Reactive dogs deserve walks too!

I was on facebook recently and someone I am friends with but don’t know particularly well posted a status similar to this:

“Who is the irresponsible owner here?
1) The owner who has their dogs off lead and knows they won’t hurt anyone or anything
2) The owner who brings an aggressive dog to an area known for dog walking and where there are lots of dogs being walked off lead”

Now my answer should probably have been “maybe both – but really the first owner”, but I am sick and tired off the “it’s okay, they’re friendly!” dog owners, so instead I replied:

Dogs that don’t like other dogs still need walks and have just as much of a right to go to nice places and not have other dogs run over and bother them – it’s the owners’ job to call “get your dog please!” and then the off lead friendly dog should have good enough recall to be called off and go back to their owner. Aggressive dogs should always be kept on lead if there are other dogs nearby, or if it’s in a popular walking spot. That’s my opinion.

Our Staffy was bothered and attacked by lots of off lead dogs, and she became scared of other dogs – she was never aggressive but we kept her on lead and gave her treats just for seeing other dogs. This was working well but the number of off lead dogs that would run up to her, jump all over her and scare her was infuriating, and their owners would just say “oh it’s okay, my dog’s friendly!”…well great, but my dog doesn’t want to meet your dog!

I want to reiterate a few points now in this blog post:

The view that aggressive, fearful or reactive dogs shouldn’t be walked anywhere where they might bump into other dogs is STUPID.

Where are you supposed to walk then, taking into account we have seen many off lead dogs in the village, by roads etc?!

But secondly: Dogs that hate having their personal space invaded have just as much right to walk in nice stimulating areas as so called “friendly” dogs.

Finally, another thing to remember, not all dogs that can’t greet others are aggressive. They could be:

  • Fearful of other dogs – very different to aggression, although aggression is usually caused by fear (most dogs choose fight, flight or both!)
  • In training – this could be something as simple as playing the LAT game to help them feel comfortable around other dogs, teaching them to pay attention around distractions, or even a Service Dog in training
  • Elderly – many senior dogs don’t enjoy strange, young or bouncy dogs getting in their face and trying to get them to rough house. Imagine an 80 year old trying to watch an interesting programme on TV, and a young toddler climbs all over him and screams in his face.
  • Recovering from injury or illness
  • Not interested in other dogs. Just like humans have different hobbies and interests, so too do dogs. Despite what the “it’s okay – he’s friendly!” owners think, NOT ALL DOGS CARE ABOUT SOCIALISING WITH OTHER DOGS.

I have two dogs. Kasper does not appreciate pushy, rude, unpleasant dogs – Raiden IS the rude, pushy, unpleasant dog!!

As a result we walk Rey on a longline when he is around other dogs, and he is in constant training to teach him to be calm. When there are no dogs, he is off lead. His recall is good with low-med distractions.

If someone says he can play with their dog, I warn them that he is a brat and plays rude and bouncily – if they say it’s okay, off he goes.

Important: if you let your dog off lead around other unknown dogs, s/he must have extremely reliable recall – it is NOT FAIR for your dog to go bother other dogs.

Please let this post be a reminder – reactive, fearful and aggressive dogs are NOT bad dogs, and they deserve good walks too 🙂

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18 thoughts on “Reactive dogs deserve walks too!

    • Yes, agreed. The thing I find hardest to understand is when dog owners let their dog run up to you AFTER you have shouted over for them to get their dog…like, first of all that is just rude, but second of all if my dog attacked yours, it would still be my fault somehow?!

  1. did your facebook friend have a reply for you? I think you were quite friendly and diplomatic in your reply, I’d have been much more blunt and told them they were an idiot

      • Generally the people who don’t realise that reactive dogs deserve to be dogs too don’t know what it means to have anything but an ‘easy’ dog

      • Yeah, I agree. It seems to be a very common thought that reactive dogs shouldn’t go ANYWHERE where dogs *might* be off lead…and it’s like, where do you want us to go then?! And also when your dog is blowing off recall, why are we the ones in the wrong??

      • Yep, if I stuck to places with no dogs then MiMi wouldn’t be able to leave the house!! Laufey started blowing of recall towards the end of our adventure today so back on lead he went, it’s not a difficult concept

      • Exactly! If we see other dogs, onto the longline Raiden goes. If he’s getting over-excited on walks, blowing off recall, or not following cues – onto the longline he goes. Recall’s such an important thing but virtually every dog owner I know in this country thinks their dog has a right to be walked off lead, and quite often that causes problems for responsible dog owners who are trying to work with their dogs…

      • It’s just infuriating isn’t it, I can understand the odd one in a million because they do their own thing but one of them are just ridiculous

  2. I agree. I do not take my dog-reactive dog to official loose dog areas, because it would be irresponsible of me. But when I am in places where dogs are required to be leashed, and someone’s loose dog comes towards us, it is so frustrating. When I’m yelling “call your dog!” and they’re yelling “don’t worry, he’s friendly!” I wonder just why they think it’s MY fault when my dog defends herself. And every incident makes her worse, undoing weeks and months of hard work.

    • In the UK we have hardly any places that are officially off lead / on lead areas, so virtually wherever you go, if you bump into other dogs, chances are they *will* be off lead…even by roads, which is one of the few places you do HAVE to have your dogs on lead!

      It’s exactly as you say, how is it the person’s fault who has their dogs responsibly on lead when another charges them?! And when they have put months, if not years, of training into their dog it is heartbreaking for an off lead dog to come racing over and set them back months of work 😦

  3. I am lucky that we have a massive field, which is normally very quiet, and if you stand in the middle you can see all three entrances, so if a dog does come in then I can put a lead on my dog, but he is only aggressive if the dog is with in a few meters, otherwise he doesn’t care

    • Walks where you can see in all directions are a blessing! We have a few walks where we can see a good ways off in most directions, but getting to them generally involves walking down busy roads with no pavements, narrow lanes where you see loads of dogs etc…such a pain!

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