Dog days

Tyler is the first dog I’ve ever brought up. My family had a dog when I was a kid, but my dad raised him, so I just got to hang out with Duke, but didn’t have to do any of the work.

So here’s the deal. Yesterday I took Tyler out for our post-Ashtanga-practice walk. We usually either take a walk over to and around the perimeter of a nearby park, or we cut back behind the neighbor’s houses and walk alongside a wash in the desert. We stick to the wash 75 percent of the time — it’s remote, there are beautiful palo verde and mesquite trees and some spectacular creosote bushes to look at, and it is a quick 1.25 miles.

Yesterday, though, I figured we’d head over to the park for a little change. As we rounded a bend in the road, I noticed an unleashed Rottweiler hanging out at the end of the street. I had Ty sit and stay, the Rottie didn’t notice us, and I figured we’d wait a moment, until the dog’s person caught up to him or called him or whatever. But no person materialized. The dog just kind of aimlessly wandered around for a while. Irritated, I decided Ty and I would just circle back by our house, then head over to the wash. No sense walked Ty past an unknown, unleashed, unsupervised dog.

So we headed back toward our house. As we came around the corner toward our house, I spotted the fellow who The Cop and I call “The Boxer Guy.” He lives several blocks down from us and has two boxers. What’s notable about Boxer Guy is that he’s, um, an idiot. He was standing at the edge of my neighbor’s lawn, holding two retractable leashes, both of which were pretty much all the way run out, with either dog off in a different direction while he just kind of stared off into the sky.


I knew he hadn’t seen me or Ty, and I knew he wasn’t going to notice us until one of his dogs angrily lunged toward us, which is what they always do. I debated about whether to say, “Good morning” to give him warning, but decided that since his dogs’ leashes were run out, they weren’t going to reach me or Ty when they lunged, so I might as well just be silent and let them give him a bit of a jolt.

Which, of course, they did. The black and white dog saw us first and lunged, the red dog realized what was going on and ran over to lunge, and Boxer Guy was twirled like a doll in the middle. He kind of laughed, and said, “Oh, I didn’t see you!”

Uh, yeah.

Once upon a time, I wouldn’t have thought anything of this. But the whole episode is par for the course with Boxer Guy. His dogs lead him around the neighborhood and act menacing whenever they encounter other dogs and people. Something suddenly dawned on me one day, and I told The Cop about it when Ty and I got home from our walk. “Oh my God, I just realized! Boxer Guy isn’t ashamed that he doesn’t have control of his dogs! He’s proud that he can’t control them! He thinks that’s cool!”

What a tool.

At the first obedience class Ty and I attended (we go back for the second level of classes the first week of February), the trainer talked about leash manners. The deal is this: you do not let the dog decide where you are going. YOU are the alpha dog, you are the leader of the pack — therefore YOU decide where you are going. I’ve been really conscientious about training for Ty, because he is a big breed dog, and because his breed is one that can have a bad reputation. I want him to be able to go out in the world and behave well. Which means he has to respect me and The Cop as his alphas. He can’t be left to run the pack — though I suspect he’d be a gentle leader. 🙂 Still, it isn’t fair to put him in that position.

One of the reasons we often stick to walks along the wash is because so many people have their dogs off-leash at the park. Almost inevitably, the people who have off-leash dogs have very well-mannered dogs. Generally they are older dogs with older owners. When I see an off-leash old dog with an old man, I have flashbacks to my Dad and Duke. They had a very traditional relationship: Duke obeyed my Dad without question and without hesitation. Like gravity, it was a law. 😉 I do worry, though, that everyone at the park might not be exercising good judgment when they let their dogs go free.

Anyhow, I was telling The Cop that it’s something new for me, this awareness of the behavior of dogs and owners. When I approach a human and dog at the park, my attention goes to whomever is in charge. Generally, I look to the human to see if their dog is friendly and if it’s a good idea for Ty to interact with them. With Boxer Guy, though, I look at the dogs, because it is clear that THEY are running the show. Boxer Guy just holds onto the leashes and gets pulled around and feels like he looks like a stud because he has uncontrollable dogs.

(Seriously, what a tool.)

Ty loves meeting other dogs and people. When he was little, I wanted to protect him from aggressive dogs so he wouldn’t develop fear of other dogs. Now that he’s bigger and happy and confident and not fearful, I don’t want him to be put into a position where there might be a fight — in large part because he would likely “win,” and then I just know it’s going to turn into an “American bulldogs are vicious” thing, even if he didn’t start the fight. (Maxine stays in the house, because she is so old, but it’s the same deal with her, as a pitbull.)

So I’m doing my part to train him and be responsible for him, but there’s still a world of unsupervised dogs out there and (even worse) dopey owners who use their pitbull or boxer or American bulldog to project a “scary” image.



6 Responses

  1. People get large protective-breed dogs with no thought as to what that dog might need to be, as Cesar says, happy and balanced. And I HATE that some breeds get a bad reputation because people are too lazy or too clueless to do what needs to be done to control their dog.

    We need Tyler obedience class pics!!!!

  2. hi Karen
    very interesting observations. i was a bit scared that it could turn to a story of an unleashed dog fighting with Tyler so i’m glad there was enough leash on those other dogs, given their owner’s apparent lack of control of them.

  3. Indeed, seriously, what a tool. These tools are of the same breed as people who think that a dog like a border collie is AUTOMATICALLY sporty and (therefore) trained, when actually said dog needs to run and be trained and NEEDS the owner to tell it how when why and where, otherwise they get bored and chew doors apart and that sort of loveliness.

    Hah, sorry for the rant, but I was raised by a dog groomer, so there were a dozen dogs in the house all the time on top of at least 2-5 of our own.

  4. Thanks for the help, Patrick! I don’t rant very much, so I can use a little extra rantiness. 🙂

  5. You edify the rant genre.

    Did you hear Temple Grandin has a new book just out? The reviews were really intersting.

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