Let me preface this by saying I like dogs. I have a dog. At the same time, there are rules around the ownership of dogs that are there for very good reasons. One of them is the leash law, and in Oregon, in the Portland area, that law applies to any dog that is not contained within a fence. It doesn't matter if the dog is in your yard, because your front yard with no fence doesn't exactly contain a canine.
There are a couple of reasons I am adamant about this. Part of it is I really don't want every dog in the world running up to me, regardless as to if I like dogs or not. I'm not scared of any dog - even the mean ones - but that doesn't mean I should have to fend them off every time I go for a walk in my neighborhood or at one of the local trails.
People continually go on and on about how friendly their dog is, and that may be true, but rules are there for a reason and the simple fact is you really don't know. I have a dog that is generally considered a tough dog - Ruby is an Akita. If you aren't familiar with them, I'd compare them closest to a German shepherd. They are protective of their pack (their people), they aren't the most social of canines, and they are extremely strong and effective if they need to be. There is a reason they are police dogs in Japan, from whence they originally came. These traits are general across the breed - certainly there are plenty of Akitas would love to run around dog parks and play with other dogs.
My Akita is not one of those.
Ruby is - well - special. For one, she really doesn't like dogs. She will generally ignore them, unles they get close to her. But when they do the growling starts. She has never been tested beyond the growling because whenever we take her out in public I'm extremely vigilant about other animals and people, especially children. She's not that thrilled about other people either, especially in public (meet her calmly in our backyard and she seems okay). Except kids - I think she places them in the same category as dogs. Lucky for a few dogs in the past I'm stronger than Ruby, despite her being roughly 85+ pounds of solid dog muscle.
I'm well aware how fast things could go bad for another animal that came running up to Ruby and scared or surprised her, and I'm also well aware me being aware of this probably says something about Ruby and her general well-being, but at the same time we still love her and she's great at home, where she generally is most of the time. I suppose me being aware of this doesn't exactly make it okay, but it should mitigate any problems that could occur.
That is, assuming other people treat their dogs the same way I treat mine. Call this Things That Annoy Me, Volume I.
See, the thing is, dogs need to be trained to be polite company. I don't fault dogs that are not trained - I mean, how could I, right? - but I will fault the owners who don't train them and expect them still to be polite company. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Not let Ruby ever leave the yard, even to get some exercise? I walk her around the neighborhood on a four-foot leash so I can keep control. I do everything legal, everything on the up and up.
Ruby is trained. She has been to obedience classes (and has a diploma!). She will listen to us, she knows basic commands, and she responds to us. She's a good dog. But that doesn't mean I trust her implicitly - that would simply be silly.
But still, Ruby's freedom is tenuous and dependent on other dogs being properly taken care of by their people. If someone's dog - or child - came running up to Ruby on the street and Ruby nipped them to get rid of them (which is really all I think she would ever do - she doesn't have the guts or passion to do anything more than get the annoying thing to stop being annoying - and you can ask the cats, she gives plenty of warning), Ruby would be the one at fault no questions asked.
We would be the ones to get sued and Ruby would most likely end up put down at the Humane Society, because someone didn't have their dog on leash or didn't teach their kids how to properly behave around all dogs. Basically, we would lose our beloved dog and our dog would lose her life because of the stupidity and ignorance of someone else.
That's why it bugs the hell out of me that every time we leave the house something happens that makes me question why we left with the dog, and it's never Ruby's or our fault. That's why I'm writing this, in the (probably desperate) hope people will understand where I'm coming from and why these things are so important.
Yesterday we took Ruby for a walk and walked pass a house where a young dog came running out of the garage to meet Ruby. Suffice it to say Ruby wasn't interested, so I'm pulling Ruby further away while Wifey lingers back to push the dog back towards its own house. There were five people - late teens, early twenties, who can tell? - out front drinking beers, and all they did was attempt to try and call this obviously untrained dog. After letting out a couple of expletives in their general direction as I pulled Ruby away, they finally got off their fat asses to get their dog.
(As an aside, they looked a little rough and I had scenarios flash through my head of what I would do if they took offense, even up to thinking about what to do if a gun was pulled. Yep, this could be a short story or a scene in a novel later.)
I don't blame the dog - in fact, I feel sorry for the dog. He got cussed out and probably kicked, all for doing what a dog will do in that situation. It's not his fault - it's the fault of the fat, lazy drunks who can't take the time to properly train or care for a dog, but feel they must have a dog.
And this isn't an every so often experience. I have literally pushed kids who come up to pet Ruby. They don't ask, or they ask as they reach for her face. Seriously, do you want to lose your hand? I've cussed at parents who won't keep track of their kids, at people of all ages who can't contain their animals.
Would it be easier just to keep Ruby at home? Sure it would, and more than is generally healthy for her that's what happens. But at the same time, she isn't doing anything wrong. All she wants is for people to give her space, no different than I would prefer when I'm out without the dog. In that way I really can't fault her at all - I mean, how much sense would that make when I feel the same way? Many people - yes, Dad :) - will think I'm over-anthropromorhisizing here, but I don't really take that as a negative.
Perhaps this is just my little way of standing up for Ruby because I feel for her.
So that's why I am writing this. I'm begging parents to teach their children that if they want to pet a dog - any dog, because all dogs can bite (and so-called "dangerous" dogs do not lead the annual bite lists) - they should stay a certain distance away and ask the person with the dog politely if they can pet the dog. If the person says no, you walk away. If they say yes, then you should follow their instructions on how to approach the dog. I would encourage adults to also practice what you preach to your children and do the same thing. I desperately hope people will follow the rules with regards to owning their own dog, and to keep an eye on it at all times, especially around other animals, strangers, and small children. No matter what you think, a dog is still at heart a wild animal and should be treated as such, because those jaws are vicious on any breed.
There is never a good reason for a dog bite, because they are 100% preventable. And for any dog that loses its life because all it did was react to a situation that was created by poor supervision by their owner or stupidity on the part of a situation, that's just sad.
Please, leash your dog, talk to your children, and treat dogs with a healthy respect.
Ruby would appreciate it.