While it is true that the incident was started by one man’s dog urinating on another man’s lawn, that alone did not immediately lead to violence. When the owner of the nicely manicured lawn confronted the man whose dog had just urinated on it, the man with the dog cursed at him, pushed him, and punched him in the face. So while the dog’s behavior may have been a catalyst for the fatal shooting, the intervening human behavior was a critical part of the problem.
The distinction is important to me because while many people get into altercations over dog behavior such as barking, chasing, or even the people’s failure to pick up after their dogs, it is rarely dog behavior alone that leads to a truly problematic response by a person. It is the reaction of the people involved that causes situations to escalate into arguments, anger and even, on occasion, violent crime.
I’m certainly not saying that someone who yells, pushes and punches deserves to be fatally shot, and I think the situation is still one that involves a huge overreaction with tragic consequences. But I do think that the headlines saying a man shot another man after his dog urinated on his lawn tells only part of the story.
Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.