No, Our Dogs Can’t Meet

It was as if they were waiting for the press release.

The same evening the local news ran stories about urban coyotes actively denning in Calgary (and thus being a risk for dog owners) was the same evening an urban coyote in our own neighbourhood began following me, Moses, and Alma on our evening walk.

A long time reader may recall this has happened before to a much greater degree, and my chosen solution ever since has been to carry an air horn when walking the dogs in the dark. The air horn is a great deterrent and scares them off so you can leave and give them some space. I wouldn’t recommend it for those who walk fearful dogs, but neither Moses nor Alma fall into that category, making it a great solution for us.

Of course, just because I have an air horn doesn’t mean I’m going to walk through coyote territory every night. As long as they’re denning (and thus threatened by big dogs such as Moses and Alma – hence the interest in our presence), we’ll cut that area out of the itinerary for evening walks, for about the next month or two.

Given that my weeknight dog walks often end up being post-sunset (I’m busy, a procrastinator, or both), this means we are left sticking to the densely residential streets of our neighbourhood.

And if my suburb is anything like yours, you know that means it’s littered with barky little dogs on the end of flexi-leashes. And some barky medium-sized ones, too. Yes, even at 10:00pm.

Barky dogs on flexi-leashes - an accurate portrayal

Barky dogs on flexi-leashes – an accurate portrayal

Having walked the dogs regularly for so long, I’ve come to recognize most other neighbourhood dog walkers and from which general areas they will emerge. One condo complex in particular can produce a little barky dog on a flexi-leash in whatever colour you desire: white, grey, black, brown… there’s (at least) one of each.

Now, I do not permit on-leash greetings with my dogs very often, if ever. I always want Moses and Alma to have positive interactions with other dogs. If I can’t guarantee that, I’m inclined to err on the side of caution and not have any greeting. Especially when it comes to agitated dogs who seem put off by Moses’ and Alma’s sizes alone.

In the case of dogs on flexi-leashes, that often means remaining across the street. Even if Moses has no response to these dogs barking and straining on their retractable contraptions (aside from the odd glance over at the commotion, he just keeps on truckin’, not even an ear perk most times).

This strategy recently bewildered one neighbourhood small dog/flexi-leash owner in particular. She’s a regular – we usually see her and her barky little dog a few times a week.

Each time, Moses and I walk past, her dog barks and pulls. Each time, she pauses to watch us walk by. And, each time, she coos at her dog: “shhhh… it’s okay… be nice… you just want to be friends, don’t you? It’s okay….”

We just keep walking.

One night in particular, we reached a junction to find her and her flexi-leash loitering there. Depending on which direction she and her dog would choose to go next would determine what Moses and I would do to avoid them.

So, while her dog barked and pulled towards us, I just asked Moses to sit so we could wait and see what direction she was heading.

She must’ve thought I was nuts.

Her dog continued to bark and pull, and her typical high-pitched attempt to sooth her dog (“shhhh… quiet… it’s okay… he’s a friendly dog”), did exactly what it always does; i.e., nothing.

We continued to wait patiently.

Then she picked up her dog – who continued to bark – and started towards us.

“Can they say hi?” she hollered towards me.

“No, thank you,” I quickly replied. Then I crossed the street with Moses, leaving her behind us holding her still-barking dog.

All of that greeting she’d requested seemed like a bad idea. Barking dog. Being carried. Oblivious owner. Flexi-leash.

Nope, not going to happen.

If her dog freaked out even more, or something went sour, do you know whose fault it is? It’s the giant black dog’s fault. It’s always the big dog’s fault. Or, more accurately, it’s always the big dog’s owner’s fault. So, no, thanks.

I like to set up for success, not failure.

We saw her again a couple of nights after this happened.

We were across the street heading in opposite directions, and I stuck to our usual plan of keep walking/no greetings.

As usual, her dog barked at us.

And, as usual, she began talking to it.

“Shhh…. Be quiet…. It’s okay… that lady doesn’t WANT you to be friends with her big dog… yes… even though you’re really nice… it’s okay… she doesn’t like us.”

38270d72_TheOffice-Ummm

Now, I’m not one for confrontation, so I just passive-aggressively made eye contact with her instead of shouting “IF YOUR DOG WAS BETTER BEHAVED MAYBE THEY COULD BE FRIENDS” like I was tempted to.

But that’s okay.

We just kept walking and I started writing a post much like this one in my head.

She’d soon get some perspective, however.

Last week I was walking Moses and Alma and we passed this very same lady and her barky dog.

And you know when you’re just having one of those ‘off’ nights? You’re cranky or tired and walking the dogs mostly because it’s your responsibility and obligation even though you’re not really in the mood?

And then to top it off the dog is excited by EVERYTHING?

Yeah, we were having one of those nights. I don’t know if it was the wind or the recent snow melt, but Alma was jazzed by everything. OMG – a bunny! OMG – I must sniff this! OMG – we’re walking and it’s the best!

Alma

Alma

Her enthusiasm is adorable…  if you’re prepared for it.

You see, one of the things we continue to work on with Alma is her reaction when she’s on leash and sees other on-leash dogs. There have been marked improvements since we got her, and the overall trend is good, but we still have occasional off nights.

On those off nights, she gets incredibly excited. She pants heavily, she bolts towards the other dog, and she bounces up and down like she’s on a trampoline. She’s very exuberant and – I think – frustrated that there’s another dog just RIGHT THERE, but the stupid leash won’t let her do what she wants.

If you’re on your game, anticipate it, and handle it well, this reaction can be mitigated. If you’re, say, tired and cranky and not on the ball, the reaction can get the best of you.

The latter was the case this time.

Alma was excitable and I was slow to see the dog and do anything about it before she could. I could’ve stopped. I could’ve turned around. I could’ve asked the dogs to sit. But I didn’t do any of that and we walked right into it.

As soon as the dog saw us, it barked and pulled per the normal course. And as soon as Alma saw this, she went for it.

And I mean WENT for it.

She used all 100+ pounds of her to sprint towards the lady and her dog – Moses and I bewildered and in tow behind her.

By the time I recovered my balance, we were a few steps off the sidewalk and onto the road. The little barky dog still barked. The owner stared at this commotion in surprise. (Though, it’s not like my dog was exhibiting any worse behaviour than her dog, it’s just that my dog is bigger.)

I got my wits about me, got everyone back on the sidewalk, and ducked our little pack behind a parked car to take a moment. I heard the lady tell her dog “shhh… quiet… let’s keep going.”

Good call.

Now when we see her on our walks, she continues on her way. Her dog still barks at us, but she no longer pauses and talks to her dog about being nice or the potential to be friends.

Because maybe you don’t want to be friends with everyone.

And some times, people have a good reason for not being friends with you.

Barks&BytesThis post is part of the Thursday Barks & Bytes Blog Hop, hosted by 2 Brown Dawgs and Heart Like a Dog. Go pay a visit to the hosts and check out other hop participants.

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About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

37 Responses to No, Our Dogs Can’t Meet

  1. Abby says:

    Ugh, some people never learn! That sounds like my worst walk nightmare: barky, bratty little dog on a Flexi lead. We ALWAYS cross the street for anyone walking their dog on a retractable leash, but that combination right there is toxic.

  2. Mel says:

    Love this! I am of the same mind when walking on leash. My dogs don’t greet other dogs unless I have control of the situation. This is one woman and dog I would have avoided as well. So glad she learned a lesson. Sometimes people just don’t get it.

  3. 2browndawgs says:

    Excellent post. I wish more people understood that not all dogs can be friends in every situation. I think you handled it really well. Thanks so much for joining the hop!

  4. trainingtoby says:

    I had to laugh. I confess, we use a flexi-leash on most walks. We also use the little button thingie that converts it into a stable 4 ft leash too. Every. Time. Another. Dog. Approaches. So I really do not understand the whole lunging and barking thing. (Taking five obedience classes is pretty effective too). My husband tends to ask if the dogs can say hi, and the answer is usually yes. I tend to keep on trucking except for a few well-known friends. I have noticed that it’s the smallest dogs that do the most aggressive barking at Toby, whether on flex leashes or not.

  5. rumpydog says:

    I think little dogs cause way too much trouble for the rest of us.

  6. Great job! I hate those flexi leads! Personally, they feel uncomfortable in my hand — too difficult for my sometimes arthritic fingers to hold on to. But more so for the very reason you wrote about.

  7. Yeah Alma! Having a big dog who isn’t crazy about other dogs, I can appreciate this all too well.I wish dog ownership required a license and folks had to pass a test…a test that I design.

  8. harrispen says:

    There are definitely challenges with owning large dogs and having encounters with small ones.

  9. I love this post!! Funny and I’m a procrastinator too! I walk Donna on a flexi lead nowadays… but have now become an expert on thumbing it on and off so that she stays right by my side on off days! :P

  10. You and i would be great passive aggressive friends. LOL I think I would have handled it all the same way. My mind wants to yell obscenities, but my mouth sometimes has better sense.

  11. Oh I hear ya. two of my huskies are ok for leash greets, but my one (Mika) is not. The second the other dog gets excited (overly) or starts barking, she starts growling and basically gets perturbed. SO I stay away from that as much as I can.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  12. Gabi says:

    I avoid on leash greetings, especially since all three of my dogs have the potential to be reactive – sometimes I’m the one with the barky obnoxious dog but I’m trying to run AWAY from the other dog, not toward them lol. Usually I’m the one sitting there shoving treats in their mouth and playing the “hide behind cards parked in the street” game until we pass. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone try to be friends with my dogs because I think my body language makes it reallyyyy clear I have no interest in trying to get anywhere near your dog.

  13. Will and Eko says:

    It’s tough, especially with bigger dogs – you’re right, the blame will inevitably fall your way so it’s best to be overly cautious. Especially when flexleads are involved. I’m also surprised the coyotes have any interest in your two big pups, usually they’re more skittish around bigger dogs. Well at least the ones around here. Maybe you have the bolder cousins in your neighborhood.

    • ThatJenK says:

      The coyotes do usually avoid us, but it’s different during denning season. They’re very protective of young pups, so this time of year they see big dogs as threats to their young and will try to distract them/draw them away from the den. (After the year he approached us and circled us about 10ft away, I called Fish & Wildlife to figure out wtf and that’s what they said.) Small dogs, however, can be seen as food any time of year, and we get a few stories every year here of people losing little dogs to brazen, hungry coyotes.

  14. FleaByte says:

    I love your posts. :) Your advice is just as good for humans. You don’t want to be friends with everyone. :)

  15. Sue says:

    Brilliant post. My dogs came running when they heard me almost choke… I was reading the line: “that lady doesn’t WANT you to be friends with her big dog… yes… even though you’re really nice… it’s okay… she doesn’t like us” I have a real pet peeve about peeps with little troublemaker dogs… ignorant peeps, that is.

    Long ago you suggested getting an air horn re: our own coyote problems. Most of the time it works like a charm. Thanks!

    • ThatJenK says:

      Haha – glad to hear it! About the air horn, not the choking! I’ve found the air horn might not totally cause them to run away, but they’ll back off enough that we get extra space to make an exit, which is all I need.

  16. Jodi says:

    Oh how I relate to this post. We have our own challenges with off-leash dogs. The last time Delilah and I walked in the woods we encountered two. I saw the one coming and it was one of those “damn it, I’m tired of avoiding everyone and their stupidity” so I kept walking. The guy tried, but his dog wouldn’t listen. Meanwhile Delilah was behaving marvelously on her leash but the dog kept coming, so I dropped the leash and threw my hands up in the air and gave a very loud, frustrated sigh. The guy said, “They’ll figure it out.” And they were fine, but it still pissed me off. AND I don’t know how it would have shook out if I hadn’t dropped the leash, because that always seems to be the common denominator when Delilah reacts. Not that I’m blaming her because I wouldn’t want to feel trapped either. I just wish more people were aware of it.

    There is this one woman who walks three Papillions or Cavaliers (I haven’t been close enough to tell) off-leash at our park. One day I stood on a trail in the woods shouting back and forth with her as she tried the “they’re friendly” “they’re use to big dogs” “blah, blah, blah” How in the name of Sirius do we get people to educate themselves?

    And thank you for joining the blog hop!

    • ThatJenK says:

      That’s exactly what I do in those situations, too – if I can’t prevent a greeting with an off-leash dog, I’ll drop my leash. Always goes better that way (provided Moses doesn’t trot off and pee on his leash, which has been known to happen…).
      But you still had the right to be pissed – if he had good recall with his dog (or if it was on-leash), the whole thing could’ve been avoided and you wouldn’t have had to be worried in the first place.

    • Beth says:

      Anytime someone starts yelling “she’s friendly” towards me and my pup, I ALWAYS yell back, “She’s not!” It’s amazing how that makes them hustle to get their dog instead of just plodding along.

  17. Hawk aka BrownDog says:

    Hi Y’all!

    Flex leads should be made illegal!!! I ended up with my Human in the hospital with a concussion when we stopped at a rest stop. We gave a wide berth to a small dog on a flex lead. The Humans were between me and “that dog”. I was walking the opposite way, at heal. It charged and all 100 lbs of me leaned into my Human…the owner said our leads became entangled. He was nice enough to catch my lead and hold me until my unconscious Human could be rescued by my Papa Human. The little dog was quite friendly and so was I…it was the gosh darn flex lead that caused the problem.

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  18. Am I allowed to laugh? Because you really got me with your last line. :)

  19. I would freak out in overdrive if I saw a coyote walking in our neighborhood! They howl in the woods surrounding our neighborhood but haven’t made any appearances along our streets! Maybe one will want to befriend your yapper neighbor and the owner can try to make her dog understand that it wants to just be nice!

  20. Uggh. I had a similar situation last week when walking Leroy. There’s a guy who walks 2 medium-large breed dogs on flexi’s and the man has a bum leg so he doesn’t walk that steady. His dogs always are very well behaved and no barking when I see them from afar, but this one day we happened to cross paths and his dogs got very excited to see Leroy and Leroy was just as excited to see them. I thought the guy was going to fall down as we were approaching at the corner but he paused and stepped off to the side to let us pass but then asked if the dogs could meet. One quick look at one of his dog’s body language told me that was not going to be a good idea and I declined the interaction.

  21. Beth says:

    I feel your pain! My Barley girl is reactive to dogs, on or off leash. We spend a lot of time on trails and usually just pull over when we see another dog coming–and I put her in front of me and turn my back on the person coming so if their dog tries to say hi, it has to go through me first and then Barley and I practice “Watch” with plenty of treats until the other dog is gone. Most people realize that when I don’t take my attention off my dog to even say hello (which is REALLY hard for a southern like me who says hello to everyone!) that they should keep their dogs in a little closer. It’s gotten even better ever since we got our “I Need Space” leash!

  22. I always worry about coyotes with Mr. N being so small. I kind of have the opposite problem. I think I offend big dog owners sometimes because when I see dogs, we usually cross the street and walk away from them (Mr. N is leash reactive to dogs).

  23. I still haven’t seen a Coyote even though all our parks here in SF have warning signs saying they live here. I can’t imagine what I’d do if I actually saw one! Small barky dogs on a flexy leash is another matter altogether – they are everywhere :-)

  24. Pingback: Friendly Friday - Do you talk to your dog? | WeLiveInAFlat.com

  25. kimberlygauthier says:

    I love the title of this one. I don’t allow our dogs to great much. Every now and then we’re on an early morning walk and the only souls around and then we come across a dog and owner walking – what’s funny is that we keep our distance and then one will ask if it’s okay. I always remove our dogs from their leash once they’ve calmed down and the greeting goes very well. If our dogs are pulling and barking, then no greeting.

    For the most part, other dog owners understand, but every now and then I come across someone who feels the need to tell me about my terribly behaved dogs. I let them have the satisfaction of giving me a peace of their mind and then I move on.

    My babies are perfect.

    And when are people going to stop using those leashes? I won’t let a dog near me with one of those.

  26. Your post was very entertaining I had so much fun reading it. I do agree with your sentiments some dogs can be misbehaved that you don’t want yourself and your dogs to be around them. I have 3 small dogs and they are well behaved, they can be jumpy and excited at times but what dog doesn’t? and also I have to say that they are not threatened by bigger dogs at all. But what I really love about your post is the relationship that you have with your dogs, you know them so well and you try your best to do what’s best for them even if you’re already tired and don’t feel like doing it.

  27. amkuska says:

    I don’t allow visiting while my dogs are on leash either. I usually end up sticking a foot in the other dog’s face and yelling “No!” at the owners at the top of my lungs, because when you own little dogs, people don’t ask whether the dog can visit or not. They just unclick the lock on their flexi and let their rotten, ill-trained animal go bezerk. I am no longer polite about it. Most people pull their dogs away when they realize I’m prepared to kick it in the teeth if it is going to start a fight.

    It’s not okay to visit without permission. EVER. I don’t care what size your dog is.

  28. Clowie says:

    It seems that lots of smaller dogs feel intimidated by larger ones and make a lot of noise about it. We generally try to steer clear of them, but it can be difficult at times.

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