Courtesy and etiquette in the dog-walking world

(Originally posted on September 27, 2006)

I almost didn’t want to go for a walk this morning, because an over-protective yappy dog owner yelled at me yesterday. I’m deliberately being vague about whether it was the dog or the owner who was “yappy”.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen me walking my woolly mammoth dog down the road, but she’s a healthy girl (she would like me to point out that she is not “fat,” she’s just “big boned”). And sometimes, even though I may be a keen observer of the human condition, I’m a bit rusty when it comes to doggy etiquette.

For instance, when another dog (and hopefully, a human walking with it) is coming in my direction, do I cross the road? Because in my world, crossing the street so as not to pass directly by is an indication that perhaps you are afraid that the person coming towards you might mug you. I’m walking with a 75 pound dog. I’m not so afraid of being mugged. Of course, if you know my dog you know what a joke that is. My dog is afraid of swooping birds—she’s not too likely to take on a gun-wielding maniac. People should be more afraid of me than my dog. I mean, when we pass the guy walking his Dalmatian and Chihuahua, Bridget hides behind me because she is afraid of the Chihuahua! Clue to people: my dog is not muzzled nor on a body leash. Chances are very good that she is easily subdued.

Anyway… how hard is it to be courteous? Apparently, it’s a challenge for some people. I’ve been stopped and thanked on a number of occasions for scooping my dog’s poop. At the same time, I’ve been glared at by homeowners until I scoop the poop. Hello, but I AM NOT CATCHING IT AS IT COMES OUT OF MY DOG’S ASS! Give me a few seconds before you glare at me. It’s a bag, not a damn catcher’s mitt.

Once, an ambulance turned off it’s siren as it passed me, so as not to distress the dog. That was courteous. I waved at them. They waved back. Bridgett wagged her tail.

I walk in the grass when I see bicyclists or joggers heading towards me. I walk in the grass when I’m on a road with no sidewalks and I see a car coming towards me or hear one behind me. Which reminds me—which side of the road am I “supposed” to walk on? Because sometimes people glare at me when I’m walking against the traffic… but sometimes people aren’t paying attention and swerve TOWARDS me when I’m walking with the flow of traffic… so is it better to be glared at or hit? Easy choice. Glare away, mo’ fo’s!

When people look interested in my dog, I stop and say Hi. Especially if they have kids, because Bridgett loves kids and I think that’s a great way for wee ones to meet big dogs… to have them meet one who is a complete pushover. I chat with the folks, I pet other dogs, and we exchange pleasantries about the neighborhood.

There is a particular look that a happy, healthy, alert, friendly dog will have. Ears and tail up, head looking around, and the hair on the shoulders is down (not up and ridged). This is a look that Bridgett has almost all the time—with the exception of when she is sticking her head in some flowers, or sniffing the ground. It’s a look that says, to me, “I’m having a great time and would feel terrific about meeting other dogs.”

So I was a little taken aback when this guy hollered at me from across the street to “keep to that side of the street.” He even held his hand up as if playing traffic cop, and actually yelled out “STOP!” To me. Because my dog looked like a threat to him. His dog, he claimed, was frightened of larger dogs that might attack her. I looked at her, and saw her tail wagging, her ears up, and she was pulling on her leash to come towards Bridgett. Not barking, not growling, but sniffing the air as if trying to catch her scent. Bridgett was behaving the same way. I’m pretty sure that I’ve met that dog before, too, but with a woman walking her. If it’s the same dog, she and Bridgett got along well and we walked together for a block or two before parting ways. Keep to that side of the street. Well, sure. I can understand that as a warning, if your dog isn’t friendly. And I can understand being yelled at if I was doing something illegal, or dangerous, or was throwing rocks at your dog. But all I did was come around the corner, with my happy stupid puppy, and this guy goes ballistic.

Then he walks through the gate into his yard, slams his gate shut, and stomps into his house and slams his door. Making me feel like a criminal.

Hello, who would yell at someone for no reason and then SHOW THEM WHERE YOU LIVE?! I could have been carrying. I could have come back later with a flaming bag of poo. WTF, dude?!

Sigh.

2 comments

  1. Yeah, the guy is an asshat for acting the way he did. In fairness though, what I’ve discovered is that when I expect my dog to not do well around others she doesn’t. They pick up on that tension. So he may be influencing any response to bigger dogs that his dogs have. Also, she may be unpredictable–Bella does the same thing–acts interested, ears and tail up, her hackles aren’t raised, but its a crapshoot when she goes to meet another dog. Sometimes its rainbows and doggie treats, and sometimes its growling and snapping after ten seconds. So its likely he’s had some experience with her not getting along with other dogs, and his wife never told him about the cute Newfie that she did get along with that one day on the walk and what fun they had. All that aside, still a douchey way to act.

    And you are supposed to walk against the flow of traffic. I’m with you–the glares of idiots who don’t grasp the concept of “share the road” is much better than the alternative.

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