The other day while visiting the with my Kaiah and Grayson at our usual time, a guy came into the “large dogs” section of the dog park with a small dog the size of a Jack Russell terrier.
All of the dogs there are friendly, but large, and some are very large. Even though there is a section for small dogs, no one thinks it is a big deal when small dogs occasionally end up on our side. When the little dog came in, all the big dogs — including my 70-pound Grayson — thought they would go see whom it was. The Jack Russell seemed to get a little freaked out and became aggressive, most likely for one of two reasons:
- The dog was already an aggressive dog and should not have been brought during a busy time with other dogs, OR
- The dog was scared by all these dogs that were double to triple its size and started to defend itself (Personally, I think this is the one).
Now, this smaller dog and can easily be picked up out of reach of other dogs. In this case, I saw this apparent owner hit — yes, I said hit — his dog for the aggression.
The dog laid on its back in a submissive position, exposing its belly to everyone and the owner hit it AGAIN!
The sight of this infuriated me. A fellow dog owner later summed up my sentiment. Punishing your dog for aggression with aggression is "like telling your kid not to hit by hitting them," Jennifer Painter of Palm Harbor said.
I walked over to pull Grayson out of the mix when I saw the man hit my dog! Now, this guy did not hit Grayson hard enough for Grayson to notice — but I did.
While I was getting Grayson, the guy picked up his dog and began to leave.
In my time volunteering for a pet rescue organization, I’ve seen how heavy-handed discipline can cause a dog to develop behavioral issues — issues the dog fosterers spend so much time trying to undo. And, in general, I feel like those of us that have voices need to speak up for those that do not. How many of you know for a fact that if you were being hit by someone that your dog would come to your aid? My Kaiah is generally submissive, but I know that she would be right there for me if someone tried to hit me. Why can't I be right there for those that cannot speak?
In that moment, I was moved to stand up for that little dog. I told the man not hit his dog. We exchanged some words, and he left.
Every night since, I have been haunted by this incident. I cannot stop wondering and hoping that the little dog is OK.
In light of that incident, I decided to call the SPCA and find out what the average citizen can do when they see something like this. A spokesperson for the SPCA in Largo said we should try your best to take a picture or videotape the offense. Fortunately, these devices are at our disposal and easy to access in a hurry. My phone actually has both capabilities. (If there is no evidence of the incident, there is little the police or anyone else can do.)
The next step would be to contact your local police department and report the incident. You’ll want to give them all the identifying information you have.
To many of us, our dogs are our children and we treat them as such. Unfortunately, they cannot "tell" you what is happening to them, so let’s do our best to speak up and look out for them. Good luck!