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Dog Walk Encounters: Give My Dog Space!
When people don’t recognize evasive actions.
Watch our for ignorant pet owners

Out on a walk today with a sweet dog who is a bit fearful, I saw a man with two rambunctious, though also sweet, dogs headed our way. Knowing that the dog with me would be stressed by (and possibly react to) those dogs, I crossed the street. No big deal. Crossing the street while walking dogs to avoid any number of possible triggers—runners, bikers, skateboarders, scary lawn art, plastic window coverings flapping in the wind, children riding in red wagons, other dogs—is second nature to me after two decades of working with dogs with behavioral issues. Most people with dogs realize what I am doing, we pass by one another in peace, and that’s the end of it.

Today, we did not pass by one another in peace, and that was not the end of it. The man crossed the street, as I had, so we were now on the same side. That’s happened before, because occasionally when I am trying to get out of someone’s path, I end up going right where that person was headed. So, I did the obvious thing and crossed back over the side where I had come from, but then he did that, too. At this point, I didn’t know whether to feel annoyed (Is he so unaware that he doesn’t realize I’m trying to avoid his dogs?) or scared (I clearly want to get away, so why doesn’t he want me to get away?)

Here’s how our conversation went, starting with me.

“My dog won’t act well if our dogs greet. I’m trying to give her some space.”

“Oh, don’t worry! My dogs are friendly and love every dog!”

“I’m not worried about your dog. I’m concerned about mine, She’s shy!”

“Oh, they’ll be find! She probably just needs to socialize.”

“No, she needs more distance. I’m going to keep moving away. Please stop following me.”

And then we ran.

Thankfully, the guy with the dogs did not follow us, and we were happy to run for several blocks until he was no longer in sight.

The entire exchange was irritating. I’m trying to increase the distance between the dog with me and other dogs, and I even said so in very direct terms. Why must people insist on trying to close the space? I realize that some people have had the luxury of never knowing a dog who needs some space or tends to react to many aspects of the world, but that is no excuse for ignoring a clear request. I could not have stated my intentions or the needs of the dog any more plainly.

Have you had an issue with someone who refused to give you and your dog the space you wanted and needed?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.

Photo by Carla Alves

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