American Dog Culture

Americans LOVE their dogs. The evidence of this fact is everywhere; There are more dog-related products and services than ever before. Last year, Americans spent $56 Billion, yes, BILLION dollars on their pet dogs. 

The fact that Americans love their dogs is great, but if we (as dog owners) want to continue to have access to parks, lakes, trails, walk-ways, and housing, American dog-culture NEEDS TO CHANGE.

I am personally accosted by dogs constantly when out about town in Denver. I LOVE dogs, but that doesn't mean I want to interact with every dog I see, or have them approach me, jump on me, wrap their leash around my legs, slobber on me, and dirty my clothes. 

I'm not the only one who is fed up with people behaving as if I should tolerate their dog in my personal space. People all over the country are calling for legislation BANNING DOGS FROM PUBLIC SPACES. Raleigh, NC is calling for banning dogs at athletic fields, playgrounds and tennis courts. Seattle is proposing banning all dogs from ALL parks downtown. Washington D.C. announced they want dogs to 'stay home' during festivals and public events.

People are sick of the dog poop everywhere, tired of off-leash dogs charging up to them, and exacerbated by the "He's friendly!" hoards of dog owners all over the country. We, as a society, are failing our dogs and communities. There is a culture of entitlement in regards to dogs that is untenable. Americans need to recognize that people have THE RIGHT to not be affected by another person's choice to own a dog. Otherwise, we will lose the privilege to take our dogs to any public spaces, or have access to housing.

A five second Google search revealed the following examples of dog owners with zero regard for other members of their community:

An Off Leash Dog Ruined My Life: A Service Dog’s Story

This is their story:

“Murphy has been prepared for service work since he was a young puppy. He was well-socialized and exposed to all manner of weirdness from the time he was about nine weeks old. He went to puppy-kindergarten, met lots and lots of new people and had a group of dog-friends with great social skills. He was easy to train, well-mannered and confident. He got through his basic training, public-access training and task-specific training without a hitch.

One morning we were walking on the local bike path just for recreation and exercise, and we had a 30 second encounter that made our lives hell for the next two years.

There was a clearly posted leash ordinance on the path. Even so, out of nowhere a loose dog came running toward us, his owner, about twenty feet behind shouting “He’s friendly!” in the usual manner of those who believe they are exempt from the leash laws.

The dog wasn’t friendly at all. He went straight for Murphy’s neck without making a sound. I had to kick him repeatedly to get him to let go, and even then he kept trying to latch on. The owner yelled at me to stop kicking his dog. I promised that I would the moment he had regained control of him. I was so angry to be put in a position to hurt an animal, but I would do it again to protect my dog. The owner finally arrived and grabbed his dog by the collar. He wasn’t even carrying a leash. The guy just shook his head and said “I don’t get it, he’s so good with the kids”, and he walked away without either of us getting any info at all.

Thirty seconds of a pet owner’s bad judgement, that’s all it took. After the encounter Murphy became profoundly leash-reactive to other dogs.

This is a dog I depend on to live my life and get through my day, and now he would come completely unglued at the sight of another dog.

To say I had no life at all during Murphy’s TWO YEAR rehab is an understatement. I couldn’t work, it cost me hundreds of dollars in training and equipment, and I had to watch my previously confident and happy-go-lucky dog struggle just to be in proximity to his own kind. Years of work, years of careful exposure, years of my life shot to hell in thirty seconds.

We are ‘out-the-other-side’ now for the most part. Murphy is back to work and can handle most situations with other dogs again. He’s never going to be okay with a strange dog in his face, but I can live with that.

I appreciate your efforts to educate the public, so much. If people would just obey leash laws it would be HUGE. Any dog could be a service dog, just out for a walk; you never know. And it shouldn’t matter. Each of us should have the right to decide how we socialize our dogs and not have that decision made for us.  Thank you for calling so much attention to an issue that is not only relevant to many, but life-altering for some of us.” – Kristel S.

Devastating, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, in Connecticut....

William Delgado, of Greenwich, Connecticut, said in papers filed this week in state Supreme Court in White Plains that the Australian shepherd's owners allowed the dog "to roam free on the property and to come into contact with outside visitors, including mail carriers, who walked on or near" the Ashton Road home. "

"The daughter was unloading groceries from her car, left the front door open to the home and allowed the dog to be in the front yard unleashed and unguarded," O'Dell said. "The mail carrier simply walked up, handed them their mail and the dog charged him. And, in attempting to get away from the dog, the mail carrier was bitten, injured his right knee, which needed surgical intervention and has been out of work since."

And in Orange County....

A friend in California recently shared that while she was on horseback, two hikers allowed their dog to nip and lunge at her horse for over a 1/4 of a mile! At no time did they attempt to call their dog, even after she requested they do so. In fact, they laughed and exclaimed how "excited" their dog was to interact with a horse. She eventually had to get down off her horse and throw rocks at the dog to get it to leave.

Here in Denver.....

This is a call to action to all dog owners out there: Please be a good neighbor, and community member, and require that your dog be polite and respectful to your neighbors and community at large. Never let your dog approach other dogs, people, or animals without an invitation. If your dog is on a flexible or retractable leash, REEL THEM  IN, and prevent them from approaching other dogs, animals, or people. Pick up after your dogs at all times. If every dog owner in Denver followed these simple social graces, perhaps dogs will continue to be welcomed in our public spaces.

Posted on April 13, 2015 .