Along with the absolute joy of owning my dog, Maggie, adopting her has come with a lot of newfound PET peeves. (Ha!) There are also some weird dog dilemmas that come with owning animals that we can take to places to play with others.
Ah, yes – the ubiquitous problem of poop. I have to admit that when I was a young teenager, my sister and I took our family dog, Penny, for a walk to the local park. While we were walking, Penny pooped on the paved walking trail. I was grossed out and also wearing new shoes, so I was strongly in favor of pretending we were invisible and running away. My sister, the responsible, unselfish one, got it off the trail somehow. I don’t know how, because I was busy executing my own plan. Current me shakes my head at teenage me, because now I’m firmly on the side of pick up the dang poop.
My own rule of thumb now is that if my dog poops in a place where someone else is even remotely likely to step, I pick it up. This means I am now an expert poop-picker-upper. On wooded hiking trails, I get lazy – or environmentally friendly, if you want to see it that way – and use sticks to just push the piles off the walking path into the underbrush. Maggie’s harness with a little pocket to hold plastic poop bags (before they’re used, y’all!), so I always make sure that’s full no matter where we’re going. I think this must be the rule of thumb for everyone else, too, because I hardly ever have to dodge poop piles. Thank you, other dog owners that pick up poop in public places. I’m side-eyeing all of you who don’t.
Dogs Off Leash
When we first got Maggie, it annoyed me to see people walking my regular trails with their dogs off-leash. Especially when, on occasion, the owners would see us coming and just yell out, “He’s friendly!” as their dog ambled up to us. I would rant to my husband like, they might know their dog, but I don’t! What if my dog is on a leash because it’s aggressive and your unleashed dog comes up to mine? What then? What if I’m scared of dogs; isn’t that disrespectful to me? What if your dog knocks over some kid or old person? It really bothered me. And it still does, in some cases. If you’re around people and your dog is off leash but not well-trained, that can be a problem. But the longer I’ve taken my own dog places, the more I see why it’s so tempting.
Once I was confident that Maggie wouldn’t bolt away from me as soon as I took her off the leash, I started testing her to see how well she’d do off leash. Through the week, we walk at a school near my house that is usually deserted. I don’t do this when others are there, but when we’re alone, I take her off the leash to run around in the big grassy areas. I started out taking her off as we were very close to my car, then let her off farther and farther away. She surprised me with how good she is at listening and keeping close to me given we haven’t really trained her to do that. I do make sure to stay far enough away from the parking lots where I can put her back on without making others nervous if someone else pulls in, but it’s a nice change for her and allows her to get more exercise without me having to sprint along after her.
When we take her hiking, too, having her off leash can be useful. There’s a mountain trail close to my house that has a few creek crossings, and it’s much safer for both her and me to have her off leash while we cross. She usually watches me to see what path I choose, and then follows. That way we don’t pull each other into the water. I had a Wednesday off work recently, and it was raining. When I got there, there was no one but us in the parking lot, which meant no one else on the trail. We did almost 2 miles with her off leash without seeing anyone. It was a lot of fun! She got to stop and sniff whatever she wanted and I just got to walk. I messed up a bit at the end, when she was barreling down the mountain at the end of the hike, too far away to hear me. Two other hikers were just starting up the trail as she passed. She ignored them, but I know it would have been more courteous to leash her to pass them. Next time we get that trail to ourselves, we’ll leash up before we get to that point.
Oh, dog parks. I have never lived in a house with multiple dogs, so the way dogs play with each sometimes really scares me. A lot of times, I’m just overreacting. Most dogs, including Maggie, know how to read each others’ cues and will back down if another dog feels threatening. I know now how to tell when Maggie gets overwhelmed, too, and can call her over to me before she gets startled. She likes to play with other dogs, but doesn’t like when too many are checking her out at one time. She’s also not a big fan of puppies. But she plays well with others, is not aggressive, and usually just goes around to all the other dog owners to see who will pet her.
A week or two ago, though, we saw a legit dog fight at our favorite dog park. A girl about our age had come in with her golden retriever, and another dog – who had been playing fine before – just decided he didn’t like the golden. There was a lot of growling and snapping and rolling over. The golden’s owner started panicking, and several of us started to come over to help her, when the other dog’s owner finally walked over from the other end of the dog park and pulled his dog off the golden. They both left immediately (and it didn’t look like the golden was hurt). But it was really scary to watch, and it bothered me how long it took for the aggressive dog’s owner to pay attention. Watching that made me even more sure I need to monitor my dog closely whenever we’re at a dog park.
What are your dogs-out-of-the-house pet peeves?