She Wears a Mask

I’m not quiet when I walk Sampson and Delilah.

If you’re walking with me and hoping to enjoy the quiet of nature and scenery like

IMG_4347 this

IMG_4353 or this

You may want to choose another walking partner.

My whole purpose of walking with my dogs is to interact with

IMG_4346 these two.

In order to do this, I talk to them and at times I need to call them.  In other words I’m very loud.

So when I catch someone unaware it surprises me, I mean sound really carries in our little neck of the woods.

We were taking our walk on Sunday when I noticed someone ahead of me on an adjacent trail.  I called the dogs to me and waited, watching.

From the distance we were at I couldn’t tell who it was.   Then all of a sudden I saw a brown dog with an orange collar come into the picture.

Ah, it’s Brady and one of his moms I thought.  So I let the dogs go, and started walking towards them.

This was a big mistake.

The dog in question was not Brady at all.

The dogs were fine with the other dog but as soon as I realized my faux pas, I started walking towards them calling my dogs as I walked.  As I got closer I could see a woman holding her dog, while telling my dogs to “Go.”

My dogs did.  They came back and I hooked them up, then shouted over my apologies.

I’m so sorry, I saw your dog off-leash and assumed it would be okay.”

Are you speaking?

Yes, I said, I’m super sorry, I saw your dog off-leash and assumed it would be okay to allow them to say hello.”

She wears a mask, because sometimes she doesn’t like other dogs, not all dogs, just some.”

Let me remind you all of what ASSUME means.

Yes, I felt like a complete ass.  Here is her poor dog, in the woods wearing a muzzle and the two galloping goofs are rushing over to say hello.

I’m going to make another assumption right now.  That assumption is you’ve read Suzanne Clothier’s article He Just Wants To Say “Hi.” If you haven’t read this amazing article, take the time to do so, if you don’t have the time, bookmark the page or print it off and stick it in your pocket for future reading. It is a must read for every single dog owner.

I. Kid. You. Not.

And I want to thank Pamela Douglas Webster again for sharing the article.  I cried when I read the article, thinking of the times I corrected my dog for reacting like a dog.  I also printed it off to put with my dog material and I intend to make at least one copy to carry with me, for sharing purposes.

That article sprang to mind as this woman and I shouted back and forth across the trails.  I thought of her poor dog and the frustration and fear her dog must feel, being muzzled and unable to let another dog know that she wants to be left alone.

And then of all the other dog owners who will misunderstand and misread the signals their dogs are sending to them.   Other dog owners who have consulted with professional dog trainers.

I did.  The first time Delilah reacted to a dog, we went back to class.  I worked with her on reactivity and as I worked her, I really started watching just exactly when and what she reacted to.

Yes, she was selective in her reactions.  Dogs who are rude, or misbehaving are the dogs she snipes at.  She’s letting them know she doesn’t care for their behavior.

The problem is, that many owners misunderstand her ‘reactions’ as aggression and I have to be careful.  I can’t have her reacting to a dog whose owner is not going to understand what’s going on.

Have you read the article?  What do you think?  Is it a reactive dog, an aggressive dog, a fearful dog or a dog with normal expectations of how other dogs should behave?

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  1. says

    This is one of the things mom really misses from Germany! In Germany dogs go everywhere, shopping, restaurants, buses, etc but we also got to be dogs. We were almost always off leash unless it was a neighborhood with streets and cars, we could just romp around and it was like a giant dog park for all the dogs. It was so much fun, there was no fighting among dogs as we sorted out our problems ourselves. Were there instances where someone got hurt sure, but hey, kids fight and get hurt too. Americans teach their dogs to fear other dogs and that is so wrong as we are so social. Very sad and it was hard to break us of the habit of greeting other 4 legged friends when we first moved here but now we have our friends and we leave other dogs lonely (I mean alone). People need to mellow out!

  2. Sue says

    Mornin’ Jodi! Bless your heart! But don’t be too hard on yourself — after all, why is a dog who needs to wear a muzzle off leash anyway?! The other owner, in my opinion, was more to blame than you were.
    And, thanks for the reminder to read that article! I keep getting distracted by other things that need to be done and then forget about it.

  3. says

    We live in the capital and dogs have to get on. Trouble is some dogs are fearful and some are bullies. A responsible dog owner knows their dog and reacts appropriately. You did nothing wrong and you say sorry. Doesn’t seem the lady was bothered. Maybe she is just weary for her dog as with a muzzle it can’t protect itself if a situation arises. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  4. says

    Different point of view.

    The way I look at it, if the woman in the woods knows that her dog may snap at other dogs, then imo it is her obligation to do whatever she needs to do to make sure her dog does not hurt another. I actually commend the woman. Not all dogs are meant to be friends. We do not encourage our dogs to interact with dogs they do not know. There are times we are training our dogs off lead and people let their dogs run up on us. It can be very frustrating. I have 2 intact males chessies and I have to take that situation seriously. You just never know a strange dog’s situation or temperament and how it will mix with our dogs.

    By the same token, we normally let our dogs settle their differences, BUT we do not let it escalate. To let it escalate can mean a dog fight. I said once that we will always have to watch Thunder and Freighter together. That is true. We will always have to keep an eye on them and never leave them alone together or risk a fight. That is normal dog behavior, but we don’t plan to allow it.

  5. says

    Cupcake is accustomed to the dogs she works with at Therapy. They are very calm and have a great energy. The dogs are not encouraged to interact, but they do need to say Hi. She sniffs, gets sniffed, and we get back to work. In the neighborhood, I keep her encounters brief. I do notice that she will bark at other dogs when they are far away. When they get close, she feels better saying Hi, and will do so, but it sometimes escalates into a leash-tangling jumping party.

  6. says

    That is a great article, I got through half of it before I put it in my reader. I’ll finish it later but it does give you a whole different outlook on dogs behavior.
    Um, if she had to put a muzzle on the dog, why was it off leash? Maybe she needs to read that article too!

  7. says

    Very interesting (and long) article. I wonder if Blueberry is considered rude and that is why dogs go after her? I never thought of it that way. While she will do everything to avoid confrontation, she will slowly walk up to a dog to sniff them so maybe that is considered rude? And not all dogs have that negative reaction to her – but that could just be that most of them are used to much ruder displays so it doesn’t phase them. Either way, I’ve stopped allowing dogs to approach her or vice versa. Unless they are dogs she’s met before and then it’s all good. Also, smaller dogs are fine with her and she is fine with them as well. I’m not dog at reading all dog body language and I was going to take a class on it – but I wasn’t able to. Hopefully the next time it is offered, I will have the time to go.

    Great post!

  8. says

    I’m very interested to read Emma’s comment above. I wonder if the restrictions we put on our dogs contribute to their inability to take other dogs in stride.

    In the book Ella in Europe, the author wrote that his dog who was sometimes snarky at home but had no problems greeting dogs throughout Europe. Are we encouraging rude interactions by the way we raise and keep our dogs?

  9. Frankie Furter and Ernie says

    It is hard to know what to do.. in EVERY situation… there are too many uncontrollable things that can crop up. We just slog along and do our BEST. Right?

  10. says

    Wow. That was a great article. Oddly enough, I find myself wondering about my ducks and my dogs. The ducks bite the dogs. The dogs snarl and snap at the ducks. I’m afraid for the ducks. Once Flash pinned Jimmy the Duck to the ground after being bitten. It amuses me. But I keep them separate most of the time. How on earth do I train the duck to stop biting my dogs? Having their heads bitten off would be a bad lesson all the way around.

  11. says

    I have read that article and I think pretty much all of Suzanne Clothier’s work. She’s like my favorite trainer.

    I have Toby, who would like to say hi to everyone, and then I have Leah who does not like strange dogs to say hi to her, and I have Meadow who is selective….so I get to see all sides of the coin. Because of this, I am very careful with Toby and try not to let him run up to anyone – especially because he does not have good dog skills and runs like head on into them to say hi. I think this is often a bumbling Lab thing, and the few times I was not fast enough to stop him and he got snarked at, I did not blame the other owner or the dog. Just myself.

  12. says

    I am puzzled by an off-leash dog wearing a muzzle…kind of sending a mixed message isn’t she?
    The article you reference is excellent…I’ve also shared it

    Gizmo is generally fine when meeting new dogs, but doesn’t like it when he gets rushed by 2 or 3 larger dogs at one time…his response is a growl and a snap and I think it’s totally appropriate and would never reprimand him for it…he’s giving a warning that other dogs should be able to read and understand…I do make sure that the situation never escalates beyond the warning stage

  13. says

    I have to agree with what 2 brown dawgs said. I think that the lady was being responsible. Regardless if the dog had a muzzle on it would still be able to show its reaction in body language and growl if need be to give a warning. It just couldn’t use it’s mouth.
    Having 2 intact males I have to be aware of my dogs around other dogs and most of the time strange dogs approaching them are not a problem, but there has been a few occasions where I needed to intervene before things got out of hand and things can escalate fast. They are not going to back down if challenged, even with each other. It’s my responsibly to make sure it doesn’t come to that.

  14. says

    I am always a bit nervous when I see unleashed dogs heading towards us. With the three blind girls, rushed meetings can be very stressful. Azule is deaf, so again, a worry. Then there is Callie who doesn’t like other dogs, Forest is afraid and Bill can’t be bothered. So…I am very wary. Some people just don’t get it and it annoys me when they send their dog(s) forth as I am approaching with mine on leash and they yell, “My dog is friendly!” That’s nice but did you ask if mine was?

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