The Art of Defensive Dog Walking

 Ready to walk???

I'm hyper sensitive to other people's animals, mostly because I've notice many pet parents aren't too aware of their own dog's behavior. They walk around in a fog where life is like the Garden of Eden--all the animals joyfully romp around, carnivores don't have prey instincts, and cars aren't a danger for wandering pets.

I took Buster for his morning walk, and I thought I'd change things up and take a new route. About forty feet ahead, a woman with dogs turned the corner to walk in the same direction we were going, and I sized up the situation to see if it would be safe to follow.

She had two large dogs and one small dog. If you've ever walked untrained dogs (dogs that don't heel and constantly pull), you know that each furry body has it's own center of gravity, which can make walking upright a challenge. She had three.

Her leashes of choice were nylon, which are good for hand burns and cuts but not much else. She left the leashes dangle (when she wasn't dropping them) which gave the pups plenty of room to get tangled up or get a running start if they saw something fun.

As her smallest dog ran circles around her, she pirouetted like a ballerina, her hand twisting over her head to follow the leash, while the other two dogs pulled in different directions.

We turned around.

Walking away is a very good move if you have the option. Why take the chance? I, personally, have nothing to prove. 

There was another woman with what looked to be a very nice female mutt that weighted in at around 75 pounds. She was walking toward us on the other side of the street. She used a rope leash with a triangle-shaped metal end, which she held onto with her curled fingers. Her dog was very excited, and kept jumping off the curb in an attempt to say hi to Buster. The woman struggled to control the animal.

Here's an experiment. Hang on to something solid using just your curled fingers. Now have someone tug. See how easily you lose your grip? Not a good dog walking technique.

Since she was headed in the opposite direction, Buster and I kept up our pace.  Dawdling is not a good idea. It lets the already overexcited dog work up into a frenzy. Which leads me to the guy with the Shepard pup.

This was a big puppy, and it was out-of-it's-mind happy. Happy about the grass. Happy about Buster. Happy to be alive.  The guy's response to his puppy's joy was to force it into a sit, so as the dog watched Buster pass by, his excitement grew to near delirium. The guy should have kept moving to remove the object of his pup's attention. Puppy would have been distracted sooner than later...probably by a grasshopper. I felt sorry for the dog.

If it's safe, keep your dog moving forward, past the object of his focus. This particular pup was across the street, so there was no chance of the two dogs meeting.

Finally, we came upon a woman with two small children and a large dog that looked like a terrier mix. The dog was on a halter. I'm always wary of people who use halters, because they usually put them on strong, active dogs and hope they'll be miraculously transformed into docile sweeties.

This third woman had her hands full. (With the children, not the dog. The dog remained calm.) What made my heart sing was the way she kept the dog close to her side, and as I got closer, I saw the leash was attached to the dog's harness AND collar.  This woman was prepared.

Be prepared. Buster likes to shake his leash off, so I have a second attachment to his collar.

I've noticed a tendency in Santa Clarita for owners to walk their dogs off-leash. Yes, the dog will be a full block ahead of them, so if anything happens, it will be over before they can get their butts there. I'm grateful these three ladies at least bothered to tether their dogs.

Never walk your dog without a leash unless you are on your own farm or the entire population, animals included, have mysteriously evaporated.

It's always best to be aware of other dog walkers, and if a situation looks potentially troublesome, turn around and walk the other way. It's not worth the stress or the potential vet bills.


  1. I loved this post on several levels. Even read it to my Buster.


  2. Jacqueline, I'm not currently a pet parent, but live in a neighborhood full of canines and I see this kind of thing all the time, when I'm out racewalking. I do appreciate people leashing their dogs, but it pains me to see what some folks put themselves and their dogs through. Very informative blog!

  3. I'm right there with you, Eloise. I hear them "playing", over-excited and barking hysterically, and I hold my breath wondering when it's going to get out of control.

    I should do another post on courtesy to pet-free walkers. I always take Buster off the curb or in the grass (if there is room) because people have the right-of-way. Not everyone likes dogs. In fact, some people are frightened of them, and they don't want to have my 85 pound mutt jumping all over them!

  4. Madeline, I love that our dog's share the same name! And did Buster agree? Snort!

  5. Jack, My friends and I often walk our dogs on the bridle path around Griffith Park golf course. Between us we have two German shepherds, an Airedale, a medium size mutt, and often a Rottweiler. You'd think other dog walkers would think twice about wading into our midst with their dogs, but nooooo, they loosen the leashes and let 'em come at us, grins on their idiot faces, assuring us their dog is "friendly."

    "Well," says I, "it won't be when our dogs are through with it." Our dogs are all obedience-school grads, but when temptation runs at them like that, it's a challenge to keep control. I only wish these people would think for a minute about the consequences of their clueless behavior. I agree with every word you and the others have posted!

  6. Buster, who is a probably Shepherd/Lab/Pit mix, looks and sounds like a wild animal special when he's upset...and they will still come over with their dogs so they can say "hi". That's pretty nervy to approach your pack. I'd give them a healthy dose of respect!


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