Not so long ago, Ted and I experienced our fourth unpleasant experience with a big dog breed and its owner in just three months.
In short, a German shepherd off the lead completely invaded Ted’s space, and its owner did nothing – no apology, no acknowledgement. As we walked away, Dan said ‘An apology would be nice‘, and within an instant, the man had abandoned his two small kids, and his dog, to square up into our faces. During his wholly unnecessary tirade, he told us that we’re pathetic, it’s our fault that our 6kg dog is frightened of his probably 30kg dog, and we are treating him like a baby. All the while ignoring his dog returning and invading my personal space.
The three preceding incidents were similar, but with a husky, a cockerpoo, and two foxhounds. In all but one of the cases, the dog was off the lead. In all but one of the cases the owner became aggressive, borderline violent, and made threats towards us.
Ultimately, this isn’t about the dog at all, it’s about the responsibility of owners.
Ted has actually been attacked on multiple occasions. Luckily, he has escaped with a few knocks and bumps (other than the cat scratch he got for being a nosy puppy) but what was once a happy, friendly dog is now incredibly cautious of large dogs. When approached by a large dog, Ted will run behind me or Dan in an attempt to escape – he clearly doesn’t feel safe. Instead of recognising this behaviour and apologising, the owners I have come across have verbally abused us, just for trying to protect our tiny family member.
It’s our responsibility as dog owners to have control of our dogs, and be considerate of others. In my experience, this is something I do see a lot, but evidently, still not enough.
Think of it this way. We never truly know if our dogs will attack – they are animals, after all. We never truly know how our dogs will respond to fear and feeling cornered. But what I do know is this: if my 6kg Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that can’t even chew through a bone bites a larger dog, it will barely injure it. If a German shepherd bites Ted, he will probably die. We keep Ted on a lead around other larger dogs just for this reason.
I refuse to be the person who has to carry my dog’s lifeless body into a vet, to be told it’s too late.
Still not convinced? Lots of people view their dogs as members of the family. Picture your three year old child playing on a trampoline with a 12 year old you don’t know. Do you say anything? The 12 year old jumps on your child. How do you react?
Then picture your 12 year old child playing on a trampoline with a three year old you don’t know. Do you warn your child to be careful? Your child jumps on the three year old. How do you react?
I would put all my money on you telling off your 12 year old, taking responsibility for their actions. So why is it not the same for dogs?
Not 10 minutes after our interaction with the German shepherd and the excellent example of a dad, Ted approached a golden retriever (also off lead) with a wagging tail and enthusiasm. Not exactly what a poorly socialised dog would do, is it? You know what? I’m annoyed.
Small dog owners’ caution around big dogs is not us ‘babying’ our pets. It is not us not allowing our dogs to socialise properly. It is not us being pathetic. It is us trying to protect something we love from potential harm. It is us weighing up risk in a responsible way.
If you are a big dog owner, I implore you to digest this message. We dog-owners are a community and should be looking out for each other, protecting each other. Please accept that your dog is a risk to smaller dogs, even if they have never attacked before. Please take hold of your dog if they have a habit of coming a little too close to smaller dogs as they might be frightened due to previous experiences. Please put your dog on a lead if they have poor recall. Please don’t attack – verbally or otherwise – small dog owners that are just worried for the well being of their dog.
And if you are a big dog owner who already does all of these things? Thank you – I appreciate you!