Whole Dog Journal's Blog April 26, 2013

Dog-walking snob?

Posted at 01:49PM - Comments: (11)

Almost all of my friends have dogs. And I like almost every one of those dogs -- but that doesn't mean I want to walk with all of them. I actually really enjoy walking with just a few of them.

One reason has more to do with our walking styles. I really like to walk fast.  Most dogs I know like to get out and really cover some miles, too. (The one exception to this was a female dog I knew who was the most persistent urine-marker I've ever known. Fun for her was stopping every five feet to mark the territory. I dog-sat her from time to time and it was torture for both of us: I made her walk faster and mark less than she wanted to, and she forced me to stop way more times than I liked.) 

I also like to walk on trails, in places where well-behaved dogs can go off-leash. I am lucky enough to have miles and miles of trails and open space quite close to my house, making this experience a daily possibility.

However, at risk of sounding snobby, I just can't feel comfortable walking with someone whose dog is poorly trained or who has bad canine social skills. It makes me so tense that I just can't enjoy the company, the exercise, or even my own dog. 

One friend's dog tries to hump many of the dogs we pass on the trail. It's not sexual, it's just canine rudeness. He's a young adult male, neutered, and I think he's just bored and looking for a little excitement -- which he certainly gets, because at least half of the dogs he tries to hump naturally take exception to this behavior from an absolute stranger, and they respond with some aggressive behavior: a snarl, snap, whirling about, growling, or an outburst of barking. When this happens, my friend's dog whirls away gaily, like he was just given a prize. Other dogs just stand there, afraid or uncaring, and in this case, it's always the owners who react. My friend yells ineffectively at her dog, and the other owner may yell, too. Either way, the humper  doesn't quit until someone is proximate enough to attempt to drag him off the other dog, at which point he dances joyously away again. Such a jerk!

The same dog also makes it a habit to cross the trail directly in front of anyone coming in the opposite direction, whether it's a jogger, bicyclist, or another walker. This behavior isn't just rude, it's potentially dangerous for him and the other trail users. 

My friend doesn't seem to notice how obnoxious her dog's behaviors are to other people.  But my discomfort about these encounters definitely diminishes her enjoyment of our time together. I try to stifle my own response -- it's not my dog and for sure not my responsibility to address these issues. And I hate it when people offer unsolicited advice about other people's dogs or children. But it's difficult enough that I'd prefer to just not repeat the experience.

I know other people who frequently badger their dogs on the trail, calling them back (from puddles or poison oak or areas that appear to contain stickers) so frequently that the dogs just tune out and disregard the calls 90 percent of the time. 

I don't know anyone who yanks on her dog's collar all the time, but that would be a deal-breaker for me, too. 

Fortunately, I have a few friends who have a similar comfort level with letting their dogs enjoy themselves on the trail -- without endangering or aggravating any other dogs, people, or wildlife. We allow our dogs to run ahead or fall behind as much as a hundred yards without yelling at them, approach and even sniff at the very edge of the cliff above the railroad tracks without freaking out, drink out of mud puddles (yes, even though giardiasis and other perils lurk in some dirty water), and even to roll in cow poop. Our poopy, stickery dogs may not contribute to a pleasant ride home in the car, but I am certain that no one else in town will ever feature one of our dogs in a story about the dog that made them fall on the trail or that made their dog so mad it started a dog fight.

I do sound like a snob. 

What about you? Do you have friends with dogs you don't want to walk with?

Comments (10)

You are far from being a snob, as you mentioned, some of the behaviors are dangerous and/or can get dogs into a lot of trouble. Some of these little quirks are easy fixes too, such as the young male who just wants to start trouble. A more reliable recall with the reward of something the dog finds more interesting than humping or stopping in front of oncoming traffic would turn that behavior right around.

I think it's strange how people don't see that ten minutes a day ( minimum ) will show such a huge difference in a dog's behavior.

Posted by: Tekia G | May 29, 2013 9:26 AM    Report this comment

I don't think I'm quite as bad, but then I'm not as educated in dog training as you. But there are definitely dogs I can't stand to be around because they are so badly behaved & the owners so completely oblivious that it's difficult to keep my mouth shut. And that isn't to say I don't have a dog w/issues; I've definitely got a dog like the first one that you describe. She doesn't hump, but she taunts & loves to get a rise out of other dogs. So basically, I run her alone on private land, where I know we won't likely run into other dogs.

I've trained horses most of my life & can hardly stand to watch other's incompetence w/them, either. I don't think it makes me a snob, my awareness is better educated, I see more & I have a bigger toolkit. But free advice is rarely appreciated & standing on the sideline watching wrecks develop is gut churning.

Posted by: JayNRiver | May 12, 2013 8:03 AM    Report this comment

You are a snob and not a particularly good friend either. Not everyone has the time, energy, or aptitude to train a dog to a high level like you. In addition, there are many people who would never let their dogs off-leash on any trails. I don't want to encounter one - that stresses me out. How do I know how well someone's off-leash dog is trained? Your friends obviously know you have skills with training dogs so what about you offering to help them with their dogs' training? Just helping them get started might be enough for them to transform their dogs to your liking or maybe you should just leave them alone and not talk about them and their pets in a public forum.

Posted by: Sunny Day | May 8, 2013 1:30 PM    Report this comment

The only thing here that surprises me is that you still call this woman a *friend* :-)

Enjoy your walks with real friends and unless you want to make a new enemy, simply don't have the time to gor for a walk with her if she ever suggets it :-)

Posted by: Jenny H | April 30, 2013 8:47 PM    Report this comment

I walk with friends and there dogs in the local park and also hiking. I tend to walk fast and will leave such friends and go at my own pace sometimes, particularly hiking (as when I hike there's elevation gain). As my dog is a GSD he hikes quickly but will lag behind or go ahead in the park unless we're walking with one friend who has a female GSD who he views as his mother or girlfriend and he follows her around.

Posted by: 376NYC | April 30, 2013 8:27 PM    Report this comment

Put a Haltie on the dog and it will walk, no nonsense and you will have a good walk. Suggest this to your friend. I don't like dog parks because people get talking and ignore their dogs, then never see them poop and never pick it up. Same as moms and their little kids. They talk and do not watch their kids!! (different subject, I know, but all the same in the end!!) I have a pup and we have not graduated to open fields. But we do have a big backyard that is fenced and we play and chase frisbie although it maybe get boring I am uneasy with walking off leash, my dog would be the one that likes to hump. LOL

Posted by: Unknown | April 30, 2013 3:00 PM    Report this comment

Best "dog walk" is having access to some private land. I am grateful for the luxury of having access to a friends farm so we can hike with the dogs off leash in the woods, along the corn fields and swim in the creek. To see your dog in this environment so competely happy, noses busy, totally stimulated, able to run hard, swim to fetch sticks and high spirited is awesome. My GD literally has an unmistakable happy smile and gait thanks to the freedom this provides. We call it "country crack" as he and his chocolate lab buddy are so exuberant and high on life, they are lucky dogs! And it is so incredibly fun to see them morph in this environment in contrast to home, or dog walks on leads.

Posted by: Unknown | April 30, 2013 1:51 PM    Report this comment

I wish I had an open area close by to walk my dogs off leash. They actually do so much better when I'm not coaxing them along. I have two Basset Hounds who thoroughly enjoy the smells EVERYWHERE we go. Because of this I'm not much fun to walk with, because as you mentioned, most dogs love to get out and go. I take my hounds out twice a day, in the morning in the neighborhood and again later to one of four local parks but they have to remain on-leash due to vigilant animal control. I'm a bit sneaky as I use 30' leashes and than real them in if there is an issue. I feel they still enjoy life.

Posted by: Nancy T | April 30, 2013 11:55 AM    Report this comment

I find it weird you want to even try & walk with others - maybe for safety's sake, you do it. Few if any dogs are as well trained as mine, that are convenient wlaking partners. IMO, two dogs is enough to block up a sidewalk (entirely) unless in walking in single file (since we don't have trails close by). Too many deer are in those wooded greenway trails, not to mention TICKS. I'd rather walk with my husband & our other dog on sidewalks, than another woman & her dog in the woods. Which would also require silly inate female conversation. Pffft! So that would make me a worse snob, than you.

I have never found it okay to walk dogs off lead. Too many other dogs are totally out of control (with owners in total denial) or oblivious to reality. (And who's at fault) if neither is on lead, & an incident happens? If mine are on some version of a tether, I can better protect them. (I carry MACE & have used it before to save my dog, from a dog who broke off a chain, crossed the street & was in mid-air with teeth barred, when I sprayed it.) The law is on my side, if mine are onlead - but they still get attacked.

I go to open, fenced fields to run my dogs, off-lead. Since we do tracking, the same fields work well for that.

Posted by: Betsy | April 30, 2013 11:22 AM    Report this comment

Where is Nancy Kerns usual column?

Posted by: bobbi J | April 30, 2013 10:43 AM    Report this comment

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