Especially Embarrassing When Your Good Dog Is Bad


I think of my dog Otto as a really well-behaved dog. And he is, mostly. But no dog is perfect. And he definitely has some flaws.

One is that, if an unnamed husband leaves one of the gates on the side of our house open, or even just unlatched, Otto will wander out to the front yard, and eventually, if he’s left out there unsupervised long enough, he’ll do something naughty.

There are two gates in our front yard: a wide one crossing the driveway, and a narrow one at our front steps. Our yard is about two feet above the sidewalk, so if the gates are closed (as they always should be) then the “naughty” thing Otto does is run along the fence (at waist to shoulder height to most people) and bark ferociously at anyone walking by. It’s scary, even if he can’t get out. I hate it when other people’s dogs do this to me when I’m walking down a sidewalk, and I hate it when Otto does it, too. If I hear him barking, and yell for him, he’ll come immediately and sheepishly. He knows I’ll be mad at him I catch him doing this. Of course, I’m even more angry at whomever happened to leave the side gate open!

The worst thing he will do can only happen if a side gate AND one of the front gates are open. Then he may well go out onto the sidewalk and bark at people. Super bad dog! Super-duper bad dog owners!

This doesn’t happen very often; I usually monitor the gates carefully, or take the dogs to work with me, and my husband is usually well-trained. But of course it just happened this morning, as I was just getting out of the shower. My husband has been doing a lot of yard work, and has been going through all the gates so many times that he’s been getting sloppy. I heard Otto barking out front, and someone yelling, “Hey! Go home!”

I don’t want to repeat what I thought, but I was furious with my husband, immediately. I yelled for Otto out the bathroom window, grabbed a towel and ran to the back door, still yelling his name. Otto was already slinking through the side gate back into the back yard. I looked out toward the street, and there was a guy I often see bicycling with his dog. He was just getting back onto his bike; he had obviously had to dismount to deal with Otto. When he saw me in my bath towel, though, fortunately, he laughed. “I’m soo sorry!” I yelled. “I’m going to KILL whomever left the gate open!” “No harm done,” he yelled back.

I turned around and saw my husband looking out the door of his office, which is in an outbuilding in the backyard. He looked as crestfallen as Otto. “Ah shoot,” he said. “Did I leave the gate open?”

I’ve owned dogs with serious behavior problems in the past. One of my childhood dogs was seriously dog-aggressive, and had to be managed assiduously. It was always upsetting if management failed and he did something awful (like attacking a visiting neighbor’s dog) – but I have to say that it’s almost more upsetting when my nearly perfect dog does something bad. Otto has never bitten anyone, but he certainly has had the opportunity to do so, and this makes me feel terrible.