What should you do when you see someone mistreating their dog?

66

My 10-year-old grandson is visiting from Boston and we went for a bike ride today at midday, to a local park. We were riding along a path and saw a woman walking ahead of us with a puppy on a leash and a young girl, maybe three or four years old. As we got closer, I could see that the woman was wearing a hands-free leash – one of those commercial products made for people who jog with their dogs, a waist belt with the leash attached to it. And as I got closer yet, I could see that she was essentially pulling the puppy behind her. The pup was on his feet, but was obviously hot and scared and was resisting at every step.

I took my phone off its handlebar mount and took this picture from a distance. I made an assumption – that this person was not going to be interested in dog-training advice or a stranger’s opinion about practically dragging what looked to be a 4-month-old puppy in the middle of a pretty warm day. And if I saw anything worse, I was going to call my friends at the city animal control department. After I took the picture, I called out in my best cheerful voice, “Hi, coming through on bikes!”

The woman immediately stepped to the side of the path and held her hand out to the little girl (presumably her daughter). She smiled as my grandson and I rode slowly by, and I smiled back and said, “What a cute puppy! But he doesn’t look very happy…”

Her smile disappeared immediately. “He’s getting leash trained,” she said firmly. And then added, “Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.”

Ah, the dilemma of what to do about what we consider to be training that is, at a very minimum, certain to be ineffective and counterproductive – when we see it in public.

In this case, I didn’t stay to talk to the woman. Her response and demeanor were so determined – so not open to further discussion – that I kept pedaling slowly, before stopping 100 yards or so away to see what the woman did next. Just a minute later, she put the pup and little girl into a car and drove out of the park.

My grandson and I biked to a spot nearby, where we put the bikes down and took a quick dip in the river. As we biked home, we talked about the woman and her pup a bit more. I told my grandson, “It’s like seeing some parent do something pretty mean to their kid. You don’t want to say nothing, but you don’t want to make them even madder.”

I also assured him that if the puppy had actually been getting pulled off his feet, or if she had yanked on the leash or hit him, I would have taken some video and called animal control. “Some people just suck,” said my grandson and I agree! How could she not see that dragging the puppy along by force was not going to result in a dog who trusts or even wants to be with her and her daughter. How could that treatment possibly result in a dog who has good feelings about going on a walk with them?

Does anyone have the perfect thing to say to someone in this situation? Does anyone know a course of action that wouldn’t just make matters worse?

66 COMMENTS

  1. Yes. Me too. I once saw someone jogging with their dog in 90+ temperatures on black top and mentioned something about it being such a hot day and how black top gets dangerously hot for the paws of dogs. He just gave me a nasty look and kept on jogging.

  2. I have spent a lot of time training my standard poodle. She is now a certified therapy dog visiting an assisted living facility and listening to exceptional children read. Yet when I took her to the farmers market on a hot day because we were already out, I didn’t realize how hot the asphalt was to her paws. I was grateful when a vendor told me that my dog needed to be in the shade! So keep telling people when you see a dog in distress!

  3. Ha! I’m not the one to ask. Years ago, I’d just recently moved into my house and was walking my dog when I saw a neighbor hitting her dog with a broom. I stopped and called, “Hey! Stop that right now! If I EVER see you do that again, I’ll grab that broom and hit you with it. How would you like it?” I never saw her do anything like it again, 25 years have passed, we’re still neighbors and now even friendly acquaintances. My girlfriends loved that story because they say it’s SO me. They know I would do exactly what I said. Still would, even though I’m an old lady now! 😹

  4. My approach after complimenting the dog (ie. how cute, what a handsome pup, how pretty, etc) is to say something like, “Wow, my pup really enjoys her walks when I bring treats and water and have her walk beside me. That way I can point out all the great places to sniff and we practice focus and loose leash walking that way” or in the case of the afternoon jogger, “Wow, running on pavement would be too hot for my pup. I always try to jog at a park with lots of grass or at the beach so my pup can cool off.” This approach allows for open communication instead of the person becoming defensive and shutting down.

  5. I consistently get out of my car or wherever I am and first admire their dog and then try to help them understand that the dog is confused and scared because they are not giving direction. I try to help them but generally it goes like the above. They either get hostile or sometimes we have a conversation. Depends on the person. These people probably know at some level they are not doing the right thing. I have called the MSPCA when I saw a black dog tethered in the hot sun with no shade or water and when I went by that house in the future I did not see the dog.
    I have called the police when I see dogs in parking lots trapped in cars. I have also alerted the store management with the make, model, color and tag of the car to announce to customers in store that a dog is in distress.
    I am unafraid of confrontation and typically get cussed at. So be it.

  6. I have spoken up when I see someone walking a dog in extreme heat and on hot asphalt…some had no clue and were grateful, others gave me a nasty look and told me to mind my own business. I did witness someone kick his dog and threaten “the belt” – I didn’t really know him, and I felt uncomfortable confronting him as I was alone. I’d like to hear some other responses.

  7. I am very vocal when it comes to seeing a dog in distress. I do think people want help , but some have no dog sense at all.
    We have to keep in mind..~ what is the best thing I can do for this dog (thru the owner)
    Kill them with kindness (the human) first..
    Then make your gentle suggestions. Many times the human will thank me and go on, hopefully thinking about our conversation.
    I have speed dial #1 my local animal control and I do use it when all else fails.. Keep advocating for the animals.

    • I was camping and took a video of a guy treating his dog poorly. He didn’t know about the video until: I told him he needed to stop or I would call the Park Rangers and police !
      He said go ahead, no proof. I told him there was witnesses. I called, showed the video and walked away. I was headed home shortly, got his name and everything in case he wanted to visit me later. Gave a copy to local police for a heads up in case of stupidity.

  8. Society has drawn a hard line between those who are reasonable, logical, approachable, and open to other points of view AND those who are not. This line unfortunately seems to drive right down every aspect of life. There are people with whom you can calmly discuss and exchange ideas and learn and grow from. There are other people for whom anything other than purely superficial conversation is the beginning of a confrontation. Sadly I have reached a point where I focus on myself and my dogs and out happiness. I donate money to countless animal causes but I don’t have the energy to tell people “please walk your dog on a leash”. Because I am not prepared for the ensuing confrontation so I just look and walk the other way.

    • Quick update. Off leash dog came after my dogs. Owners no where in site. About 10 minutes later two teenage girls came out and started yelling at me. I called animal control. I video taped and took pictures. Here’s the kicker animal control can not do a thing. I have to go to the magistrate and file some paperwork and then go to court. Then they get a $50 fee to pay. That’s it!

  9. I be am the one who will usually step in with a polite suggestion in this type of situation. What I receive back is a nasty comment that they know what they are doing. So I have to just leave it at that. However, anytime I see a dog being hit or physically harmed, I confront the perpetrator and while it usually becomes nasty, I do tell them that if I ever see them do it again, they will be video’d and the police called. I’ve recently had two encounters with people that had their dogs on retractable leashes allowing their dog to pull out and “visit” a clients dog that we are training with. I’m greeted with the response of “my dog likes meeting other dogs and is friendly”. When I ask them to please move their dog back, that I don’t know their dog and I don’t want it in the face of my dog (clients dog), I’ve been told I don’t know what I’m talking about. Then we get into the kindergarten fight of I’m telling people the wrong thing, it’s not true that it’s offensive to the other dog when their dog gets in their space and in their face. If the dog is small enough, I pick it up and walk off. Sometimes the dog is large, so then I step in between the dogs so their dog can’t get to my clients dog. The sad thing is my clients are all frozen because they have no idea what to do. People these days not only think they are untitled, but I guess their dog is as well. Unfortunately, I’ve not found a polite way to do offer suggestions or make requests without the other person being a jerk.

    • Your client may not know what to do, but you have just shown them. When they are in that situation without you, they will remember what you did. I also step in between the dogs, having seen my trainer do that.

      • Guess what? It’s natural and healthy for dogs to say hello to each other. Their walks are an opportunity for them to socialize and guess what, dogs need to do that to be well adjusted and happy. How about letting your dog have a bloody social life? How would you like to be aggressively blocked or yanked away every time you want to talk to a friend? You people are sick, you are the problem. That is emotional abuse.

    • How about saying “my dog was just exposed to kennel cough, it’s highly contagious and has high vet bills”. You’re not really lying (kennel cough is everywhere). I bet they pull their dog back fast!

    • Dogs are social animals and need socialization. 99% of the people I see abusing their dogs are the people like you, who never even let thier dog sniff or say hello to another dog whilst out on walks. This is emotional abuse. Those are also the same people I see yanking their dogs off their feet if they “disobey” by wanting (quite naturally) to say hello to another dog, and such like. If you want to train your dog, don’t do it in the street where people and other dogs are walking around. OF COURSE the dog being trained will want to say hello. What you are training these people is that they should never allow their dog to say hello to other dogs in the street, and that is emotional abuse. These dogs are starved for socialization. And invariably their owners are always control freaks yanking their dogs away from the slightest socialization. That is not how to make a healthy or even happy dog, that’s how you make a dog who is miserable. That is emotional abuse.

  10. With children and animals we should never be silent. Most people immediately become defensive – too bad. Just stay calm, be kind, use a gentle tone of voice, but be firm. I recently saw a large black dog on a small third story balcony in full aun with no shade. He was whining & clawing at the two glass doors which had curtains drawn closed on both. I had no idea how long he had been out there. Then he began to howl. I would have gone to the front door and risked being threatened by the owner but I was able to find the HOA management company’s phone number. Apparently these people have done this before. The HOA management was on it immediately and the dog was off of the balcony shortly there after. I am constantly disappointed in people like this and tired of the ‘COVID’ excuse.
    SAY SOMETHiNG for the dog’s sake.

  11. My sister is aggressive when people mistreat their pets. Yells at them. But sometimes it works. I try to explain to them why they shoudn’t do it using experiences (like telling them when we got a dog who was in a hot car foaming at the mouth out of the car. Or telling them that people will often steal dogs out of cars). The leash thing is a little harder. Usually when I tell them about the car they are pretty nice about it. I guess I’d try both. BUT I think it is better to call animal control. They have some authority and training behind them. People are getting really mean even to each other now so I think animals are having a really bad time of it.

  12. I have confronted someone who was acting mean to their dog and being a real bully. Dog was not coming back when called and when it did eventually return the owner got hold of its half check collar and was twisting it tight around the dog’s neck whilst effing and blinding at it. I spoke to him even though I knew that he would speak to me in the same offensive way which he did.
    I wrote down his number plate, reported him to the police (public order offence) and to the RSPCA (they did nothing). The most important thing I did was to post about the incident on local social media including dog’s name and breed, type of car (though not the number plate) and description of owner. That way local dog walkers will be looking out for this dog. Police visited him and of course he denied the incident but at least he knows that people are watching him to ensure his dog is not ill-treated in public at least.
    I bought a Go-Pro body camera to wear whilst out walking my dogs-too many horrible owners about.

  13. I tend to try to kill them with kindness until it’s a matter of actual safety for the dog. I will admire their dog. Ask about their age, breed, etc… owners love to. Talk about their dog and its would give the dog a break while I could simultaneously assess it. I always have water on me and offer to other trail dogs so that wouldn’t stop me here. After hopefully a positive interaction, I might say something to the effect of…”it’s our job as pro trainers to be up to date on the latest and most effective methods of training, unless this is your line of work, you’re dog a disservice to your pup by trying to do that yourself. Why not pay for their expertise? If anything you’ll build a relationship with a pet care specialist who can help you with resources along your dog’s developmental stages such as the teenage years, socialization, off-leash training, and continue training in the home. It takes a team, just a child requires an outside instructor.
    Then I would invite her to contact me if she had any questions or if she’d like the link the outstanding database of R+ Trainers & Walkers to contact me anytime. Then I hand my card as I’m walking away.

    • Wonderful answer! But I need to point out that MANY people simply cannot afford to pay for training [especially now with inflation hurting us all]. I don’t know the answer to that. In my case, although not a professional trainer, I believe firmly in gentle training and have successfully shown several folks how to have fun with their dogs… etc. In one instance I offered to show the gentleman how it’s done and thankfully he took me up on my offer when I told him I wouldn’t charge him. I live in an economically challenged area where there just is no ‘extra’ money for such things. Since I am not a pro, I don’t ever charge, but I do have cards that say “Dogs just wanna have fun!. Give me a call and I’ll show you how!” Sometimes it works – other times we wind up chatting as I give my card to the person. Other times the card is thrown on the ground as they drag the dog along behind them. I get boiling mad when I see abuse and this is the only thing I have come across that makes ME feel better!

  14. I used to hear a man shout at his dog in a very mean tone of voice when out walking my dogs. I chose to send him an anonymous letter (cowardly perhaps, but safe) telling him that if I ever heard him shout at his dog again I would report him for animal abuse. I never heard him shout again. Now I have neighbors who shout at their dogs. They take them out in the front of the house, off leash, and then if they wander toward us, or a dog being walked, the person with the dog shouts at it in a nasty voice. I know they love their dogs, they are just not well informed about appropriate ways to treat them. I don’t dare talk to them about their dogs because I’m afraid of them. If I ever find a really non-confrontational way to talk with them I will, but I don’t want them to get angry or defensive.

  15. Some of these responses indicate thoughtfulness and caring as we all do re our pups. But others….well, put yourself in the dogmom or dad position. Because I’ve been there and you can not ever know exactly what that person’s life or position or circumstances are. Yes this may be a minority opinion, and yes I COULD leave my pup at home, but I do know what I am doing, and would never put my pup at risk. She loves going in the car, has an insulated winter coat, and our car which is small, does hold the heated air or a/c air well. In addition, I am well aware of how long I have left her for and never stay long at any one place. She is the most important being in my life and those who know me know I would never ever endanger her well being. On one particular day a friend was in the hospital, in ICU and I was only going to pop in for a few minutes. When I came back some no doubt well meaning POS left a message via a written note on my windshield letting me know what kind of horrible person I was and that I didn’t deserve to have any pet…and more. It was already an upsetting time with my friend in ICU, this person had no clue as to when I arrived and left, and had I confronted them I would not have hesitated in calling the police to report harassment. Another time I regularly would take my break at work late in the day. I did not work far from home, and would pick my pup up, bring her back to finish the day’s work (typically no more than 45-60 minutes of course only when the temperature was not too cold or hot. Our office was on the ground floor and has windows so I can look out and check or pop back outside and check on her. She always has water accessible as well. Well one early spring day, a coworker aware of my having brought her back, took it upon herself to call the police whose dept was right around the corner, and they sent an officer, as they have to. Our entire office where I worked over 25 years, knows how I cherish and protect my little one(s), but this one person who really is an animal advocate, as am I, I strongly suspect is the one who made the call. The officer came into the building clearly having checked my license tag registration and was asking for me by name. HE had no proof of the temp in my car, and clearly my pup was in no distress and absolutely fine, but he insisted I could not do that, and actually sat in his patrol car watching until I left with her…which I did after taking her out so he could see how fine she was, and then popped back in the office long enough to grab my purse and turn my computer off. SOMEtimes people just need to mind their own business.

    • Why not re-frame this by remembering how many people are out there who, out of ignorance or carelessness, *don’t* take the precautions you feel you do. Animal advocate that you are, you would want someone to speak up for those dogs, wouldn’t you?

      The passerby had no way of knowing you weren’t one of those people and were taking precautions. So instead of taking the note as “harassment” of you personally, just let it go if you think it doesn’t apply to you, and be happy it might truly help the next dog.

      Consider how it might look to someone who passed by on the way to an appointment, then returned 45 minutes later and saw the dog still there. They’d have no way to know that, say, you’d been out every 15 minutes to check temp and that water bowl didn’t get upended.

  16. Interfering can be like walking on a tightrope, but too bad. Yes, come from the approach as a helper, not pointing fingers at what we know is horrific behavior. Some people just view dogs as something they ‘own’. Wonder if this lady would ‘train’ her child the same way?
    These poor dogs are victims of ignorance.

  17. I would have continued the conversation in as professional manner possible. I would also have to be willing to walk away without resolution. Becoming an instigator of trouble is different than reaching out to truly help and perhaps open her eyes. And yes sugar gets way more favorable response than vinegar, so finding things to compliment her for is a great start. Then move into – “phew its hot out, I bet the puppy is getting hot too, did you know their feet…..blah blah blah? Would it be better for you to walk in the morning in and evening when it s cooler for all of you?”

  18. A neighbor was walking her dog at noon …..on the road and the dog was picking up each foot really high ……I was driving by and had just heard on the radio that is was the hottest day of the year so far……I rolled down the window and said “I just heard it is the hottest day of the year the road may be really hot today” she gave me the finger. Now every time she sees me she gives me the finger……she is still walking the dog on the road no matter the weather…..ughhhh yes some people just suck at being human.

  19. I was sitting at a light in my car and saw a guy across the street standing on a grass verge, talking to a friend. He was positioned so that his dog was on the asphalt, picking up its feet, trying to avoid the heat. I rolled down the window and yelled, “Hey, your dog’s feet are burning!” This one had a happy ending. He looked down at his dog and immediately moved him to the grass, then waved a thank you to me. There’s really no argument to being told your dog is in pain and seeing it for yourself.

    In that vein, I suppose Nancy could have yelled, “Hey, your dog’s having a hard time keeping up with you!” acting like the owner was simply unaware and that she was being helpful rather than accusatory. After all, the dog was behind the owner so she couldn’t see it. She could even follow up with “No offense, I just thought you’d want to know.” And then go with the “whatacutedogwhat’shisnamehowoldishe” blah blah blah before the woman could get angry.

  20. I did not read the comments. But really people. We have laws in Ohio against this cruelty! The Goddard Law after a huge advocate Dick Goddard. I’m sure other states have laws. Really really really. People do NOTHING! Get a grip! Take photos and videos. Get the license plate # and report to the authorities. I think people have to take a stand instead of doing nothing. How else are these MORONS going to pay for being IDIOTS! Let’s see maybe we should put the owners on a leash and drag them behind a car!!!!