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Yesterday, I was loosely trailing a couple of gray-haired women and their pack. From the looks and sounds of it, they were new dog walkers, and perhaps new to the park too — though they already seemed quite familiar with their charges (including a Decker Terrier! — more on him later). One maltipoo apparently had to remain on leash because he couldn’t resist the urge to hump the other small dogs.

7 June 2012 Distractions

As the two women were wondering out loud about how to curb the maltipoo’s behavior, another dog park regular intervened with his advice.

“You can just ignore it, and they figure it out with each other,” he said. “Most dogs will tolerate it until they’ve had enough, and they’ll tell each other what their limits are.” Fair enough. That’s usually my approach, too.

“But what if he just won’t stop?”

“Well then you punish him. Preferably when he’s in the middle of the act.”

“Yeah, like every ten seconds!”

“If that’s what you’ve gotta do…” Then he proceeds to tell her that after she pulls him off, she should hold his muzzle, because “It’s a dominance message.” And if that doesn’t work, she can put him on his back, and if that doesn’t work, she should smack his muzzle sharply and stare him in the face while telling him no.

“But I don’t want to do that,” says the woman.

“Oh, I don’t usually hit my dogs either,” says the man. “Dogs don’t take it the way we think they do. It doesn’t hurt them. They forget about it five minutes later.”

Was this guy even listening to his own contradictions? Why bother smacking them in the first place if he actually believes they’re going to forget all about it later?

Training debates on online forums get bad enough without having to wage war against idiots in real life, too. Frankly, it was none of my business so I stayed out and kept walking. Yet, I was relieved at least to hear the woman’s skepticism. Knowing my dogs, Bowpi would never need to be disciplined in the first place, and Bowdu would just take muzzle-holding as an invitation to retaliate. And if you try to hold him down and smack him, hell yeah he’s going to remember you the next time you try to come any closer… Oh, and now you’ve got an off-leash Shiba who’s pissed at and no longer trusts you. Good luck collecting your client when it’s time to leave the park…

Yeah, I have a million reasons why I would never trust Bowdu with a dog walker or sitter.

Anyway, the two women politely suffered the man’s awful training advice until they eventually extricated themselves from his nonsense. When I passed them again on my way out of the park, they were speaking to another, experienced dog walker. I caught a snippet of her trying to set the record straight.

“Dominance isn’t the issue. I wouldn’t really listen to that guy…” The other dog walker suggested keeping the pack constantly moving, because she noticed that they lingered too often. When they stalled, that’s when the maltipoo turned to the other dogs for stimulation. And if he really gets too distracted to keep up, then he should be leashed — because sometimes that’s what needs to be done. It’s a far better solution than smacking a client’s dog… or your own, for that matter.

7 June 2012 Sullen faces

I left smiling. I’m glad some folks around here have some actual dog sense.