Warning. This post is going to be an extreme rant. The biggest rant I have done on the blog. Make sure you are in a comfortable seating position and have a tea before you continue reading.
"They just want to be friends"
If you own a reactive or fearful dog, I know you would have heard this before when walking your pooch. Sometimes it's to your face in a kind tone, sometimes it's aggressive, often it's under their breath as they pass you and also just as often it is paired with training advice on why my dog is like how he is. This comment is back handed, and it honestly makes no sense but boy does it drive me up the wall.
I am not a woman of confrontation. I avoid confrontation at all costs generally. I don't like to complain when eating out, I hate writing bad reviews to companies, and I hate telling people what they are doing is wrong. I am one of those humans that just scuttle pass, trying not to make eye contact. I often have to eat around things I specifically asked to be left off my plate, because I don't want to ruin their day by complaining. So when people say this to me, I just smile and keep on walking. Inside though, I am fuming. This is why this post now exists.
"They just want to be friends"
Sorry, who is they? Do you know my dog, have you met my dog, do you even know my dogs name? I could ask many more questions of the above since you are assuming you know my dogs thoughts at that current moment. Sure, you are allowed to speak for your own dog, but I doubt he will be enjoying himself either when he is stuck to you on a leash while my dog on his leash is trying to bite his face.
I correct myself above, often the other dog is not on a leash.
Diego is not a bad dog, nor is he super aggressive. He is definitely reactive though. He doesn't want dogs in his area, and he will make that clear by giving warning nips in their direction. I make sure Diego only currently has contact with dogs I know he will be good around, I have sought out professional help, and I keep him on leash when their is potential for other dogs being around. I am doing this for Diego's protection, because although reactive, it is mainly due to fear. So if the other dog doesn't take well to Diego's warning growl and nip, things can turn nasty quick. Diego never comes out on top. He never has once drawn blood on another dog due to reactivity.
So when your dog comes flying up to us while you are metres behind screaming "They just want to be friends" don't blame me if I have to physically stop your dog. My dog's life is more important than your apparent incompetence for looking after your dog. Not every dog wants to meet your friendly labrador and you need to respect that. If you see a dog on lead, you put yours on lead. If you see someone physically trying to get their dog as far away from yours as possible, you do the same with yours. Its common courtesy. When we are dealing with animals that can and will hurt each other, just accept that this one dog to dog meeting is not worth it.
Also. Do not whisper under your breath "They just wanted to be friends, but whatever" because you don't know that. Fine, I'll let my dog off leash to come rush yours and start a fight. You can therefore not complain because you clearly stated "They just want to be friends".
Not every dog wants to be friends with every other dog. Just like how I don't want to be friends with most of the people I meet in my life. I can walk past them and smile, but I do not need to be their friends. If they rushed into my space, I too would not be happy. I believe that feeling is mutual amongst all humans. Let's for once in our lives anthropomorphise dogs in a good way and imagine ourselves being run up to by an unknown stranger. They are immediately pressed into our bodies and are shoving their hands out in a greeting. How would you react? Would you happily shake this random persons hand and allow them into your personal bubble? Would you immediately become friends with this person and invite them around for coffee? No. Well, neither does my dog.
I didn't mean or want to make this condescending and probably useless post but it has really got to my last nerve. If you are an owner with a reactive dog I feel like this will truly resinate with you and just know you are not alone in these struggles. If you are an owner with a friendly dog, please take this as feedback and start putting your dog on leash more. Us as reactive dog owners already deal with a lot, it would be lovely if you didn't have to make our walks any harder.
And for those of you following Diego's Reactivity Story, I will be putting up a part two next week where I tell you about our professional help.