No, Our Dogs Can’t Meet
May 1, 2014 37 Comments
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.
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.”
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!
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.”
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.