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Coming to Your Town Soon—The Rising Animosity To Dogs (and Their People)
 dogs_on_leash

Being an unequivocal dog person, it’s sometimes difficult to understand the opposing sentiment—that not everybody loves dogs. But this point of view was made abundantly clear this past week as I caught up to the growing opposition to dogs in the San Francisco Bay Area, fueled by rants produced in local media. These claims suggest that the societal scales have tipped too far in favor of dogs and their human companions, and that dogs are pampered and over-indulged. Last week, the very popular call-in public radio show KQED’s “Forum” asked the question “Is the Bay Area Too Dog Friendly?”—the program description didn’t mince words: The Bay Area is known for being a dog-loving region, but has our canine adoration reached an unhealthy level? Dogs now accompany us into grocery stores, cafes, and even offices, but some argue that we’re excessively spoiling our dogs at the expense of others. We discuss whether our region really has a dog-coddling problem. The hour-long program can be heard online.

The show featured a local dog rights and off-leash activist; a representative from the SF Department of Health; and a tech writer from Slate.com whose recent article “No, I Do Not Want to Pet Your Dog” (with the tagline “It’s time to take America back”) inspired the program and blasts the untenable overindulgence of San Francisco dogs and their owners. Many examples of irresponsibility and misbehaving committed by dogs and people were cited—dogs damaging city parks, knocking over joggers while their owners remained unaware and unresponsive; attacking horses on trails, thoughtless, selfish dog owners who mislabel their pets as service dogs to gain unfettered access everywhere, aggressive dogs, untrained dogs, and unwanted invitations “to pet my dog.” The activist on the panel, and many of the dog-loving callers, also tried to add a more reasoned and balanced voice and pointed out all the enormous benefits that dogs bring to the community and individuals but recognized that a “few” bad apples do tend to spoil it for the many. The tech author of the Slate article, Farhad Manjoo, a father of a two-year-old boy and an avowed nondog person—argued that parents like himself “rein in” their children far more often than do dog owners. He fueled the heated discussion that veered to the “dogs are worse than children” comparison, and a debate on which Bay Area parent (canine or human) was more irresponsible. He goes on to lament:

But dog owners? They seem to suffer few qualms about their animals’ behavior. That’s why there are so many dogs running around at the park, jumping up on the bench beside you while you’re trying to read a book, the owner never asking if it’s OK with you. That’s why, when you’re at a café, the dog at the neighboring table feels free to curl up under your seat. That’s why there’s a dog at your office right at this moment and you’re having to pretend that he’s just the cutest.

Read the full article here.

It would be easy to dismiss these claims as the grumbling of a small but vocal anti-dog contingent, but to do so would be ignoring the fact that there do exist some serious issues with dogs in our community, such as uncontrollable dogs and their clueless guardians at parks, and dog walkers with far too many dogs, for examples. These public debates tend to exaggerate but who of us have not seen or been the victim of some incorrigible dog guardian’s behavior. Or witnessed the unsupervised “play” at parks that can cause harm to both dogs and people? As a community that has fought and lobbied to expand our rights and those of our dogs to have access to public and private space—it falls upon dog people to listen to these grievances, reach across the divide and understand the real problems that exist, and do our best to tone down the rancor and to find solutions. Wouldn’t it be a shame to backslide into the “old days” when dogs where an uncommon and unwelcome sight?

The Bay Area has always prided itself on being at the forefront of the “dog-friendly” trend, and, so, perhaps it is among the first communities to suffer the backlash of being “overly-permissive” to dogs. Reading the comments on Forum and Slate, it’s clear that dogs are not every person’s best friend. In fact, popular sentiment that dogs are out of control was running 3 to 1—not an encouraging sign. Is this a concern that is creeping into your community? Do you sense that dogs have worn out their welcome? What can dog people do to stem this outcry?

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Cameron Woo is The Bark's co-founder and publisher. thebark.com
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Submitted by Jennifer | July 17 2013 |

I live in the Midwest where the "old days" are still the norm for dogs and dog people. Not many people are "dog knowledgeable" and I have had many problems with both people (especially kids) and other dogs not using what I would consider common courtesy when approaching my small nervous dog. I actually prefer people who don’t want to pet my dog because my dog prefers to observe and not participate. Kids and other dog people would often run (and I do mean RUN) up to my dog, the kids often yelling, without asking my permission. It has created some potentially dangerous situations. Thankfully I have a very good working relationship with my dog and she lets me handle the other dogs and people and just moves to keep me between her and the “threat”. I finally got a “nervous” leash from friendlydogcollars.com to get people to use more caution, courtesy and common sense when around my dog. That being said there are many more people I have met who are very courteous dog owners and enjoy parks and other public areas without interfering with others enjoyment, letting their dogs play and interact with people and dogs who want too and not bothering those who don’t. And dog people are not the only ones who are not always irresponsible about their charges. People with kids can be just as obnoxious and annoying as a dog owner who is not responsible. I am not a kid person, yet parents often expect me to be tolerant of and interactive with their kids when the child starts leaning over and talking to me from the other side of the booth seat at a restaurant. When I was in college I would often take my dog to the laundry mat with me, and I certainly ran into people who thought this was inconsiderate and annoying even though my dog was sitting quietly under my seat or table, not barking at or approaching others, while their kids were riding around in the laundry carts nearly knocking people over (and they say and do nothing about it).

Submitted by SuzieVet | July 18 2013 |

Ill behaved DOGS are usually the product of ill behaved OWNERS- Just as ill behaved CHILDREN are the result of ill behaved PARENTS. I am a complete dog lover. I also understand that not everyone shares this passion,and altho I find these people cold and creepy, I respect that they want nothing to do with my animal. I NEVER let my dog go near any other dog or a human without being invited. Not all owners are this considerate ,and I apologize for them.
HOWEVER,Mr.Manjoo, "a father of a two-year-old boy and an avowed nondog person—argued that parents like himself “rein in” their children far more often than do dog owners. He fueled the heated discussion that veered to the “dogs are worse than children”" - I completely disagree with this statement. As a "NONCHILD PERSON" myself , I can tell you MANY meals, movies, quite time in a park ,etc. have been ruined by obnoxious children and their clueless, self-absorbed parents. No- I do NOT want your child talking to me, coming near me, smiling / waving at me or screaming anywhere near me.
Wouldn't most people prefer a quiet animal curled up sleeping at their feet during a meal , rather than screaming children, running around?

Submitted by Carol Bryant | July 18 2013 |

I don't like kids screaming in restaurants, parents who leave soiled diapers in restrooms, temper tantrums by young kids at grocery stores, but these are all things I must put up with. It is sickening that a few bad apples are spoiling it for the whole bunch of responsible pet parents.

Submitted by Sharon | July 18 2013 |

I'm reminded of my childless friends as I read this. They have complained for years about parents who don't control the screaming, running, bumping into and knocking over of things by kids in public places. It's the parents responsibility to teach social manners. Likewise, yes, it's dog "parents" who aren't being good citizens. Just as we must teach our children that not everyone wants to hear their screams or have candy hands all over us, we too must teach/train our dogs that not everyone wants to be panted over, jumped on and licked. And for those dog owners who don't pick up after their pet, SHAME ON YOU!! You give us all a bad name; I'm as sickened by you as I am by the parent who thinks it's cute when little Johnie (or Susie) is running around the restaurant banging into other diners' chairs while they try to eat and visit with their table mates. I'm a dog lover and parent, but when I'm at an outdoor cafe' trying to enjoy a meal and conversation, I don't want a dog near me "mis-behaving" anymore than I want a kid (or adults for that matter) near me who is mis-behaving. Come on folks, we adults (not the dogs and kids) have lost touch with social decency, limits (there are consequences), and respect for others. It's up to us to change this!!!!

Submitted by Sharon M. | August 24 2013 |

Sharon I just want to commend you on being a good parent! I'm childless too, and the same things drive me crazy, and other parents too.
I'm not really a kid person *but* the children that are kind and polite (bonus points if they're animals lovers!) are pretty awesome and better company then some adults. And yes, ppl who don't pick up their pets poo are the worst.

Submitted by Mick McAllister | July 18 2013 |

As a dog lover who has about had it with dog owners, I sympathize with the haters.

Being a dog owner doesn't necessarily improve one's character or qualify a person to have a dog. An Open Space walk in Boulder, Colo., provided plastic poop bags more than ten years ago. The locals would dutifully pick up the poop and then, too busy to walk it to the trash can, leave it beside the trail for what my son and I started calling "the poop fairy."

My well-behaved dogs have been attacked, roughly once a year, by loose dogs in the neighborhood, including a pit bill who nearly strangled one of them to death while the owner stood over her precious shouting, "No Brute! No Brute!" We've been assaulted in parks by dogs that shouldn't be loose (once by a pack of five ACDs that the owner egged on to jump my aging Lab mix).

I love dogs. Dog owners, not so much.

Submitted by Keiko | July 18 2013 |

As a dog-lover and publisher of an animal-lovers' newspaper, I'm afraid I have to agree with Manjoo. Not everyone loves dogs, not everyone loves animals, and as fantastic as the current animal-friendly culture may be to some of us, it is that annoying to the rest. It reminds me of the 1980s, when baby boomers started having children and acted like they had discovered it. If you are not a parent, the overindulgent obsession that new parents have is nauseating. I can easily see how non-dog owners would feel the same way about dog mania. It's wonderful to love your dog -- but it's time to start seeing other people.

Submitted by westernma | July 19 2013 |

As a person with a phobia of dogs due to being attacked by a pack at the young age of 10, having a dog approach me, unleashed, with the owner yelling "Don't worry! He's friendly!" produces a serge of anxiety and fear that eventually becomes anger. I don't think an owner of a dog can honestly know if their dog will harm someone, any more than they could absolutely predict the behavior of their teen or spouse... as proven when I was a child and many, many incidences since. - You just don't 100% know!

I don't want a dog running at me with teeth gnashing & hackles raised any more than I want their owner running at me with knife in hand and screaming. I don't want a dog running at me with tail wagging, preparing to leap up and lick me on the face, any more than I want their owner to gayly skip up to me and give me a juicy kiss on the cheek.

In short, I welcome dogs as a healthy inclusion in families, but I don't welcome them in my "personal space bubble" any more than I would welcome a stranger I meet on the street or in the park or while hiking in the woods.

The remedy... keep your loyal and loving companion on a leash and don't assume it's okay for them to meet & greet others.

I go running every day where there is a sign that requires dog owners to have their dogs on a leash. I choose to run there because that is the rule. When an owner disregards this and let's their dogs run loose and allowed to approach me, this is when the fear of dogs is taken over with anger towards the owner.

It's all about consideration of others and understanding that not everyone is a dog lover.

Boy, I feel better now... thanks for reading this rant! :)

Submitted by Sharon M. | August 24 2013 |

"It's all about consideration of others and understanding that not everyone is a dog lover." Westernma
Exactly, and I am a doggie nut. I live on a busy highway on 7 acres, and quite a few runners and bicyclists go by my house. The last thing both of us need is for my dogs to run out and greet them.
I'm sorry some people are such jerks!

Submitted by Tiffany King | July 19 2013 |

I understand "Farhad Manjoo, ”is “ a father of a two-year-old boy and an avowed nondog person", and he will probably raise his son to dislike dogs too, but his issue is not with the 98% of well-behaved dogs, who are trained, but with 2% of owners who think it is acceptable to not spend the extra time training their dogs.
Does Manjoo believe if all children do not behave, and there are lots of children who don't behave, then we should also get rid of their rights to public places? My husband and I went out on a date night and it was ruined by a 2 year old who was throwing a fit. Did I inform the parents it was unacceptable for them to bring their child out in public? No, I dealt with the fact sometimes children, and likewise, dogs don't behave.
There are people whose dogs are their children, and Manjoo thinks this is unacceptable. I do not expect everyone to love my dogs, which are why they are leashed. Yes I take them into public places with me, get over it Manjoo, I am socializing my dogs, and while you “make a show of telling him to quit it and I apologize profusely”; I actually discipline my dogs when they are doing things out of turn, and I apologize profusely. If you choose not to take your child to “nice restaurants, contemplative adult spaces like grown-up museums and coffee shops, the gym” that is your choice, and when he is old enough for you do to decide he is allowed out in public, I hope he doesn’t dislike your choices, but I am working with preventing the world from shooting my dog, because he is on my front porch, in my car, and on my lawn, and because there are bigots who are avowed nondog people, and find them by their looks aggressive.
Mr. Manjoo, like all persons who have decided they don’t like dogs, feels he has the right to decide for the rest of us. Unfortunately, like most of the self-righteous, he also feels the need to tell us how he would do it. Then making broad range assumptions such as: “If the dog’s owner notices these antics, I can promise you she won’t apologize for the imposition. Nor will she ask you if you mind her dog doing what he’s doing. Nor will she pull on its leash, because there won’t be a leash, this being an office, where dogs are as welcome as Wi-Fi and free coffee.” he tries to make all owners look bad. In the truest sense of a fallacy, Manjoo has decided we are all at fault if we own a dog. I own a dog therefore; I do not respect your rights as a non-dog owner/person to not want be around my dog, anywhere. By this standard, I do not have a 2 year-old, therefore he (manjoo) doesn’t respect my right to not want to be around his child. Anywhere.
I think being an avowed nondog person, he would be happy to ask someone to leash their dog, and move on, but no he has to tell the world his opinion, and sign up for the " I am better than you, because I don’t have a dog, therefore I will never understand your tolerance" club.
Sir, don’t like my dog, I don’t care. But do not assume you have the right to tell me where to go, and what to do, and furthermore, get off your soapbox.
PS. My son has a pit bull companion animal, and he is trained, but I am sure if he wags his tail at you, you would find it offensive, so please do not visit any of the “nice restaurants, contemplative adult spaces like grown-up museums and coffee shops, the gym or the office” where he works as his dog will be there.
I also would like to take back the peace I am owed, and I find self-righteousness very distracting. Please take your self home.

Submitted by Nancy Falk | July 19 2013 |

While a dog is not a child, and a child is certainly not a dog, many of the same rules of polite society should apply to both. With the increased acceptance of dogs in places of business and in attendance at more social gatherings, it is incumbent upon their owners to train them in appropriate manners and acceptable social behaviors, or leave them at home. We have tried for years to send the same message to parents--with mixed results.

Submitted by JanC | July 20 2013 |

Sounds to me like yet another example of lack of personal responsibility in America. Parents raise out-of-control children and aren't held accountable. It's their sacred right to have kids, but raising them to be productive members of society? Not their responsibility. Same is true of many dog owners. It's their sacred right to own a pet, but the behavior of that pet is somehow not their responsibility. Until we replace feelings of entitlement with a sense of personal responsibility in this country, we will continue circling the drain. I've solved the problem for myself. I don't go out much.

Submitted by Paul Higgins | July 20 2013 |

I live in Albany, NY, in the very rural town of Guilderland. Although we have a leash-law in the town, the overall tone is extremely dog-friendly and all of my neighbors not only own dogs but encourage (we all do) them to bring their pets to cook-outs and get-togethers. The town administration is also quite pet-supportive; yes, you should have your dog on a leash when you go to Albany area parks but this is not only people-protective. We have rather dangerous cliff areas in our town that both people and pets, unfortunately, do fall over. Reading the comments on Forum and Slate, however, it’s clear that dogs are not every person’s best friend. The comment posted that dogs are out of control was 3 to 1 I agree is not encouraging. At least in the Albany townships, this is not a creeping community concern. Obviously, we are not anywhere need the population density of the Bay Area where one poster suggested there was an issue. Nevertheless, more judicious uses of leashes, particularly in high dog-people environments, may go a long way in preventing 'encounters' (pet or people) that, unfortunately, create these backlash responses.

Submitted by Miss Jan, Bark ... | July 21 2013 |

I do see a growing backlash in the community where I live (unfortunately--cannot afford to relocate)and of course there is "all of the above" going on, from the article to the other comments. But I'm offering something even more dangerous to dogs and that is a twofold problem, as I see it: First: because there have been SO many irresponsible pet owners in this area, landlords are even more reluctant than in the past to rent to a tenant who has a dog, or even a cat or even a hamster or bird - issues of property damage, liability, other tenants' complaints, etc. Second: because there has been such an overwhelming amount of irresponsible pet parents and the predictable fallout from that, it gets increasingly hard to get law enforcement to address cruelty and neglect issues - dogs transported in pickup beds (supposedly illegal here never enforced, dogs chained up (yeah the anti chaining law was passed, already law enforcement gives a resounding raspberry to even the barest suggestion of enforcement of THIS one, once it goes into effect), dogs left in hot cars - just try to get a cop to attend to this one, does NOT happen; overflowing, overwhelmed and mis-named "humane society" here which even brings dogs with recent injuries (graphic), thin (to the point of emaciation) and visibly sick (mange, infected eyes) on to local TV pet of the week programs in a misguided attempt to get these vast numbers of neglected animals rehomed. I think the backlash is more subtle than portrayed in the article, it filters down as far as not being able to locate -- or afford, even the pet-friendly landlords are charging in the low thousands for deposits - a place to live with your dog, and the anti-dog attitudes filters down to law enforcement simply turning its back on animal neglect.

Finally, there is also an increasing backlash against service animals and that is frankly because there are so many bogus service animals. Whole Dog Journal has a wonderful article about that issue this month. I personally have experience with this, a close friend who actually knows better has her small dog outfitted with "mail order cred" complete with vest and tag, but her dog is snappish to other people and recently attempted to attack a delivery person, her dog suffers from separation anxiety and is VERY loud about it, and her dog hikes a leg and defecates in business establishments. Service dog? Nope. And others get really upset about a dog that clearly is not a trained service dog and pretty soon it gets to where ALL service animals are automatically under suspicion because a few faux untrained ones are decked out in service attire so their owners can take them "everywhere".

The pendulum is indeed swinging the other way. I think prospective owners need to be investigated (for past cruelty charges), tested and licensed before being allowed to own any animal. I never used to believe this because I think big "nanny" government is way too big already. But for the protection of the poor animals? Yes. Sadly, now I simply have to believe in rigorous investigation, testing, licensing along with harsher neglect and abuse laws with some real teeth in them and a mandate for law enforcement to investigate and the authorities to prosecute where appropriate.

Submitted by Miss Jan, Bark ... | July 21 2013 |

do see a growing backlash in the community where I live (unfortunately--cannot afford to relocate)and of course there is "all of the above" going on, from the article to the other comments. But I'm offering something even more dangerous to dogs and that is a twofold problem, as I see it: First: because there have been SO many irresponsible pet owners in this area, landlords are even more reluctant than in the past to rent to a tenant who has a dog, or even a cat or even a hamster or bird - issues of property damage, liability, other tenants' complaints, etc. Second: because there has been such an overwhelming amount of irresponsible pet parents and the predictable fallout from that, it gets increasingly hard to get law enforcement to address cruelty and neglect issues - dogs transported in pickup beds (supposedly illegal here never enforced, dogs chained up (yeah the anti chaining law was passed, already law enforcement gives a resounding raspberry to even the barest suggestion of enforcement of THIS one, once it goes into effect), dogs left in hot cars - just try to get a cop to attend to this one, does NOT happen; overflowing, overwhelmed and mis-named "humane society" here which even brings dogs with recent injuries (graphic), thin (to the point of emaciation) and visibly sick (mange, infected eyes) on to local TV pet of the week programs in a misguided attempt to get these vast numbers of neglected animals rehomed. I think the backlash is more subtle than portrayed in the article, it filters down as far as not being able to locate -- or afford, even the pet-friendly landlords are charging in the low thousands for deposits - a place to live with your dog, and the anti-dog attitudes filters down to law enforcement simply turning its back on animal neglect.

Finally, there is also an increasing backlash against service animals and that is frankly because there are so many bogus service animals. Whole Dog Journal has a wonderful article about that issue this month. I personally have experience with this, a close friend who actually knows better has her small dog outfitted with "mail order cred" complete with vest and tag, but her dog is snappish to other people and recently attempted to attack a delivery person, her dog suffers from separation anxiety and is VERY loud about it, and her dog hikes a leg and defecates in store aisles. Service dog? Nope. And others get really upset about a dog that clearly is not a trained service dog and pretty soon it gets to where ALL service animals are automatically under suspicion because a few faux untrained ones are decked out in service attire so their owners can take them "everywhere".

The pendulum is indeed swinging the other way. I think prospective owners need to be investigated (for past cruelty charges), tested and licensed before being allowed to own any animal. I never used to believe this because I think big "nanny" government is way too big already. But for the protection of the poor animals? Yes. Sadly, now I simply have to believe in rigorous investigation, testing, licensing along with harsher neglect and abuse laws with some real teeth in them and a mandate for law enforcement to investigate and the authorities to prosecute where appropriate.

Submitted by Anonymous | July 22 2013 |

I find that people in general are much more ego-centric now. They are less tolerant & very much more self-centered. I am not surprised that they do not enjoy companion animals as it requires an appreciation of life that does not benefit them in material ways. A shame really that this kind of person misses out on so much because they do not want to be bothered.

Submitted by Carolyn | July 26 2013 |

Reading the comments that have accumulated this past week, it comes as no surprise to me that BARK readers for the most part, seem to be responsible and educated dog owners. I've just moved to a community that is 25+ years behind the times. The issues of waste pick up, out-of-control, too friendly/too aggressive dogs are played out every day on our walks, in our open areas and in the resistance to our efforts to bring a dog park to this community. How do you reach them?

We staged a "dog day" event to try to bring attention to these issues in a fun way and offer some education. I was astonished at the number of dog owners that just don't get it, have never thought about it, are resistant to taking more responsibility for their dogs or find it just too much trouble. Unfortunately, it seems to me that these same people are so often the ones that ruin it for those of us that are responsible owners.

Submitted by Sharon M. | August 24 2013 |

What can dog people do to stem this outcry?
Say something to the pet parent if they are acting irresponsible, pick up dog poo even if it's not yours, and be considerate of those around you.
I feel the same way about children! I really don't want to coo over someones baby or see them running amok while the parents blissfully ignore it.
So I understand where the non dog people are coming from, and I behave accordingly. I don't want to be That Person who gives us a bad name

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