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Little Dog Syndrome

Dear John,

I was hoping that maybe you could sometimes write about that when little dogs get aggressive with big dogs they are not, as so many owners, by their smiles and chuckles when it occurs, are not being CUTE. Many times at off lead parks or even walking down the street my big dog has been treated aggressively by a small dog. He is well trained and ignores them. The owner often interprets this as my big boy being intimidated by their little brat and find it amusing. Thanks for hearing out my pet peeve. – Xena

Dear Xena,

Over the years I’ve picked up a second language. It’s called ‘Dog Owner Speak’ Let me share a few phrases with you. When a dog owner is being dragged by their dog toward you and says, “He’s okay!” It means, “I hope he’s okay because as you can see I haven’t a hope in hades of controlling him.” “He’s easily excited”, means, “We think he’s on crack.”If they say “He likes people.” It means, “He’s going to sniff your crotch.” and “Oh look, isn’t that cute, my little boys beating up your big boy? actually means “At least finally it’s not me he’s gnawing on.”

In other words some dog owners can be a tad hard to communicate with. One might even say adversarial at times. For instance, before you were to say something about a dog bothering your dog you should first consider that the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was based on the author’s up close and personal observation of the transformation in a dog owner’s behaviour after politely asking if they wouldn’t mind picking up their dog’s pile from his lawn. I believe the book was written during his convalescence. They don’t take criticism well.

One might argue that if we go to dog parks then we should expect anything goes. Dog parks are great places for dogs to blow off a little steam, but when you aren’t able to recall your dog from a dog that doesn’t mind playing but doesn’t want to be mauled, stay home. Same goes for not redirecting your dog’s play from where people are standing around. Every time a dog park opens the local emergency hospital starts getting patients showing up with knee injuries after being clipped sideways by a couple or more dogs.  Once, after a couple near collisions with two large dogs on their third unintentional run at me I, shall we say made my presence known to them, in ‘Dog Owner Speak’ that means I told them to “Push off”. No problem, they continued playing but chose to play away from the group of us trying to chatting. In this case, I happened to know that their owner did have perfect off leash control of both dogs. She just didn’t care to use it in the dog park. She shouted at me, “They’re only playing!” (Dog Owner Speak’, “I hope you’re a fast healer.” I replied, “How about that. Now they’re playing over there.”, which in ‘Dog Owner Speak’, translates as, “Go buy a gerbil?”

Should I just resign myself to accepting that dog parks are no place for well behaved dogs. Sadly, my experience tells me yes but I shouldn’t have to though. I think dog parks are great places for dogs to get a type of exercise otherwise impossible but so are playgrounds for children and yet we still expect some level of decorum. It’s a dog park, not a soccer game gone bad due to drunken hooligans running a muck.  Play nice or go home.

So there’s my rant inspired by your letter. I’ve sent the word out to owners of dogs, large and small.”Please respect other people and their dogs.” Of course in ‘Dog Owner Speak’ what we really mean is, “Don’t go away mad, just go away!”

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