On this mornings walk I ended up screaming “he’s not friendly” at two different dog walkers. In both incidents it was their dog who had decided to cross the field, and leave their owner to come and say hi to BD. BD was quite happily ignoring them and to be honest the only thing on his mind was “throw my ball, throw my ball, throw my ball.”
It was after the first ‘incident’ that I realised I was doing BD a massive disservice by screaming this about him… in the style of a loon… at other dog walkers. He isn’t ‘not friendly’; he’s cuddly and caring, he has a killer smile, brilliant personality, goes out of his way to cheer me up (now I see why people chose dogs over men) and greats me like he hasn’t seen me in years every time I see him. He would beat Mity in a friendly dog test by a mile, with both paws tied behind his back.
In fact the only time he isn’t friendly is when an off lead dogs come running at him, gets in his face and refuses to pick up on his “leave me the heck alone” signals. Then he gets scared and reacts; and the key would is he gets scared. If he can walk around the dog and get away then ‘touch wood’ he does not react. It is only when he feels trapped that he lashes out. Is it ok that he lashes out – No! But is it fully his fault…?
I feel like I am doing BD a massive disservice every time “He’s not friendly” leaves my lips. But what do I say instead, as awful as it sounds nothing else I can think of causes the ‘panic’ in the other owner quite in the same way. If I shout any other warning I generally get back “but mines ok” and that just doesn’t cut the mustard. Do I care if your dog is friendly? Not really. I care that your friendly dog is going to scare my timid dog and as a result his training is set back months. My nerves are put a little more on edge and we take a few more steps back, slowly inching forwards until another ‘friendly’ dog, another incident.
I know what it’s like having an overly friendly dog. If we ever took Mity onto a field he would scope it out to find out who he could say hello to, and he has covered lengths of fields trying to get to another dog to play. I know it is hard work. I know that despite months of training some dogs will just say hello. We were very fortunate that on only a handful of occasions did this ‘greeting’ turn out badly. Generally Mity would drop to the floor a few meters from the other dog and always rolled over as soon as the other dog approached him. But if ever this happened we would be on it. (I know some of you will roll your eyes as this is breaking dog training rules) but if he put his head down and ran generally me, my sister and my dad would all take off in hot persuit after him, screaming like loons trying to distract him and encourage him to come back and join us. Did it work? Not always. Did we try? Every single time.
Yet the people I met this morning didn’t. They didn’t seem to care that I spent the entire time I was within their eye sight purposefully keeping my dog and me as far away from them as possible. They didn’t notice that there was always (until their dog took off) me in-between their dog and BD. Nope they didn’t pick up on anything until I screamed “He’s not friendly.”
I worry BD is going to get a stigma. I don’t want people to judge him without knowing him. I don’t want to be ‘the woman with the unfriendly do’ but actually if that keeps their dogs away from mine, and BD safe. For the first time in my life I genuinely don’t care what people think. I will step up and be whatever the label needs to be to keep my boys safe!