Thursday, February 9, 2017

Maybe clip that leash instead of hitting your dog with it?

Hanging out by our mailbox
Me and Copley were out for a short walk around our neighborhood and had a terrifying experience.  I live in a suburban community, but it is still pretty tight quarters.  There are no sidewalks in my homeowners association and the houses are packed together.  The thing you need to take away from this information is that it is an on leash area for sure.  I am all for letting dogs run around in rural areas where it is appropriate, but my neighborhood is not one of those places.

Well I had Copley on a leash and we were headed to the mailbox down the street.  Between my house and the mail boxes there was a man standing with two large dogs, one tan and one black.  I'm not sure what they were, but they were tall.  Perhaps giant shepherds of some kind or something crossed with a big sight hound maybe?  The breed is not important to this story, the size is though.  As we approach the man starts yelling at the dogs angrily and pulls his leash out of his pocket.  I stopped to give him a chance to leash up the dog closest to him, it was sitting right next to him in easy reach.  Instead of clipping the leash to the easily accessible dog collar he starts angrily yelling at the dog and hitting him with the leash.  Not a gentle attention getting tap or anything, but hitting him.

I think this is the time I should say that based on what this guy and these dogs were wearing, I would bet this man fancies himself a "dog trainer."  These two were in vests with handles, and wearing around their necks the pinch collar/large black flat buckle collar combo that you might see on a police dog.  If you need all these thing to control your dog, why isn't a leash attached to at least one of them?  The man had cargo pants and a pouch that I imagine were not at all full of treats- as he clearly was using other (obviously ineffective) methods here, but still screamed "tough man trains tough dogs!"

Well the tan dog that is being hit with a leash finally runs away from his person and over to us.  He stopped facing me and Copley about 5 feet away, staring Copley down.  It was the frozen, terrifying stare that you read about in books.  Meanwhile the guy just continues his angry screaming.  I tried to assess my options here.  Picking Copley up was not going to work, as bending forward was only going to provoke an attack I figured.  The dog was huge, it's giant muzzle was level with my chest so if this fight happened I was probably screwed too.  I didn't have the mace I carry on walks because I was just headed to the mailbox.  This really could have been a disaster really quick here.  The fur was starting to go up on Copley's back and this tan dog ever so gently and silently began to curl his lip.  In what had to have looked comically opposite to the other mans method here I just calmly and cheerfully said "Copley!  Come on."  I have to give Copley some credit here, that dog always comes through for me in a pinch.  I want him to get his feet off a chair and you would think he was deaf, but in case of imminent dog attack or pigeon in the house he listens like a champ.  As I said Copley he looked at me and as I cheerfully asked him to move along we stepped sideways out of this dogs glare and walked away briskly at an angle.  By this time the man came over to grab the tan dog and was angrily yelling at it and glaring at me as I was saying "good dog!" to Copley.

Then here comes the black dog jogging down the street at us.  Luckily this one was much friendlier and assumed the "I sniff your but you sniff mine" position with Copley.  I was not thrilled about this as Copley's hackles were still up and he was clearly a little uncomfortable from our last encounter.  This dog was so tall that Copley fit all the way under him and as I was trying to figure a way to pull him out without us getting tangled up (I only had a 4 foot leash to work with and I didn't want to drop it if I didn't have to) I look down and see Copley comically wincing as this dogs giant balls hit him in the face.  It was the only hilarious part of this whole experience.

We took a quick turn around the corner and loitered at the mailbox for a long time to give the dogs a chance to move along.  I have not seen them since and it has been a few days.  Hopefully they were just visitors to the neighborhood. 

P.S.- A few resources if you are either the guy hitting his dogs for no reason in the name of "training" (indicating you might want to learn a little about the real science behind dog behavior) or if you think you might run into someone like that on the street (at least one of you will have some read on what the dog is thinking).  My favorite behaviorist Particia McConnell has some great books The Other End of the Leash and For The Love of a Dog  Those two taught me a lot of what I know about dog body language and have helped me so much in my interactions with our dogs and dogs out in the world over the years.  

Or find a local positive reinforcement based trainer and take a class.