If you go to dog parks, I am sure you have run into this problem—people who give your dog treats without first asking your permission. I had a run-in this morning over such an offering.
The park that we go to is around 25 acres, with ridges and swales, easy for a dog to be nearby but be hidden from your view. Being able to spot my dogs even though they are off sniffing or playing with others, is important to me. What I don’t like is for well-intentioned humans to provide “incentives,” in the forms of treats, as I am trying to call to my dogs and instill reliable recalls. This morning that is exactly what happened, with the same person who has been “treating” Kit for some time now. This time I was close enough to her to ask her politely to please not treat my dog. Her reaction? She blew up at me, and wouldn’t let me finish explaining how important it is for Kit not to run to her when she sees her (or even hears her dogs), knowing that she will get a treat, and that only enforces a behavior (running off sometimes at a great distance) that I am trying hard to redirect. The “treater” seemed insulted that I brought this up.
A long time ago, when I was new to the whole dog-walking scene—years before I helped to establish the off leash area we were at this morning—I was one of those “treat” ladies. I loved that dogs seem to respond to me … and my homemade liver treats! Who doesn’t enjoy having a group of dogs sitting around you, waiting politely for a reward? But even then, I would first ask permission. I realize that I overplayed that a bit and realize now that there is a whole host of reasons not to feed someone else’s dog including how it might impact training, health, diet, etc.
Obviously there are exceptions as well. When we first got our under-socialized, fearful pups from a Southern shelter, I would ask others at the park to treat them, even providing them with treats. This helped ease the pups’ fear of humans. It also quickly made them into little roly-polies, so I would substitute kibble for treats and kept track of how many they got as “treats,” subtracted that from their regular meals.
To treat or not to treat other dogs—let me hear what you think.