There’s a revolution brewing in our little town. And no, this revolution doesn’t involve anything going on in politics at the national scene.
The revolution is about dogs who aren’t confined to their owner’s yards.
Our little town doesn’t have any kind of animal control officer. The city doesn’t have the funds. But that wouldn’t be such an issue if people who own big dogs would keep them confined to their own yards instead of allowing them to run free to scare other residents of the town.
I happen to like dogs. My family has always had dogs and our geriatric dog, Duke, has been part of our family for years. But he stays in the house or the backyard. That’s where my dog belongs – on MY property and in MY yard. He doesn’t belong out in the public sphere where he could frighten someone else.
But even though I like and own dogs, I’ve had a couple of encounters with big scary dogs running and snarling at me when I’ve been out walking with a friend. I’m not foolish enough to think that all dogs are friendly. And I have a hubby who used to for work animal control who “speaks dog” so I know that being foolish can get you into a lot of trouble where animals are concerned.
But it’s becoming a big issue in town and people are being dissuaded from activities like walking, bike riding, or simply playing in their front yard. My friend and I have had to alter our normal walking route because of dogs.
[bctt tweet=”An unfamiliar dog can be scary!” username=”@sasmerchant”]
How the situation will be resolved is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, I asked my hubby for advice on what we should do should we be approached again by an aggressive dog. Here is his advice:
Tips to avoid an unfriendly encounter with a dog
- Look the dog in the eye. Not doing so is a sign of weakness that the dog will respond to.
- Don’t ever turn your back on the dog. This puts you in the category of “prey” as far as the dog is concerned. You don’t want to be “prey”.
- Don’t run from the dog. This stimulates the chasing reflex. It doesn’t matter how fast you think you are, you’re not fast enough to outrun it.
- Talk to the dog calmly, but in an authoritative voice. If the dog is domesticated you want to try to sound like its owner. Commands such as “go home” and “stop that” might get the dog to obey if said in a tone that says “I’m in charge”.
- Back out of the dog’s territory slowly. Most of the time this is all the dog really wants – to keep competitors out. It’s his job and most likely he’ll be satisfied once he’s done it.
Your goal is to get out of the dog’s territory without incident. You don’t want to be chased or get bitten. That’s where these tips will help.
Generalizations about dogs to be aware of:
- Terriers tend to be biters
- Labs are generally friendly dogs
- Hunting dogs generally are big babies that want to please their owners
- Boxers have a tendency to run up and pounce on people
- Pit bulls have been bred for fighting. Pit Bulls and Rottweilers are the two most lethal dog breeds
- Bulldogs, German Shepard, Australian Shepherd, and Chows are the breeds most likely to bite
- Even a little dog can have a heck of a bite. Don’t assume that little Chihuahua, Lhasa Apso, Cocker Spaniel, or Pekingese is harmless
A Word About Dog Psychology
Dogs are pack animals. Generally, they respond to their owner who is the alpha leader of the pack. Most dogs don’t really want to engage with you – they’re simply defending their territory. Unless the dog has been attack trained or abused in some way, the dog probably doesn’t really want to tangle with you. After all, you too have the ability to cause harm to the dog. So dogs generally bluster and bluff through their barking and growling. Most are big cowards at heart but if they can get you out of their territory they’ve done their job.
One thing you want to avoid is pushing yourself on the dog. Don’t assume that being overly friendly will work. Unless you know a dog REALLY well, don’t touch the ears of side of its face. If the dog will let you, try touching their flank. This is where dogs tend to greet each other.
But Let’s Don’t Assume That Fluffy Is Harmless
But make no mistake, dogs can hurt you. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone say, “Oh, my dog wouldn’t hurt a flea.” I’ve even said these words myself on occasion.
That might be true in most circumstances, but let’s not forget that the dog is still an animal. Even a dog that you know well (perhaps even your own pet) can revert to their baser animal instincts given the right circumstances.
I’ll give a couple of examples that my family found hard to believe.
Years ago we had a Basset Hound named Digger (I bet you can guess how she got her name). Digger was the sweetest, friendliest, biggest baby in the world. Or so we thought.
You see, when we were around, Digger was a people-lover. You were in more danger from being licked to death than bitten.
But when we would leave the house it was a different story.
My dad found a “Beware of Dog” sign and put it on the chain link fence because he thought it was funny. After all, anyone who really knew our dog would know that the dog was not one to be afraid of.
But one day the neighbor across the alley told my dad that the sign was much more accurate than he realized. At first, he thought she was just joking.
She told my parents that Digger would bark furiously, and ferociously, whenever we were gone. Even though the neighbor knew our dog – and the dog knew her – the dog still went into protective mode when we weren’t around. She said that if she didn’t know the dog, she’d have been scared to death by her vicious barking.
Another friend told my mother about the ferocious side that Digger could present.
This friend had grown up on a ranch and was a big dog lover. She knew dogs, and she knew Digger quite well. Digger knew this woman and liked her.
But one day this friend stepped into my parent’s house when they weren’t home to leave some sheet music for my mother (this isn’t uncommon in little towns). She stepped inside the front door and walked over a few feet to leave the music on the piano when Digger comes bounding around the corner. The friend immediately begins talking sweetly to Digger but it doesn’t do any good. Digger barks, bares her teeth, and glares at her to the point where she’s suddenly afraid.
“Now, Digger, you know me.” These words did nothing to calm the dog or to remind Digger that this was a friend. The growling and intimidation continued as the woman slowly backed out of the door.
She told this story to my mom who had a hard time believing that her sweet little Basset Hound could be so fierce. But she also knew her friend and knew she was truthful.
Another incident was relayed to my mom by another friend from church.
This woman was much older but also a dog lover and someone who knew Digger. She also came by one day to drop off something for church. The front door was open but no one was home so she decided to just step inside and leave the book on the entry piece near the door.
She too was astonished to see a ferocious dog come snarling at her. She’d been around our dog on various occasions and knew the dog to be friendly. That wasn’t the dog that was snarling at her now though.
In fact, she said that she hesitated to even tell my mother that the dog had scared her so mush. She knew my mom was attached to the dog and that the dog was generally so friendly and lovable.
The funny part of that story is that later my mother learned from the woman’s daughter-in-law that she was so shook up by the way Digger treated her that she not only backed out of the house in fear, but that when she got her wits about her she realized that she’d crawled into the back seat of her own car!
That doesn’t happen unless you’re scared.
Even the dogs we love and adore can be scary to someone else. Let’s love our dogs, keep them on our own property, and realize that not everyone feels the same way about them that we do. And while we’re at it, let’s our care for our neighbor enough to respect their right to enjoy the great outdoors without worry.
Other animals can be scary as well. Take a look at this post to learn more about how to deal with snakes.