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Posts tagged ‘rude people’

Are You Giving or Taking Space? It Matters.

It’s Dog Bite Prevention Week again. Hey! Ho! Let’s Go (look at some ways to not get bit)!

There are a million ways to prevent dog bites. Fortunately dogs aren’t really into biting us all that much. Did you know there are more than 70 million dogs in this country? That’s a lot of teeth. And yet, they rarely use ’em on us, even when we act like fools. But occasionally, due to a variety of factors, dog bites do happen.

One of the ways that we can prevent dog bites is by thinking about space.

Specifically, how we take space from dogs.


When I started talking about Dogs in Need of Space a few years ago, I was looking for a simple way to communicate that all dogs have a right to their personal space and we should do what we can to avoid taking that space from them without permission.

Dog bite prevention tips are often about space (even if that’s not how they’re framing them). That’s because how we give and take space can influence the likelihood of a dog feeling the need to talk to us with their teeth. Let me show you how space plays a role in reducing dog bites:


Body Language: The way we move our bodies can help change how dogs are feeling about a situation. For example, we can take a step back, turn our bodies sideways, or crouch down to reduce the amount of space we take up and appear less threatening.

This week I was charged by a loose and under-socialized dog. I slowed my pace and turned my body 3/4 away from the dog to minimize the confrontation. I rocked my weight back, avoided looking directly at the dog, and kept my hands at my sides. I gave him as much space as I could in that moment through my body language. I got sniffed and he left.

Dear human, I am watching you carefully for clues.

Dear human, I am watching you carefully for clues.


Leash Laws: Using a leash helps to create space between your dog and other dogs or people (including the elderly and the disabled). When we leash our dogs and keep them by our sides as we pass others it maximizes the amount of space between both parties. This allows the person or the other dog, who may not appreciate meeting another dog while they are on leash, the opportunity to pass by calmly.

Leash laws can reduce bites between dogs, but also to humans (since we’re the ones who usually get bit when we try to intervene in a dog-dog brouhaha).

Not leashing your dog and allowing it to approach another dog  or a person without their permission robs others of their personal space. When that happens, many dogs and people will act in ways that will increase the likelihood of a bite (think: screaming, running away, and hitting or threatening your dog).

Not sure when to leash your dog? Ta-dah!

Proper Containment: Dogs that are properly contained on their property cannot escape to chase passing dogs and people. When we keep our dogs on our property using a fence, a lead, or a rock solid recall/proper supervision, we can create enough space between our dogs and passing pedestrians, playing kids, dog walkers, etc., so that they can all whiz by safely and without incident.

The other day while I was walking two dogs, I was chased by a loose dog that was not happy that we were walking by his lawn. I retreated into the street and up the block a bit to give him as much space as possible. I did not want him to feel as though we were in “his” space and that he had to protect his property. He followed us for 3 houses, then turned back. I gave him space, but I was at risk. You know what would have been a safer way to give that dog space near his property? A fence.

Don't makes us leave our yard.

Guard Wieners say: We see you. Just keep moving and no one gets hot dogged.


Being Polite: Every single time you pause to ask permission when meeting an unfamiliar dog you are creating space on multiple levels. You’re creating physical space by stopping your body/hands/your dog from moving forward without an invitation. You’re creating the space to observe by allowing enough time to look at the dog’s body language for clues about how the dog really feels about meeting you or your dog. You are creating the space for a response by allowing the dog and the other owner time to respond to your request, which might be “no”. In which case, you are giving them the space to leave. 

Seriously, just being polite and respectful by asking first is a real winner in the preventing bites category.


Kids and Dogs: When we teach kids that they are not to go near the dog when it’s eating or chewing a bone, we’re teaching them to give a dog space. Same goes for teaching them not to use dogs as full body bean bag chairs, not to hug them, not to approach loose or chained dogs, and also to get the heck out of the dog’s crate. It’s all about teaching kids to respect the dog’s space.

Kids, please give this dog space. Then tell your parents to call the SPCA.

Kids, please give this dog space. Then tell your parents to call the SPCA.


Avoiding Surprises: If you are a jogger or cyclist, please give dogs physical space by not zooming right up on them. When you make a wide arc around them, you maximize the space between you. Dogs are dogs – they don’t understand why you are running full tilt right at them. When they are surprised by your approach, it increases the likelihood of a bite. Even the best behaved, most well socialized dogs can have a bad moment when they are surprised by having you suddenly in their space.

Good Management: Making good choices gives our dogs the space they need to succeed. When we have guests come over, workmen, unexpected deliveries, etc. we can give our dogs the space they need to feel safe by using crates, gates, leashes, and old-fashion doors to separate them from people. Same goes for on-leash walks. You may need to say “no” when someone tries to approach your dogs. You’re making a smart choice, so don’t worry if  it pisses someone else off. You’re in charge of doing your best to create the space your dog needs to succeed. Always stand up for them.

Rocket Ships: Or, we can forget everything I said, load all of us humans onto a rocket and blast us into space. The dogs would miss us, but we’d prevent lots of bites if we were on Mars. Also, would I get to hangout with Neil DeGrasse Tyson if we were all in space? That would be so rad.


This here is a BAD ASS.

This here is a BAD ASS.


Wrapping it all up: The next time you’re with dogs and not sure what the best thing to do would be, you can ask yourself:

Am I giving space or taking it away? How can I create space so that everyone stays calm and safe?


And so, another Dog Bite Prevention Week comes to a close here on Notes from a Dog Walker with this thought: SPACE, it’s not just about the cosmos, it’s also a great way to prevent a lot of dog bites.


Happy International Assistance Dog Week: How Not to Be a Jerk to Working Dogs

It’s International Canine Assistance Dog Week! In celebration of all the amazing service dogs out there, here are a few basic etiquette tips. Remember, service dogs are DINOS – they need space to do their jobs! When you encounter a working team, please be responsible for your actions and respectful of their space.

Happy International Assistance Dog  Week

If you encounter a service dog and their handler, please keep these tips in mind:

1. Do not touch the dog.

2. Do not let your child touch the dog.

3. Do not let your dog approach the dog. This includes obeying leash laws and having your dogs under your control at all times.

4. If you want to do #1-3, you must ASK FIRST, then wait for their response. Speak directly to the person, not the dog. Treat the human with dignity, please.

5. Respect the handler’s response. If they say “no”, accept this and move on. It’s not personal. You have no idea what the handler is dealing with and they may not be able to safely interact with you or your dogs in that moment. Sometimes handlers will be happy to talk with you about their dogs and other times they won’t be able to do so. Have compassion (they need a service dog for a reason – not just because they’re cute) and allow them to carry on.

6. Do not distract a service dog by whistling, calling out, or offering it a treat. This dog is working and needs to keep his attention on his job. Distracting a service dog can result in the handler getting hurt.

Finally: Never, ever, fake a service dog with your own pet dog. Seriously. Don’t impersonate a service dog team so that you can fly your dog in the cabin or take them into Target with you to shop for sassy t-shirts. It’s ruining things for real service dogs and their people. Don’t exploit someone else’s hardship. It’s just not ok.

international assistance dog week

Purchase this retro-tastic print to raise money for IADW:

Want to learn more?

Please obey leash laws. Leash Laws keep Service Dogs Safe. 

Excellent etiquette tips from Please Don’t Pet Me

Know the Law. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the TWO questions business owners are allowed to ask.

Resources for people with working and assistance dogs: Working Like Dogs

International Assistance Dog Week resources. Celebrate in your community.

How Steve Martin Helps Me Deal With People Who Walk + Text

A couple of years ago I started encountering a new obstacle while I was out dog walking: people who walk right into me while they’re looking at their cell phones.

I don’t mean talking on their cells. I mean they’re looking down at their phones, texting, for entire block lengths. Maybe even miles. Not only are they not looking where they’re going, but people who are tweeting highlights from Teen Mom 2: The Reunion Special tend to weave a lot too. They’re hard to navigate around.

I’m not the only one who has noticed this new walking hazard. It’s gotten to be so bad that talking and walking and/or texting and walking made an appearance in the book “On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes” in the chapter dedicated to taking a city walk with a blind woman (in order to experience the city through senses other than sight). Author Alexandra Horowitz writes, “I saw examples of cell-phone walkers weaving, violating the time-honored stay-to-the-right street rules. Most critically, they were not checking: they did not look up.”  Horowitz’s blind walking companion shared that she had been in a number of full body collisions with cell phone users who did not look up in time to see her walking nearby (with her white cane!).


So back to my dogs walks: There I am, walking towards the phone-focused with my dogs and trying to avoid a collision by moving from one end of the sidewalk to the other. The weaving is all kinds of awkward, not to mention I look like I pounded a six pack of Zima in between dog walks.

Finally, I came up with a new, more effective approach. I just stop and stand still.

I wait until the person on the cell phone is a few steps away from bulldozing me and then I say, loudly, “LOOK UP!

Which they do, because I just startled them so bad that their butt cheeks seized up.

Of course I only do this with dogs that are super people-friendly and with people who look like they’re not armed. If the dogs aren’t comfortable watching someone jump out of their flops, we just step right off the sidewalk and escape the cell phone zombies by walking in the street (with people who are doing the same thing with their phones, only they’re in cars**).

But I really do love the “Look Up!” moment and try to squeeze it in whenever I can. Just for funsies.

Not only is it effective, but every single time I do it, I think of Steve Martin in this scene from The Three Amigos and I laugh, laugh, laugh.

Please enjoy it here:

Almost everything I know about dog walking, I’ve learned from Steve Martin.

OK, maybe just this one thing.

**On a serious note: Today while dog walking I watched a woman driving the wrong way down a one way street in front of a hospital. She weaved around the cars coming straight at her, while I waved at her in an attempt to point out the huge “DO NOT ENTER” sign that she was passing. She didn’t notice. She was too busy looking down and texting.

We all need to stop texting and driving. In the past few years I’ve had to alter the way I dog walk because so many drivers are totally unaware of me and the dogs walking in crosswalks. People are driving with their heads in their laps. Most of us are guilty of doing this. We all need to stop thinking we’re the exception to the rule and can text and drive safely. We can’t. No one can. And we could wind up killing someone. Werner Herzog’s short file “From One Second to the Next” is a hard look at the consequences of our bad behavior.

Please be safe out there everyone. Look up!



Stop Caring What Others Think and Stand Up for Your Dogs

It’s almost dog bite prevention week, so I want to talk to you guys about one of the keys to reducing dog bites (as well as making life better for your dogs all around):

You need to stop caring what anyone else thinks about you and your dog.

If you do this, you will free yourself up to make better choices on behalf of your dogs. When you make better choices, you are setting your dogs up for success in our crazy world. And when you do that, they are less likely to get into trouble which they will wind up paying for big time.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Stand up for your dogs. Be assertive in protecting your dog’s physical and mental health, as well as the safety of those around them. 

2. When you’re not sure if your dog can handle something, always err on the side of caution. Choose management over “I don’t know, so let’s find out!”

Dogs need us to do both of these things more often, so that they don’t feel like they need to take matters into their own hands teeth.

Obviously, dogs need lots of other things from us too: socialization, training, proper management, and a never ending supply of peanut butter that they can roll around in like it’s a canine version of that scene in Indecent Proposal. People also need to learn how to read their dog’s body language,  understand stress and fear, and not screw their dogs up in general. But we’ve covered that before, here and all over the web.

What I’m talking about now doesn’t really have all that much to do with the dogs. It’s about us humans and how uncomfortable many of us are with being forceful, direct, and making unpopular choices that we’re afraid will make people not like us. This is causing some problems for our dogs.

Too often we choose not to speak up for our dogs, even as things take a weird turn. We recognize that our dog is uncomfortable with the hyper kids running circles around them. We suspect that the unfamiliar dog approaching our dog isn’t as friendly as their owner is claiming. We don’t know if our dog is ok with the cleaning lady entering the house while we’re gone. But we allow it anyway.

We allow our desire to be perceived as friendly or nice or easy going to override our own gut instincts or what our dog is trying to tell us. Our desire to be liked – to avoid being seen as unfriendly or rude or “bitchy”  – is powerful stuff.

It’s so powerful, that humans will choose to ignore their own instincts and proceed into potentially dangerous scenarios, just so they don’t make a bad impression.

Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear, says that unlike other living creatures, humans will sense danger, yet still walk right into it. “You’re in a hallway waiting for an elevator late at night. Elevator door opens, and there’s a guy inside, and he makes you afraid. You don’t know why, you don’t know what it is. Some memory of this building—whatever it may be. And many women will stand there and look at that guy and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to think like that. I don’t want to be the kind of person who lets the door close in his face. I’ve got to be nice. I don’t want him to think I’m not nice’.” More on that here. 

If we’re willing to walk right into a metal box with a stranger that totally scares us just so we won’t be seen as rude, imagine how difficult it is for many people to be assertive on behalf of their dogs with nice folks at the park, their neighbors, visitors, family, and friends. We’re willing to deny our fear around murderers. It’s no wonder we’re not comfortable speaking up for ourselves around people we pass on a dog walk.

The problem with our discomfort is that dog bites often happen when we are:

1. In denial about our dog’s limitations and/or their behavior issues. To be a good advocate for them, dogs need you to see them as they are, in the present.

2. We know their limits, but we still hesitate to take action.

And the flip side of suspecting or knowing your dog has issues and not speaking up is:

3. When we are in complete denial that our “good” dogs would ever bite someone.

Number 3 is a whole blog in and of itself. This blog is really about the first two points. But I’ll sum up #3 real quick for good measure:

All dogs have the potential to bite. ALL of them. Breed, size, age, zodiac sign – doesn’t matter. Push any dog hard and long enough or in just the right way (You mean it’s not OK for my 2 year old to crawl into my “good” dog’s crate while he’s sleeping?) and they run out of options and will bite. So don’t push any dog’s luck. Don’t allow them to be treated roughly or inappropriately or fail to properly supervise them because they’re such “good dogs.” Your dog needs you to stop thinking they’re a robot with no limits and respect their boundaries. Don’t fool yourself. Your dog will appreciate it if you help them out by setting them up to be good.

When we let dogs bite, the dogs pay for it. They might hurt a person or another dog or get hurt themselves. They might cause your home owner’s insurance to drop you and then you can’t keep your dog. They might be declared dangerous. They might make the news and inflame the public into calling for a ban on all dogs that look like your dog. They might be taken from you and euthanized.

Dog bites aren’t the only consequence, of course. When we don’t step up other not-so-great stuff happens, like we put our dogs into situations that make them stressed and miserable. Or they have a bad experience with another dog and then they become a DINOS. But this post isn’t about dog behavior. It’s about us and our malfunctions.

Sometimes, we have to step out of our comfort zone in order to be effective advocates for our dog’s safety and health. Do not let others pressure you. Stop caring what anyone else thinks and just do what you know is right for your dogs.

Channel your inner Ron Swanson:

ron swanson

Now, I recognize that there are things that happen that are beyond our control. Also, I understand that sometimes we genuinely think we’re making the right choice and it turns out to be the wrong one. And of course, I want you to socialize, train, and do new stuff with your dogs, which means that inevitably there will be goof ups. I get it. That’s life.

What I’m talking about here is when you’re hesitant to do what you know needs to be done or when you’re afraid to err on the side of caution because you think it’ll make you look like a “square.”

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you all permission to stand up for yourselves and your dogs. You have to do it. Your dogs need you to do it.

The next time someone tries to force themselves or their dog onto your dog, you’re going to boldly step in front of your dogs and say “STOP.”  Say it like you mean it. Then drop the mic and walk away.

The next time someone comes over to your house and you’re not sure if your dog will be OK with them, you’re going to put your dog in another room or in their crate or on a leash.  When your friend visits with their little kids or the landscaper needs to use your bathroom or the police* bangs on your door, you’re not going to hold your breath and see what happens.  You’re going to tighten up your core muscles and say, “Please wait while I put my dog away.” When they say, “It’s OK, I love dogs”, you will hold your ground and follow through with the plan.

And the next time you’re at the vet or the groomers and you don’t like the way they’re handling your dog, you’re going to say, “We need to do this another way.”I struggled with this one. But I’m over it now. Same thing goes for trainers. If you don’t like they way a trainer is working with your dog, you’re going to say, “Thanks, but we need something different.”

Yes, the other person may say nasty things to you or about you. They might call you a “bitch.”  I want you to not care. Because in that moment what you really are is your dog’s hero. You just took their well-being into your hands and acted with conviction. You made the right choice and they’re safe because of you. Bravo.

And who cares what people call you?  As my future BFF Tina Fey says, “Bitches get stuff done. Bitch is the new black

Tina Fey

Look, the other person will get over it. They might not even care at all. For them, the discomfort of dealing with hero-you won’t last long. Even if it does, even if your neighbors think you’re kind of stand-offish, it’s not rocking their world.  But for you, the consequences of not standing up for your dogs might be long-lasting and deep-cutting. Set those limits, then don’t give a hoot what anyone thinks about you.

p.s. There are other ways to set limits and not giving a crap what anyone thinks, like: if they need it, walk your dog with a muzzle on. You will get weird looks. But you don’t care, cuz you’re being Safety First.

Hey, I know this is uncomfortable for some of you. But I know you can do it because you love your dogs.

If it helps, I want you to think of me standing next to you, cheering you on as you stand up for your dog’s needs. I’m five feet worth of NJ/Philly-loud-talking-feistyness and I don’t give an eff about saying “No” to anyone if it means making sure my dogs don’t get into trouble or have a bad experience. So picture me there beside you the next time you need a boost. Know that every time you make that tough choice to stand for your up dogs, I’m yelling, “Rock Star!!” just for you.

Now go get ’em Tiger.

* You have the right to secure your dog before letting the police enter your property.  ALWAYS do it.

Want to give this blog to your clients or friends? Here’s a printer-friendly PDF version: Stand Up For Your Dogs

No Manners, Need Advice? Try Google, Not Me.

Hi there!

We’ve never met, but I have a dog with a ton of behavior and medical problems and I really need your help. I’m going to share three paragraphs of vague information that contradicts itself, and then ask you 82 questions. Also, my landlord won’t let me keep my dog. Can you help? I don’t want to give my dog up! And I also want to adopt a very specific kind of dog, but can’t find one at the shelters. Can you help me find a dog to adopt?  And btw my dog has diarrhea, a limp, and allergies. And I lost him. Can you help me find him and then recommend a good food? I love my dog!


Random Upset Dog Emailer

p.s. While you’re busy researching the answers and finding links to supporting resources, reaching out to your contacts in animal welfare, and writing a response to me, I’ll be Googling the answers. So by the time you respond to me, I won’t even bother writing back to acknowledge your thoughtful email.

p.p.s If you don’t answer me and I have to give up my dog/can’t afford medical help/buy a dog from a pet store instead of adopting/allow him to bite someone… I’ll probably blame you, because I asked you for help, but you didn’t get back to me. I’ll tell everyone how I reached out for help and you didn’t care enough to respond. You obviously don’t love dogs.  

Ask anyone who works with dogs and they’ll tell you: their inboxes are overflowing with requests for advice and assistance.  People want free help. That’s cool. We all need it at one time or another. No harm there.

That’s why Google exists.

But sometimes we skip Google and reach out to a person. When we choose to email another human being instead of searching online for the answers, we’re also making a choice to engage another person’s time and energy. That’s ok too.

But only if you appreciate it.

There are people who really do appreciate the helpful responses they receive. They write back with thanks, an update, and a virtual high-five to let us know that free advice from strangers rocks.  That kind of thing makes our day. We’re psyched we could help. But oftentimes, all we hear are crickets (or dogs snoring) on the other end of the interwebz. There’s no reply to our reply.

Here’s the thing: When someone takes time out of their life to offer assistance or answer your questions, they deserve thanks, at the very least. Choosing not to respond – leaving a helpful email dangling alone in the dark – makes those of us who are still answering emails feel like chumps.

It’s time consuming and often stressful to read and to respond to the many emails all of us get. Anyone with an email account understands how overwhelming email can be. We’re all drowning in comments, texts, Facebook messages….

But if you are considered an “expert” on any issue – in this case dogs – it’s likely that you’re not only receiving emails from friends, family, and co-workers, but also friends of friends, strangers who found your website, people who you went to middle school with who found you on Facebook, your dentist, and acquaintances of friends of strangers who found your name through an employee at the pet store. It winds up being a LOT of emails asking for help.

And most of us really want to help. Really we do. Being able to provide quality resources, point someone in the right direction, connect them to a local pro that can help, and assisting others is something that most of us are happy to do. We enjoy being a resource for others and sharing what we know.

We’re happy to do it…until we’ve written that 100th email that falls into the black hole of cyberspace. No response. No thanks. No time wasted on the other person’s end letting us know that our free, professional advice is appreciated.

Then we get real annoyed.  Like, I-want-to-write-you-back-one-more-time-and-call-you-a-rude-turd kind of annoyed.



Folks, the time is a-coming when no one is going to write back to anyone anymore. We just can’t take the abuse.

Here’s what’s going to happen one day:

Every single trainer, vet tech, advocate, dog walker, rescue and shelter worker, pet store owner, (fill in the pet professional here) is going to:

    • Start ignoring ALL the emails they receive requesting advice and help.
    • Send you an auto response with links you could have found if you took 5 seconds to Google your questions.  Then ignore your follow up questions.
    • Send you a PayPal link up front, so you can pay for the quality advice you’ve been receiving for free up until now. Many are already doing this (it’s called a “consultation fee”).

Combined with the sheer volume of emails we’re all getting, people with bad email manners are gonna blow it for everyone.

We don’t actually want you to stop reaching out for help. We WANT to help. We’re doing our best to get back to people who need a hand. We wouldn’t be in this business (or volunteering in it) if we didn’t want to make things better.

But damn.

We’re not bottomless wells. We’re people with a few jobs and poop that needs to be scooped (literally and metaphorically). Email eats every last morsel of our time. It’s actually kind of amazing that anyone writes back to anyone anymore.

So if you do get a response from someone, go on and throw us a “Thanks! You’re a Baller!” email and keep us from going over the email edge, ok? It’ll go a long way.

Here are a few specific ways we can all help each other out of the email apocalypse:

    • When someone responds to your email, write back thanking them for their time. Acknowledge them, even if the advice isn’t exactly what you had hoped for. They could have ignored you, but they didn’t.  Just let them know that you received the email and appreciate that they got back to you.
    • Or hire a professional to assist you with your needs. Pay for the advice you want.
    • But if manners aren’t your thing and you can’t afford to hire a pro: Use Google. You can’t hurt Google’s feelings. You can’t waste Google’s time. Ask all the questions you want, and then walk away. It’s ok to dine and dash on Google.

Hey, none of us are perfect and we’ve all dropped the ball on an email or ten, so no hard feelings. And we all need to be reasonable and realistic about just how much time we can expect any busy organization or individual to spend answering emails. For many groups, they wouldn’t be able to do the work we admire so much if they answered every email they received.

But it’s important to remember that when we do choose to engage other people in our search for help, we owe them a quick thanks when they respond. Just a few words to let the other human being know their time and thoughtful advice is worth more than the info found on a free search engine.

Note to all you lovelies that write to me: keep writing. I love hearing from you and I’m happy to help if I can. I may not get back to you right away, but I’ll try my best.

The Vet’s Office: Waiting Room or Dog Park?

I love going to the doctor. It’s my absolute favorite place to meet new friends.

I especially like meeting new friends at the doctor’s when I feel really sick or have a painful injury. I like to shove the icky, hurty part of my body in stranger’s faces, so they’ll poke at it, while slapping me on the back.

Sometimes I’m just there for an annual check up and I feel fine physically, but I’m nervous. I’m worried that I’m going to sit in the waiting room all day and be late for work. I’m anxious that I’m going to get a mean doctor that will pinch me and talk to me about my BMI again.

When I’m really stressed, that’s when I like to look around to see if there are any people I can make friends with in the waiting room. And when I feel this way, there’s nothing I enjoy more than when other patients run up to me and ask me to do a few Zumba moves with them before it’s my turn to see the doctor.



Yep, I love being sick and nervous, in a tiny space, with no way out, and meeting new friends at the same time.

And see that quiet lady in the corner who’s nervously eating a 100 calorie pack of almonds and trying not to make eye contact with me? I asked her to arm wrestle while I was waiting to pay my bill, but she said “No thank you”.  The nerve!

So you know what I did? I turned to the receptionist and I said, in my best stage whisper, “Some people are so MEAN. I guess that patient’s not friendly, huh?”  I sure showed her how rude she was for telling me no.

SCRREEEEECH! Hold the phone. This is bananaballs, right? No one wants to do group aerobics in the waiting room at the doctor’s. No one goes to the doctor’s to meet a new BFF.

So why are so many people doing this with their dogs in the waiting room at the vet’s office?  If there’s ever a place where dogs need space from each other and the dog owners need to ask permission before their dog approaches another, it’s the vet’s office.

Seriously, why do I have to even explain this? But I do, because this happens constantly, every day, to DINOS owners at the vet.

Lots and lots of people seem to think that socializing at the vet is a good thing and dogs who can’t do that are “bad dogs”. Is it me, or do we have some totally out of whack expectations for dogs when they’re at the vet?

Dogs at the vet are sick, injured, anxious, stressed, or just plain don’t wanna play. Almost every dog at the vet is a DINOS (at least temporarily). It’s not the dog park. It’s a doctor’s office for dogs (and other small animals stuck in their carriers).



Next time you’re at the vet, keep in mind how much you would hate it if every time you went to the doctor’s office, you had to deal with a parade of “friendly” people who invaded your space, touching and poking at you, and talking non-stop. You would hate it and rightly so.

Common sense rules for the vet:

Keep your dog on leash when entering, leaving, waiting, and paying. That’s everything except the exam room.

Lock your flexi-leads. Don’t let dogs wander around, scaring cats and upsetting other dogs.

Ask permission before you allow your dog to approach another dog.

If they say “No”, just accept it.

Don’t call the other dog owner or the dog “mean”.

Don’t passive aggressively whisper about how “unfriendly” that other dog is.

News flash: When you do that, YOU’RE THE MEAN ONE. People go home and cry about how mean you were to them and their struggling dog.

To the staff at the vet’s office: please require and enforce the rule that all dogs must be on leash. Require that all small animals be secured in carriers. Stand up for your clients when other’s treat them badly by reminding everyone that the waiting room is not a dog park and there are sick, injured, and stressed pets in the room – they have a right to their personal space. It’s just safer that way.

And a final note to DINOS families: If you can, wait outside or in the car with your dogs. Ask the staff to let you know when a room is ready, then go directly into the exam room. Ask if there is a back entrance (there usually is) that you can use, so you can avoid the waiting room entirely. Let the staff know ahead of time that your dog needs space – there may be a particular time of the day when it’s slow and you’re less likely to run into crowds.

Fair enough, right? We can do it folks. Respect, compassion, manners – we’ve got that.

Speaking Dog with Photo Lab

I recently got a chance to contribute to a blog series about learning to “speak dog” hosted by my friends over at Photo Lab.

Here’s a little sneak peek of my guest blog, plus the fabulous photo they created to go with my post. You can read the rest over on their blog Tails from the Lab!

I’ve been dog walking for almost ten years…day after day, as I walk my pals, I encounter a real problem for us: many well-meaning people have no control over their dogs (or themselves). People allow their dogs to drag them across the street, forcing nose-to-nose greetings with strange dogs. Or they ignore leash laws and let their dogs run loose in designated on-leash areas.

When I encounter these scenarios I feel like I’m robbed of my ability to do what’s best for the dogs I’m walking. The dogs are telling me what they need – space – but I can’t always get it for them, because people aren’t respecting our boundaries. 

Read the whole post HERE.

Dog Bite Prevention Week: How to Safely Interact with Humans

Dog Bite Prevention Week is a favorite of mine –  every year there’s a ton of great advice floating through the interwebs.

Thanks to trainers, vets, and other dog pros, we know how to prevent dog bites: understand dog body language, manage dogs properly, socialize and train them, teach kids how to safely interact with dogs, don’t chain them in your backyard or let them roam unsupervised. Got it.

Here’s one more from me: Get fluent in human body language and communication.

Nothing for nothing, but is anyone else stunned at how often fellow humans completely ignore or miss huge, obvious cues from other humans who are trying to communicate on behalf of their dogs?

You know, the ones that are saying, “Please don’t come any closer!”

So, how come so many of us keep getting closer?

I feel like the dogs would benefit if we humans got better at communicating with each other. In that spirit, here’s my contribution to Dog Bite Prevention Week 2012.


How To Safely Interact with Humans and Their Dogs


Right there! Do you see it? It’s a human walking their dog.

In order to approach them safely, you must observe. Before you or your dog gets closer, let’s look at the human:

What can you tell from their body language and facial expressions?

Start with the eyes. Are they darting back and forth, looking for a way to escape? Are the human’s eyebrows furrowed and pinched? You’re witnessing signs of stress. Do not ignore them.

Scan their bodies and look at their hands. A human that is not comfortable being approached by a stranger will often raise one or both hands towards you. If you see body language such as an outstretched hand, palm towards you, this is a clear signal to stop!  Do not continue approaching.

credit: stevensnodgrass


Next, focus on their mouth. Is it open? Are sounds coming out? It is not unusual for a human who is feeling trapped to say: “Call your dog” or “My dog needs space.”

Occasionally, humans caught by surprise might have a hard time using their words. In that case, screams, shrieks, and expletives might be used.

Do not ignore these verbal warnings. Do not argue with the human. Do not tell them they are wrong and that it is ok for you to approach them because “All dogs love me” or “It’s ok, my dog is friendly“.

Listen to the exact words the human uses. This is a clear warning.

If you’re still not sure if you should approach, look closely at their feet. Are their feet facing towards you or have they turned to sprint in the opposite direction? When a human is running away from you, they are clearly signalling that they do not want to hang out.

Do not follow them across the street. This is not a game of chase.

In some cases, it can be difficult to read a human’s body language because it is so subtle. But the signs are always there, even if we don’t recognize them right away.

For example: you spot a human standing off to the side of a walking path. They may look relaxed, but study them at a bit closer. Are they standing in front of their dog? Are they giving their dog treats as you pass? These are signs that the human is busy working with their dog.

Tip: When someone sees you and then turns away from you, they’re just not that into meeting you.

But what if the human is hiding, you ask? Should I approach them then?

If you spot a human hiding behind a tree, car, or telephone pole. Do not make eye contact. Continue walking. Pretend that you do not see them and their dog. This human is cornered and making one last attempt to escape. If you approach you will be forcing them into a situation where they might feel trapped and bite you. Keep moving.



This person is not into you.


Sometimes we can’t help but have an encounter with humans and their dogs. If that happens to you, please do the following:

Do not flail your arms or shout.

Control your dog, so that they cannot approach them.

In a calm voice, always ask: “Can we meet your dog?” or “Is it ok if I say hello?”

Wait for the human to respond.

If they say no, do not force the situation. The human has clearly expressed a desire to be left alone. Do not ignore these signals.

Give them enough space to pass and keep moving.

Phew. That was close.


Well, there you have it folks. The last piece of the Dog Bite Prevention puzzle: Human Body Language. If we just pay a little more attention to each other’s signals and respect each other’s space, we’ll be doing our dogs a real solid.




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.


Download on Flickr:

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.)


How to Score a Dog Bite: The Joggers and Bikers Edition

Hi there. You look really fit. All tan and muscle-y and stuff. Oh, it’s because you’re a jogger. You look like a long distance kind of dude. And you’re a cyclist too? Well aren’t you the picture of health.

What was that? I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard you right. Did you just say you really want to get bit by a dog?

You did. Um, you know that’s crazy right? No one likes dog bites. They kinda hurt. Ok, ok. You really want to get bit, huh?

Well, since you asked…

So You Wanna Get Bit By a Dog: The Joggers and Bikers Edition

If you really want to get bit by a dog while you’re jogging:

Scout out a narrow trail, filled with pedestrians and dog walkers. With no audible warning, sprint up behind a dog, passing it so closely that your personal gust o’ running wind parts their fur.

The surprised dog, startled by a total stranger rushing them from behind, will likely be one of the following: scared, threatened, excited, or spun around and confused.

You’ve increased your chances of getting bit. Well done. If you aren’t too busy bleeding, don’t forget to check over your shoulder. You may not have scored that dog bite you’re bent on getting, but you’ll get a good chuckle at the dog walker who is now struggling to calm her startled dog. Score!

Did you see me scare the crap out of that dog? High five bro!

Not into doing it from behind? Try sprinting at a strange dog head on! When you spy a dog strolling on leash, pick up your pace and run right at the dog. Most dogs will think you’re coming to hurt them, hurt their human, or play with them.

Either way, you’ve got their attention now! Bravo. Look forward to lunging and barking. Fingers crossed for that dog bite you’re obsessed with getting.

Like riding bikes? Why not do it on a crowded sidewalk or walking trail, filled with pedestrians and dogs? There’s nothing that screams, “I want a dog bite!” like speeding past a dog who has no room to escape you and your hot wheels.

For extra points, scream at the dog walker for not getting out of your way. What do they think they’re doing walking on that sidewalk? They should stay out in the road with the cars….where it’s safe!

Obviously, I’m kidding here. Don’t ever do this stuff. Stop it right now.

For real: Can we talk about how crazy it can be negotiating bikes and joggers with our dogs?

They way they charge at our dogs is like some special brand of stupid. They’re just begging for a dog bite.

And I happen to know that they can’t stand us either. I love checking the search terms that people plug in to find my blog. I’ve gotten a bunch of search terms that go something like this: ‘”I hate dogs while I’m jogging” and “I want to run over dog walkers with my bike and then back up and do it again, while ringing my dumb bell.”

Ok, not the second one so much, but I do see the first one a lot – joggers don’t like dealing with our dogs any more than we like dealing with joggers.

If we’re both miserable, why can’t we call it a truce and end this perpetual Fight Club we’re in with each other?

Here’s what I propose:

Joggers: if you see a dog, go wide. Do not run directly into, up to, or past a strange dog. Exit the sidewalk and run in the street. For like 10 feet. Then you can get back on. No biggie. If you’re trapped on the path, slow down and walk. I can hear you guys now: “Walk?! I’m a runner!” Fine.

At the very least, say something clear and understandable from a distance, like “INCOMING JOGGER BOMB ON YOUR LEFT!” or whatever you think will be the best way to alert a dog walker that you are coming up from behind and they need to move over. Please don’t heavy breathe a polite, quiet, “excuse me”, at the exact same time you’re passing us. That doesn’t give us enough time to react. I’m usually thinking about my next snack while I’m dog walking. Please give me enough time to snap out of my cupcake cloud and move over.

That’s all we want, really. The chance to move out of your way. Cuz we like our space.

And if you run with your dog, keep them close to you. Don’t let them run right up to, squeeze by, or surprise strange dogs.

Bikers: Get off the sidewalks. Period. Unless you’re in elementary school, it’s time to suck it up and ride in the streets. It’s just not fair that pedestrians have to contend with bikers on sidewalks. Especially on crowded city streets. This actually has nothing to do with dogs. I’m saying this for all of us: dog walkers, senior citizens, children, people who dislike being run over.

If you think it’s too dangerous to ride in the streets (I feel you on this, by the way – I was terrified to ride my bike in the city), take the subway. And don’t you dare give me lip if I’m in your way and don’t move over fast enough. These aren’t called bikewalks.

The City of Evanston gets it. Those people look really happy.

Dog walkers: We need to behave too. Don’t let your dogs lunge at or jump on joggers and bikers, if you can help it (meaning – you weren’t caught completely off guard). If they’re giving you space, be thankful and control your dogs. Keep your dogs on leash. Retract your flexi leads.  At home, contain your dogs in your yards by fence or lead, so that they can’t chase people.  Get off the phone and take off the headphones, so you can hear what’s going on around you. Be good, responsible dog owners.

That’s not so bad, is it?

No one wants to get bit. No one wants their dogs to bite someone. Instead of creating the prefect storm for a dog bite: charging and startling an unfamiliar dog, let’s work together to set dogs and humans who like to sweat in public up for success. We can do it – this whole being polite and giving each other space thing – I just know it.

(p.s. I know you guys know this already, but don’t be silly about what you read here. That stuff in the beginning was a joke. You will not hold the author of this blog responsible for any incidents related to the materials published here. assumes no liability or responsibility for your actions.)