Morgan Liddick: We should send some dog owners to obedience school |

Morgan Liddick: We should send some dog owners to obedience school

And On the Right

The large dog ran toward us barking and bristling. My wife shrank back, remembering previous bad experiences. We hadn’t expected this sort of encounter in the National Forest. After all, there was a large sign at the trailhead stating “All Dogs Must Be on a Leash.”

The putative owner was about 50 yards back, occupied with another canine companion. Looking up, he yelled the standard line: “Don’t worry, he’s friendly.”

I was dubious. I grew up around dogs, and this one was exhibiting bad mutt vibes.

“He doesn’t look it to me.”

“Well,” putative owner replied, “he doesn’t like men carrying things.” Huh?

“Then he should be on a leash. Didn’t you see the sign at the trailhead?”

Putative owner eyed us. “That’s not the way we do things up here.”

Excuuuuse me? What did that mean? Are we all a bunch of scofflaws? Functionally illiterate? Who’s this “we,” exactly? Was he saying he had a mouse in his pocket?

“We live here,” I replied. More of the fish-eye from putative owner.

“Not all the time, I bet.” And he was off, up the trail, his two dogs dashing unrestrained across the landscape in search of other quarry.

I could have just written this off to a terminal case of bad breeding ” human, not dog ” but it got me thinking about all the other times I’d been approached by dogs whose owners were nowhere in sight, with intent both benign and manifestly not. I began to think about other sorts of pooch and human behavior I’ve witnessed, and I decided to jot down a few helpful hints to the residents of our fair county who have pals of the species canus.

First, not everyone likes your dog. Possibly the feeling is mutual, but the instances of “man bites dog” are so rare that it is an aphorism in journalism. Cases of the reverse, however, are unfortunately many and will eventuate undesirable results. You, the human, are responsible for the behavior of your pet. If he meets his end as a result of his bad acts, look no further than the mirror for someone to blame.

Second, if your dog uses your neighbor’s yard to attend to his “business,” it is neither cute, nor funny, nor a weight off your back. It is a nuisance, a threat to health and a blight on property. Your neighbor has a legitimate complaint against you. Again, anticipate nothing good from this.

While we’re on that subject, note that your furry friend does not have opposable thumbs. If he insists on using public property as a public lavatory, it is up to you, the owner, to pick up the results. Not to do so is to abrogate your responsibility and to be a scofflaw. You are despoiling what others have a right to enjoy, merely for your own convenience. There’s a term for that sort of person, and it’s not a nice one. So get with the plastic bag crowd, please. Now.

Third, tossing your dog outside while you are off for the day is not ” I repeat not ” a particularly good idea. While it might seem the height of doggish fun to race after squirrels, or get together with a bunch of other similarly neglected neighborhood mutts to pursue chipmunks or dig up a flower bed here and there (see point two, above), an encounter with the local coyote or moose might not end as well as it promises. And if Fido offers too many offences, Animal Control might just come calling. With intent.

Fourth, on a leash or under “voice command” means exactly that. If your dog dashes into the street while accompanying you “leash-free” because he is enticed by a set of shiny wheels passing by, it won’t be long before he becomes a flatdog. And when it happens, don’t blame the person who has the bad luck to do the squashing. Blame the person who’s really responsible: you. Someone has to be the human in this relationship.

Fifth, a dog which, when left in a car, will wait quietly until a person walks right alongside before lunging at the window in a rage of frenzied barking and baring of teeth, needs professional help. Humans are not to be attacked while minding their own business in public venues. For one thing, startle response being what it is, sooner or later someone will unload an entire canister of mace on the offending animal. Again, before blame is assessed, consider who trained the creature to behave in this way. It wasn’t me.

So there you are. A few simple observations on how to keep your dog’s interactions with the humans of Summit County on the sunny side.

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