|In the off-leash area of the Bruce Pit dog park.|
When Cher (owner/trainer at Street Wise Canine) first visited us, she had us take her on a typical walk: "Just do what you usually do," she said.
Within about 200 metres, she had some pointers for us. One of them occurred when we encountered another dog leaving the park, just as we were entering. I though the two dogs were having a friendly sniff-and-greet, but she pointed out that Kane's body was stiff and that he placed his neck over the other dog's neck.
"That was a dominant gesture," Cher told us. "You need to really control that." It's important because that kind of behaviour could cause a dog fight. Dog fights scare the sh%$@ out of me.
Since then, I've been more aware of Kane's interactions with other dogs -- and of the behaviour of other dogs when they meet him. And you know what? A lot of those other dogs are not well-behaved. And their humans seem to be oblivious. And, much to my frustration, they are almost all off leash!
On Saturday, Kane and I were in a large, open, snow-covered field when a large (larger than Kane), off-leash dog noticed us. (The area has signage that indicates leashes are required.)
He came loping toward us with his head lowered below his shoulders, which struck me as an aggressive stance. The stranger-dog's human called out that he was friendly, so I ignored my gut interpretation.
I had already put Kane into a sit, but he lay himself prostrate, in a clearly submissive position, and whined. (I think he was reading the body language the same way I was.) The other dog approached quickly and confidently. The two dogs sniffed each other's junk and then, before I knew it, there was growling and lunging. I yanked Kane back while the other dog's human was still approaching us.
She called her dog. He did not respond at all.
Once she was beside us, she grabbed her dog's collar and led him away. Still leash-less.
On Sunday, a similar thing happened in a different park, with a different dog. I had let Kane off his leash and was with a friend (and her well-behaved border collie) who, after the growly, barky dog had left, told me that the he was known for that kind of behaviour. But was still off leash.
|The on-leash area of the Bruce Pit dog park.|
I took Kane to the on-leash area because I did not want any surprise encounters. We encountered about four dogs during our walk. Not one of them was on a leash.
The first one I asked, "Isn't this the on-leash area?"
She replied, "Yes, it is" and kept on walking.
The next three I challenged: "Why isn't your dog on a leash?"
They all seemed surprised and allowed that, yes, they probably should have put the leash on before entering this area, but not one of them appeared to even have a leash with them. (At least, they didn't pause to put their dogs on leashes.)
I explained to them that my dog is unpredictable with other dogs and that it makes it really hard for me to control him if the other dogs are off-leash. They seemed surprised at this concept.
The four dogs we met today were all well-behaved - there was no barking, growling, or leaping. But those people don't know me or my dog, and should be cautious.
The truth is, I am afraid of the other dogs. I'm afraid that something will go horribly wrong and an honest-to-goodness fight might break out.
I get it -- I totally get it! -- that we want to let our dogs go off their leashes. Kane's delight in that top photo shows exactly how much joy he gets, and I hope he will be able to handle the off-leash area some day.
But for now I have three wishes.
- People had more honest perceptions of their dogs' tendency to aggression and restrain them appropriately. Because I'm not sure about Kane, he stays on-leash.
- Where there is an on-leash area next to an off-leash area, please respect those distinctions.
- While we're at it, please scoop the poop!