7.23.2015

Interesting Topic: Warning Signs?

A few days ago, a student of mine posted to a reactive dogs group on Facebook. She said her dog sometimes freaks out, and sometimes doesn't (which is true for this dog, like many other dogs in this area) but it's much harder when her dog is on leash (say, in the woods) and an off leash dog charges up.

I told her to use a sleeve on the leash that announces her dog needs space and say clearly 'Call Your Dog. Not Friendly.' I then posted a link to the Dogs In Need Of Space store that advocates using these type of tools to help dog owners advocate for their dogs space in public places, particularly those that have leash laws/recall laws in place.

This group does not approve of these types of signs, equipment or other "announcements" that a dog might react poorly.

The only reason it's not allowed here is because in some places, if you have warning 'clothing' on your dog and then he/she bites or aggresses someone, your warning will be seen as an admission that you knew he/she was dangerous and you'll thus have greater liability.
I feel like this is akin to me not using sunscreen because it's telling the sun, "I'm of northern European descent, so if I still get burned, which I very likely will, I'm more liable because I used sunscreen." Sound silly?

I didn't get into it on that particular group because they had a rule and I did violate it by posting what I did. I figured they had already gone through this banter a dozen or more so times before, so anything I was going to chime in with would be useless. However, if there are rules in place that dogs must be under voice control at all times if off leash, and IF that dog isn't under voice control, runs up to my dog who needs space, and there is an incident, then the dog who charges my leashed dog should be the liable party.

The working theory: the charging dogs' owner did not obey the posted / assumed laws of "must be under voice control."

So let's air this out. What do you think? What do you do? If it were me (and it was!) I put Sadie in a head collar, a scarf that said "I Need Space" and blaze orange everything marked with "I Need Space." I would call out "Not Friendly!" to everyone who had a dog coming near us, and most would thank me for mentioning it. I would avoid the busier dog areas and busier times of day. I feel this saved her from many unnecessary altercations.

When dogs DID charge in (which happened, but infrequently) she was able to tolerate it because she trusted I would advocate for her space. This was a significant improvement compared to her previous behavior:

Bark. Lunge. Snap. Bark. Lunge. Snap. 

Lather, Rinse. Repeat. 

Any legal beagles wish to chime in?

Dog trainers - what do you tell your students? I don't want this to be used in a court of law or any of my students to jump in here and say "Melissa said it's cool!" but I think it's a worthwhile discussion IF we can keep it civil (which you guys usually do!)

That said, this group seemed to be perfectly fine with using spray deterrent with very little warning, which I think might be a bigger issue. I do agree using spray shield on a charging dog, but I think having warning signs on a dog first can give another owner a little opportunity to get their dog back before it resorts to spray shield?

I'm in the Boston area, too, and I have no trouble getting people to understand that my dog needs space. The ones who insist on allowing their dogs to approach me when I am clearly in an area where a leash or voice control law applies gets told once to recall their dog, or I will respond with a spray deterrent (Spray Shield). Special leashes and vests are a liability if you are even involved in a court case. However, muzzles can be used for purposed other than aggression, such as for dogs with pica, or dogs that like sticks a bit too much, or who tend to eat acorns or mushrooms and get sick. Special leashes and vests are a liability if you are even involved in a court case. However, muzzles can be used for purposed other than aggression, such as for dogs with pica, or dogs that like sticks a bit too much, or who tend to eat acorns or mushrooms and get sick.

Any takers? I'm really not trying to start an argument. I just thought it was interesting food-for-thought.