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Be Polite. It Could Save an Epileptic Dog’s Life.

DINOS touches on all kinds of issues, but mostly it’s all about this idea: Some dogs need space, so it would be awesome if everyone had control of their dogs, obeyed leash laws, and always asked permission before allowing themselves or their dogs to approach unfamiliar dogs.

That not-so-complicated idea can be boiled down even further to this really, really simple idea: Please be polite, respectful, and responsible.

I heart boundaries tee

Got Boundaries?

Regardless of why a dog may need space (there are so many reasons: health, medical, occupational, and behavioral) the only thing most of us want is the opportunity – the right – to choose whether or not our dogs will interact with other dogs or people.

We’re reasonable about this. We’re upholding our end of the bargain by responsibly managing our dogs and getting out of the way. We know we can’t always control our surroundings and we don’t expect others to go out of their way to avoid us. But it stinks when our ability to choose what’s best for our dogs is taken from us. That happens when someone is breaking the leash law or can’t/won’t control their dogs (on leash or off).

For many of us there are serious consequences when our ability to choose who our dogs interact with is taken away from us.

I recently heard from a reader named Mary:

“I just wanted to thank you for making people aware of this. My dog has epilepsy and while people’s ‘dogs are friendly’ they can kill my dog.

Certain scents cause him to go into cluster seizures that take a dosage of Valium to wake him up. Just smelling the medication put on the back of a dog’s neck used for heart worm/fleas can cause a horrible reaction.

I’m sick of having to run away or protect my 100lb dog from these very hyperactive dogs. If we wanted to encounter off leash dogs, we would simply go to a park. It’s so very frustrating…If people would just ask before approaching and not unleash their dogs to meet us, I would be so happy. It seems so simple right? We all deserve respect.”

Please help me stay healthy. Ask permission before approaching.

This blew me away.  Taz is a DINOS because he has epilepsy and he needs space to stay healthy. You would never be able to tell, just by looking at him. But you can help keep him safe just by being polite.

The thing is, Mary purposely walks Taz in areas that have leash laws, but still encounters off leash dogs who run up to her dog and can compromise his health. She’s not going to off-leash areas or dog parks. Mary doesn’t want to ruin anyone’s good time with their dogs.

She just wants to be able to walk her teddy bear of a dog in public, without fear that someone else will break the law and let their uncontrolled dog (friendly though they may be) run up to her dog and possibly cause a reaction that could kill him.

She’s not asking for much, but she’d really appreciate it if we were all polite, respectful, and responsible.

We can do that right? We can obey leash laws, control our dogs, and remember to ask permission before we allow ourselves or our dogs to approach an unfamiliar dog, can’t we? We teach children to ask permission before approaching a strange dog. Why can’t adults do the same?

I think we owe it to each other to do so. In this wacky world, a leash and a few polite words go pretty far in keeping us all safe and comfortable in public places. Accidents happen, of course, but we can at least try to be respectful of one another.


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And it’s not just those of us with DINOS that wish dog owners would be more courteous. Senior citizens, children, and people afraid of dogs – they all have a right to use public spaces without fear of being chased or jumped on by dogs that are out of their owner’s control (on leash or off).

But this blog is about dogs, so back to them.

Taz is a reminder that you may not be able to tell just by looking at a dog if they’re epileptic or recently became blind or if that puppy will be a Seeing Eye dog one day. Or maybe they’re just having a tough day and need space for a few minutes.

When we assume that another dog will be ok if we allow our loose dog to chase after them or we let our leashed dog pull us over to say “hi”, we’re making a judgment call without all the facts. And in doing so we are taking away that other person’s right to choose what’s best for their dogs.

It’s impossible to know what’s going on in someone else’s world just by looking at them and their dogs. That’s why we need to remind dog owners to take responsibility for themselves and their actions all the time, around ALL dogs.

Doing so allows all of us to be part of a community that treats everyone – two and four legged – with respect.

It starts with obeying the law, having control over our dogs, and asking, “Can we meet your dog?”, then listening to the response in case the answer is “Sorry, but no.”

Just good old-fashioned manners. A bit of politeness towards a stranger and you could save a dog’s life.


You can help pass along this reminder with the Ask First poster and handout. Trainers, vets, shelters – these resources are free. Please pass them along to your clients and the public!


(2013 Note: Yes, yellow ribbons  are now one way to signal that a dog needs space, but not everyone will understand what it means or be able to see it or stop disregarding leash laws. For long lasting changes, we can focus on educating the public about being respectful and responsible for their actions all the time, around all dogs.)


  1. I love this blog, I feel I learn so much! I think of these points often, when, just last Sunday at PetSmart for an adoption event, and I had numerous cases of people letting their dog (or not being in control) meet the shelter dogs without asking or even making eye contact with the handler. Logic tells me that letting two dogs meet while one handler is turned another way and doesn’t even know you are there is NOT smart! It is a small space with lots of activities (and over stimulation) but some manners would go a very very long way.

    May 9, 2012
  2. Well said, the sheer lack of respect that some pet owners display sets my teeth on edge, not to mention makes my job almost impossible some days. I understand accidents can happen, but to willfully disengage your dog from it’s leash when there are other dogs around still tethered?
    Not acceptable.

    May 9, 2012
    • As a professional dog-walker, I’m right there with ya. Every single day.

      August 5, 2013
  3. Another great post. I remember once I went to a park by my house – on leash is the law and on the signs at the park. I ran into 4 off leash dogs.

    Later that day I took my friendly dog to a legal off leash park. 4 people where inside the park with their dogs on leash! – a recipe for reactivity. One of them was on a flexi leash – in a dog park!
    I wish those 4 people had traded places 🙂

    May 9, 2012
  4. Our Yellow lab is epileptic and I constantly have a problem with people letting their child(or children) and/or pets greet her on or off leash, It’s worse we take her somewhere to let her swim I keep her on lead so I can get her if I need to and all the other dogs get let off leash (a area with leash laws the dogs aren’t allowed off leash even when swimming around according to the park rules). We do our best to keep her stress free and healthy, but people make it hard sometimes.

    August 5, 2013
    • I’m sorry you’re dealing with this too Tanya. I’m hoping more people will begin to understand that our actions have an effect on each other, so dogs like yours will stay safe and healthy!

      August 5, 2013
  5. Bonnie #

    I love this blog and have learned techniques to help my dog. On a different note, please change the ‘ask first!’ image. It’s so sexist it hurts. Really, it’s the woman who has the pulling dog she can’t hold back and the man is the one in control and stopping them? Try reversing it and see how you feel at a gut level and then at an intellectual level. I’d really like to distribute a poster like that in my area, but not with such a sexist image.
    Thank you for thinking about it.

    August 5, 2013
    • Hi Bonnie, I won’t be able to change the graphic (it wasn’t cheap to create and I can’t afford different versions). You might be interested to know that the artist who designed the poster is actually the woman depicted – she chose to be the model for the person walking the pulling dog – and she asked her husband to model the DINOS person asking for space. We’re two independent, self-employed women who made a design choice. It’s in no way a commentary on the sexes. I’m proud to be a feminist and proud of the poster’s message too (on every level)!

      August 5, 2013
  6. Diane #

    I cannot agree more….what an absolutely perfectly written blog. I hate running into off leash dogs in a park where there is a leash law and being told to “mind my own business” when I point out that there is a leash law. My large dog is learning not to be reactive but it is a process…and dogs running up to him “oh my dog’s friendly” just make me grind my teeth to the nub. MOST of the walkers I have encountered in the last couple of weeks, seem to be on my wave length, one of us will cross a street, or if we are really close and it is a bad curve, I always walk my dog up a driveway and sit him or “gentle dog” (a down) him…thank you for writing this. The other thing is this same mindset seems to never notice that there is poop fallilng out of their dogs ass end…they leave it right there for strollers, and four footed and two footed critters to smash right thru…sigh…

    August 5, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Be Responsible, Respectful, Safe: Ask First! | notes from a dog walker
  2. Should I Leash My Dog? [Flowchart] | notes from a dog walker

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