I’ve been spending some time at a local park now that the little lady has become a big fan of Pokemon Go. The first day we went to check it out, I noticed a lot of people had dogs there, and a large majority of them were not handling their dogs well. I saw a man walking his dog off-leash around the large pond, with dozens of reactive dogs all around the park. It seemed like every single owner had a retractable leash, which is bad enough in and of itself, but 90% of them weren’t even paying attention to what there dog was doing! I watched a 5lb Shih Tzu go after a 90+lb boxer, get within inches of her face before the line ran out, before the owner even noticed!! That boxer could have mauled that poor dog in a heartbeat without anyone being able to stop it.
Those were just a couple of examples of the plethora of absurd behavior that I saw out of dog owners that day. Needless to say, I made the decision not to subject any of our crew to that park or those situations. But, because pokeballs go fast and are quite expensive, the need arose for me to go back there yesterday. I saw alot of the same mistakes being made, but one situation really stuck out to me.
There are two small side streets that form a roundabout at the entrance to the park with three waist high pillars guarding each of 4 walkways that go off in different directions. As I was walking through the grass towards the entrance, I noticed a young girl of about 7-8 years of age, with a retractable leash attached to a long-haired, 10lb, mutt. The girl’s mother was next to her and it instantly struck me that it was rather odd for the girl to be responsible for holding the leash in a public situation such as a park.
I continued to watch them enter the park and was horrified to witness the little girl let the dog pull to the end of the leash then yank back with her whole body, turning the pup almost completely around every time. That process repeats about six times as I’m approaching from about 50 yards away. As I get closer, I can hear the little girl is berating this poor dog for not listening to her. I’m planning on interjecting myself in the situation to alleviate some of the dogs suffering under the guise of “aww, cute dog, can I pet him, blah, blah…..you know I run a blog about dogs, would you mind if i showed you a few tricks…etc, etc”. But as I approached, the next few moments left my jaw on the floor and me stunned, planted in the middle of the grass, my mind completely blown by what I saw.
This is what happened.
I’m walking up ready to say hello when the dog begins to poo in the grass. The little girl, immediately, pulls as hard as she can and the pup ends up on the walkway. Then like thunder from Zeus himself, the mother booms “WHY DID YOU DO THAT?!?” at the puppy. She bends down and grabs the leash from her daughter, barks orders at the young one to do something(I couldn’t understand what she said)
In my head I am thinking, what do you mean why did he do that? He’s a dog, you brought him to a park, he is doing exactly what he is suppose to do?! This lady continues to blow a gasket though. She is yelling at her daughter as the dog is doing his best to escape her wrath, wrapping himself around their legs, trying to hide in the grass, etc. This just serves to further infuriate the lady and, at this point, I’m preparing myself to stop her from physically hitting the dog or her kid.
Fortunately, that didn’t happen. But, to my complete shock, she continues talking to the dog saying, “I told you to wait until we got over there, why can’t you just listen for once, are you that stupid?” This is when I was frozen in complete disbelief. All I could think was “does this lady really think her dog understands english and is actively disobeying her?”.
As I stood there, utterly stupefied, the little girl returns with a plastic bag, they clean up the mess, and are on their way as if nothing ever happened. I must have stood there for another minute or two, just trying to process what I had just seen. As I emerged from my shock coma, i just shook my head. Then I realized that I had read about this sort of thing before.
In laymen terms, it is assigning human motives to non-human creatures. The example that I remember is one that many dog owners may have heard(or done) before. It is the “he/she was mad I left so pooped/peed or destroyed the house to get back at me” Dogs don’t do spite, nor do they hold grudges. But these owners are convinced that they are correct in their assumptions, which often leads to punishment of behavior that didn’t happen. The poor dog has no idea why he is being punished, and this sort of “teaching” will often lead to much worse problems down the road if it happens regularly.
Just like the poor dog in the park, who was just doing what he thought his humans wanted him to do, being berated, dog’s that are punished for having human motives interpret that as being yelled at/hit/corrected for no reason whatsoever. This leads to fear, which leads to aggression or other manic behavioral problems.
The lesson that was galvanized in my mind by this specific experience, and the one I hope to convey to you, is that dog’s don’t have human motives. So the next time you find yourself guilty of trying to attribute such motives to them(I am even guilty of this sometimes), take a step back and ask yourself what is really going on, and how you can fix the behavior using positive methods that will work in the long term!
If this is the first you are hearing of such things, I highly recommend any of the books by Patricia McConnell in our Book Recommendations section. “The other End of the Leash” was the book that really opened my eyes to humanizing my dogs and what is really going on!