Space in an urban environment, I know I am asking for a lot here. But I wanted to post today as a plea to the public to be mindful of other dog owners/walkers and to take a few extra moments to give some space if needed.
So, you have a friendly dog that loves all other dogs? That is SO GREAT! Seriously, I am very happy for you. However, that doesn't mean that other dogs want to say hi to your dog. It isn't anything personal, but some dogs just need more space. And living in close quarters (like we do here in Liberty Village, Toronto) can be quite stressful to our dogs - so I wanted to urge you all to take an extra few moments on your walks to be mindful of this, and to check your surroundings and slow down if you see a stressed out dog.
Just because you see a dog walker with a group, don't assume the dogs are good with new & unfamiliar dogs
I get it, you see a group of dogs so you would assume it would be no big deal for your dog to say hi. But it is VERY hard to keep a group of 3/4/5/6 dogs under control when a new dog comes and says hi. Even if all 6 are super friendly, we get tangling & dogs jumping over or on each other and it can turn into too much excitement too fast. On the opposite end, just because a dog is walking with other dogs doesn't mean that a new dog wouldn't scare them. The dogs know that when they are with me, the friends I have are safe. But outsiders are scary! Again, this is NOTHING personal. Trust me I would love to chat with you and your dog if it was just me (or 1 or 2 friendly dogs) but this is THEIR walk, so if I ever try to cross the street to get some space - know it isn't personal... and I would very much appreciate the extra patience if it takes us a second!
A personal example:
My Sadie lady, she is doing INCREDIBLE with her reactivity training - but there are some situations where we get trapped, and if people could just slow down and give us space the reactivity could be reduced.
We were in an elevator, and got to the ground floor and wanted to exit. There was a dog with their handler waiting to enter and go up. I said "sorry my dog is a little reactive". I could have been more bold and asked for space, for sure. But as I was trying to exit this handler came into the elevator (??) why!?!?! Why couldn't this person just take literally 10 extra seconds maximum to take a few steps back and let us pass with the space we needed. Instead Sadie loses her mind and is barking/snapping/REALLY UPSET. It leaves me feeling like a failure, put Sadie in a scary situation, and put that dog in a potentially dangerous situation. This all could have been avoided with 3 or 4 steps backwards, and just taking a few extra mindful moments.
If Someone Asks for Space - Don't Be Offended
Like I said, I am so happy for you that you have a non reactive dog. However, I do, and I want to be her advocate. Please make this easy for me by not arguing back when I say that Sadie doesn't want to say hi, or when I jog to gain distance or cross the street. So many people think I am a bitch because of this, but I am the opposite. I care so much about my baby's wellbeing that I am willing to be perceived like this. But I really wish this wasn't the case. I wish people would see Sadie tense up, see me trying to get some space, and think "oh this dog needs space! I will allow them that 10 seconds MAX that they need to get to a safe space for this dog." Why can't this be the norm? The only people who ever seem to give space are those who also have reactive dogs (and I want to hug the crap out of them), or some great dog walkers (not all dog walkers are created equal). But I regress, this is NOT personal. Please do not take it as such. Just move on!
Let's Slow Down as a Society
I am guilty of this, always feeling like I need to finish whatever I am doing quickly. But one of the best things that my dogs have taught me is to slow down and to live in the moment. When walking your dogs, don't think about all the work you need to do or how you need to get dinner started, just enjoy the walk WITH your dog. Watch your surroundings, slow down and really just take it all in. And if you see a dog who doesn't want to say hi, take a second & let them pass or just pause for the 30 seconds they need to add some space.
It is a Dog's World after all, let's give them the time and the space they deserve.