When Rover Roams…
Does My Dog Need Training, Or Do I?
Everyone understands why it is important to teach children basic manners to help them function well in the world, but I am frequently surprised by the “blind spot” that many have regarding their pets and the impact their pets have on those around them.
I am embarrassed to admit that I have experienced this blind spot myself. Not long ago, my dog charged into the middle of a family’s beach picnic causing chaos and, I’m sure, dumping a heap of sand into the family’s potato salad. I was mortified and apologized profusely, but the damage was done. It happened in an instant. I had let my dog run off leash on a stretch of beach we often visit… my dog usually listens… but not on that day. The experience was a lesson to me and prompted a question: Did my dog need better training, or did I? I should have known better. After all, even well trained animals can behave unpredictably.
When my dog leaped into that family’s picnic (lured by the smell of food, no doubt,) she did not physically hurt anyone and the family, while annoyed, was good-natured about their wrecked meal, but I remain uncomfortable with the incident. I love animals and am a firm believer in the benefits of having pets. (Now that I have teenagers, at least I know that my dog appreciates me and is happy to see me every day.) The incident on the beach helped me to become more keenly aware that it is my responsibility to make sure that my pet does not cause inconvenience to others. It’s painful to admit that my dog—a dog that has a heart of gold and would never want to cause harm or ruin a picnic—did, and it was my fault, my ignoring my own good training!
Like raising children, having pets requires consistency and awareness. Not everyone loves or trusts my dog as much as I do. In fact, there are a lot of people who are genuinely afraid of dogs. That day on the beach, my blind spot for my dog caused me to make the mistake of assuming I had perfect control over her behavior. I forgot that my dog’s crashing that picnic with her enthusiasm, sandy feet and wagging tail might not be interpreted as adorable, or normal, or acceptable. I forgot my own training as a dog-owner by ignoring my dog’s potential to be, well, a dog, and behave unpredictably.
I hope that the family on the beach was still able to enjoy their picnic, sand and all. Sorry again about the potato salad.