gets out of its collar and goes after my Kuvasz sister. Poor Katie is terrified of the little heel biting dog!

  3. re Scenario 2: I personally like that the old ladies didn’t pick up their dog. Let the little guy encounter the world on his own terms. They may be intimidated, but everything worked out okay and maybe they’ll learn to be less intimidated by big dogs.

    I rarely, if ever, permit on-leash/on-leash greetings on walks. Moses isn’t reactive, but on a small path we’ll cross the street (always cross the street when Alma’s there), or I’ll pull over and have him sit, or we’ll just pass and I won’t allow for any time/space to sniff. The biggest thing is I always walk Moses on the inside – away from the road and oncoming pedestrian traffic. It puts me between him and whatever else, and he won’t cross in front of me to greet (and if he tries to cross behind, it’s usually too late). A lot of my neighbourhood is filled with untrained dogs on flexileashes, and I prefer greetings to be controlled and always a positive experience. If that means far fewer experiences for them to always be positive, so be it.

  4. Good points. I do feel like, with big dogs, the responsibility is ours to give people space. Even when Leo was less leash-reactive, I’d cross the street when walking both dogs, simply because we take up so much space. My joyous feeling of not having to cross the street when it’s just me and Mia is my OWN version of reactivity!

  5. I get a whole lot of feelings (no one has ever said anything) that I am supposed to clear the way because I am walking three dogs. We had a woman almost get pulled off her feet by her German short haired pincher right in front of our house last week. Yes, my dogs were barking- it was in front of their house!- but I had perfect control of them, no lunges were made for a sniff or other wise. But the pincher lunged and went crazy. Anyways, my feeling from this exasperated woman was that she thought I should have made more way for her… after a long walk with my three dogs… coming home to my house… I think some of the times I get these feelings because almost everyone we encounter thinks I am a dog walker. I guess if I was being paid to walk dogs I am supposed to constantly cross the street or get out of the way and wait for others to pass. I think even if i was being paid, I’d still want to just walk. And Huxley leans in for sniffs every time he thinks he can quickly and safely get away with it- some dogs just do that; they’re DOGS!!!

  6. I find it interesting people are hesitant near walking next to you and your shepherd. I grew up with one though so I know they are one of the best dogs out there. I get the same thing when walking my American Bulldog, Storm. People hurry and try to get away from us or move to the other side of the street. The whole time they see her, she is in full wigglebutt mode. How can that look dangerous? I just don’t get it.

  7. Hi Y’all!

    It should be a requirement, like humans going to school, to go to school with your dog so you can both learn how to act around other dogs. In beginning obedience I learned how to stay focused on my Human while all the other dogs circled us. We all took turns walking the circle and in the center. It was an exercise that is useful when passing behaving or misbehaving dogs on trails and sidewalks.

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

    1. Wow, Hawk! That’s impressive. We worked on that with our first dog, but she was reactive, so it didn’t work out so well. But yes, definitely, all dogs should know how to do that.

  8. its always hard to know what people are thinking, its these reasons why 6lbs kirby i think is afraid of larger dogs now making him the problem when a happy go lucky friendly large dog passes by. People usually with a large dog always veer away from us even if their dog is friendly just because I think they think I am a small dog owner and would be afraid of my little dog coming into contact with their larger one, when that is the last thing from the truth. I am constantly trying to find happy large dogs to introduce to kirby so he knows that just because they aren’t small like you no need to necessarily change your attitude about them. Hence he has come into contact with literally no big dogs (except my friends rottie whom he loves) because people act like their back away just because they are afraid i will be afraid for my dog, when really its every large dog we come in contact with doing that that creates a tense atmosphere and makes kirby i think think big dogs are always dangerous. But because they back away I have to clearly accept to give them their space because I don’t know when it is the case of a unfriendly dog or just a worried owner.

  9. I don’t know what upsets me more: people who freak out because I’m walking a large German shepherd, or people who think it is perfectly acceptable to run up an stick their hands in his face. He’s gorgeous, I get it. But he’s a dog with sharp pointy teeth!

    My advice (for what it’s worth). Keep doing what you’re doing. Work on getting/keeping the dog’s attention focused on you. Praise/treat every positive step. Our dogs will never learn if they’re not exposed to these kinds of situations. Best of luck. I love reading about your dogs. I’m dealing with similar issues. Jedi is 18 months old next week. Sometimes he can be a turd and I think it’s due to insecurity (and/or adolescence).

    BTW, I love your blog so much that I am giving you the “Sunshine Award” (http://jaxdogmom.blogspot.com/2014/03/and-winner-is.html for details). I know I don’t comment much (I’m a dreaded lurker) but I wanted to let you know that I do pay attention! — K

    1. Thank you! I always love seeing your blogs about Jedi, too! A word of warning, Leo didn’t outgrow his turd phase until after he turned 3. 😉

      I’m also annoyed by people who are too scared of my dogs, and people who aren’t scared enough. I guess it’s tough to win with me! Unless you’re a dog, then you can do no wrong.

  10. I don’t think you did anything wrong. My take on situation 2 is that maybe she just doesn’t like butt sniffing in general. Some people are really funny about that.

  11. Seeing as how I don’t have “normal” dogs, I am probably not qualified to answer. But I think you acted correctly/appropriately. Gorgeous photos!

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