Let’s set the scene. This may become a bit sensitive for some, and I apologise in advance.
You’re out somewhere. You might be at a restaurant, a bar, a public park on a sunny day enjoying the sunshine with your family. It may be that you’re on your way home from work or trying to catch the bus. You’re just minding your own business.
Suddenly, a person comes straight up to you. They give you anxiety. What is this person going to do? I don’t know! The person is walking with a friend and the friend sees you’re a bit anxious and calls out to you saying “Don’t stress, she/he’s all good!’’ But they keep approaching you. And when they finally reach you they randomly hug you. Touch you. Walk circles around you. Start talking to you. Don’t let you leave.
What would you call that? Harassment? Assault in severe cases?
How would this make you feel?
Now, after the initial shock you find your courage and you ask the person to go away. Leave you alone. But the person doesn’t stop and instead touches your arm or your hair. “Oh come on, we’re alright. I’m not doing anything bad I’m friendly! Just let me be around you.’’ You get upset and might push the person. Shout at them. If you’re a bit more of an assertive person you might punch them. Who knows.
Then the person and the friend get upset. Well? WHY are you here then? What are you doing in this public space if you don’t like being around other people? You have no business to be here, minding your own business in this park with your family without allowing me to sit with you, play with you, touch you, talk to you. Actually, you know what you should do? You should be more social! You should go more often to random groups of people.
Do you see what I did there? I used this analogy to set the scene. I am aware that the dog world, works a bit differently but the concepts are the same.
If you thought any of the above situation is not okay (and I sure as heck hope you do), then why do we think it’s okay to let dogs run up to strange dogs and say ‘It’s okay he’s friendly’?
What we do in the dog world is the exact opposite what we should be doing. We label the harassed dog as aggressive and the harassing dog as the victim.
Dogs have emotions. They have feelings. They have their own characters and personalities. There are many, many dogs that are not interested in making new friends or being with dogs they don’t know they can trust.
And sure, some dogs love playing with other dogs. Those are the extroverted dogs. Just like we have people that LOVE hugging or love making new friends even as adults, but to be honest.. how many of those people do you know? I think if you put it into a % its lower than the people that rather just are with their select group of people and be left alone by random strangers in public spaces.
So don’t assume the dog your dog is running towards on the beach, is willing to play with your dog. Being in a public space means you need to have your dog under effective control. And if you can’t call your dog back, it should be on a long line until you can.