Don't Be Scared, Be Downtown Dog Savvy

Learn some behavioral cues for reading other people's dogs.

If you follow my column, you know that I bring dog stories, tips, and information, more than likely to dog lovers. This week, I am hoping non-dog owners will see this. 

I was recently on vacation, so I got the chance to spend a lot of time walking around downtown with Kaiah — about three walks a day.

I live in a huge dog town — we've got dogs painted all around our city and a good number of restaurants have doggie seating areas — so I am a little confused about some reactions I encountered. 

Most people we passed said “hello,” “pretty dog,” etc.  However, there were those others that would step off the sidewalk just to pass us and the people with children would put themselves between Kaiah and their children. 

Now, Kaiah was on a leash, of course, and behaved very well. She was not pulling me around or trying to jump on them at all. In fact, for the large part, she ignored passersby completely. 

I understand that this is probably just a little pet peeve of mine, but I witnessed this so much during my week off, that it really began to irritate me. Sure, not everyone in the world is a dog lover, and I also understand irrational fear. Going to the dentist is my biggest fear. So I do not want to chastise or condemn anyone for their fear of dogs, rather, I’d like to explain some doggie behavioral cues and tips that you can watch for and use as you encounter dogs in public. Hopefully, they will help put you at ease.

  • Pay attention to who is in control: If a dog is on a leash and the owner has shortened it for control, the owner more than likely has just that — control of their dog. Most responsible owners are not going to walk their dog downtown if their dog has an aggression issue. Does the owner have control? How comfortable does the owner look? If the owner looks worried or stressed, then that might be something to heed.
  • Watch for dog’s body language: Is the dog’s tail wagging? Is its tongue hanging out? If the answer is yes, then the dog is feeling happy and relaxed. You don’t have to worry that it will maul you. Are the dog’s ears back and down? Is the tail tucked? Does the owner look stressed? If the answer is yes, then the dog is likely scared or anxious. Take heed. 
  • Etiquette for children: Please teach your children to ask if it is OK to pet someone’s dog. Some dogs are doing well in public and are harmless around adults, but unless you know the dog, you do not know if they are good with children. This is especially true of little dogs, which are more likely to nip and bite than big dogs. This is how you protect your child and not reinforce an irrational fear of all dogs.

Please be aware and educate your children so you can walk down a street in a dog town and feel safe.

Dine with your dog at these restaurants:






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