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Inconsiderate Dog Owners

Dear John:  

We have a border collie cross that is trained on leash to bike ride for his daily exercise. Our problem is that when we go biking we have been attacked by other dogs (mostly whose owners don,t have their dogs on a leash) which for him started at 9 months of age when he was grabbed at the throat by a boxer who ran at full speed from at least 100 meters away. I have lost track of the many incidents as there have been so many. There are so many people out there that do not have a clue as to teaching their dog good behaviour. Every time they say, “My dog’s never done that before!”, then look at us as if it was our doing. They become very defencive and blame us  for the attack.

The problem that has resulted from this is our dog now has a dislike to any other dogs which he did not have before this started. This has made me very paranoid to go biking without my husband and has made me afraid of other dogs which I never have been. -Lisa

Dear Lisa,

You’re not alone. I was on a hike with my sons and a couple of dogs a while ago. It’s an area very popular for walking dogs. Coming up the trail is a woman with two dogs in the 60 – 80 pound range straining on their leases. Outside of good manners, it’s always better to be safe then sorry, so my sons, the dogs and myself step to the side of the trail to allow her to pass. She has a bit of a stressed look to her face and shouts ahead, “Is one of your dogs a small dog?” “Yup” I reply. She counters with, “One of my dogs doesn’t like small dogs.” From the look on her face I took that to mean, “Say goodbye to your little dog!” So, I ask, “Can you control your dogs?” To which she says, “They’re on leashes.” I’m thinking, “That’s not what I asked.” She weighed maybe 130 lbs, she’s got 150 lbs of dog which due to their 4 wheel drive, four on the floor traction are more like 600 lbs. I know she doesn’t have a hope in hades of holding them in place if they don’t want to be held. In fact if they head in opposite directions she’s going to be drawn and quartered. Thankfully, nothing happened. That time.

Responsible dog ownership doesn’t  just mean, “I take my dog for a walk.” It should mean, “I take my dog for walks without inconveniencing others.” The irony is most dog owners really want their dogs to be behaved and have taken them dogs for training. It just didn’t take.

Perhaps a good part of the reason is it that dog trainers think teaching a dog  geometric patterns around pylons in a big room constitutes helping the average dog owner to walk their dog or keep them off the kitchen table. Dog trainers should focus on teaching three things. Come, Heel and Go to Your Mat in real life environments. That’s all the average person needs. What difference does it make to the average dog owner whether the dog sits, stands or lays down when told to, “Go to your mat dog.” Let the dog decide what position he or she want to assume. Just don’t get off the mat.

Very few classes I’ve observed had much to do with teaching the dog to exert self control or develop an attention span. Usually they’re “Here’s a treat.”  The, “I can teach a dog in an entirely positive way.” is contrary to the way any creature learns in real life. Can it be done? Of course, if your life revolves around your dog. Then there’s the inferred or outright accusation, if it’s not all positive then it’s inhumane. More nonsense. Every parent and teacher on the planet must then be inhumane. What’s humane about dogs unable to go for walks and runs because the training failed?

I truly believe until the majority of dog trainers get their act together and learn how to provide a balanced message, “You did well.” “You didn’t do well. Don’t do it again.”,  you, I and every other North American will continue to suffer as will our dogs. The International Association of Canine Professionals has many members that know how to train a dog in a balanced manner. Check them out at


-John Wade 

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