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?