While walking great danes in the city I have been witness to a bewildering
array of stupid moves by people concerning my dogs. The following info should
- Dogs become more protective of their owners at night. Ex. During
the day anyone can approach my dogs safely with or without my supervision,
but when it is dark out some people will cause them to become extremely
protective of me and begin with serious warning growls.
- Many dogs become more defensive/protective when on leash for the
same reasons MissCreant noted about dogs being tied up outside. Theres
not much you can do about it but it is a good thing to be aware of.
- If a dog growls at you do not assume that your previous "dogs
like me" experiences will allow you to disregard the growls and approach
the dog. My advice is to NOT put your hand out, step back, and do not make
eye contact with the dog. If, for some reason you really want to pet
the dog look to it's handler for guidance.
- If you are unfamiliar with dog body language pay special attention
to the tail as it is the easiest to read. the bigger the wag the safer
it usually is. If the tail is not wagging you should be more careful.
- Never assume a dog knows you are approaching unless it has made some
sign (watching you, turning to face you, etc. ) to that effect. They do
have better senses than we do but they may be focusing on something or
someone else at the time and not notice you.
- When jogging past a dog be sure to give it plenty of space. I have
seen too many people come running directly at my dogs, attempting to pass
us with under a foot of space. Running directly at a dog isn't a brilliant
idea in the first place but cant really be helped in the city. When you
near the dog slow down and be sure to avert your eyes and give it plenty
of space. When passing a dog from behind do not assume that the dog knows
you are approaching, especially at night. Give the dog a wide birth as
you pass and, again, slow down.
When running with a dog yourself it is especially important to not run
directly towards an unfamiliar dog. Dogs tend to grant humans some slack
in the bad dog ettiquette department but not other dogs. Your dog may
be well trained enough to heel perfectly and completely ignore the other
dog. This does not mean that the dog you approach is that well trained.
It is in your best interest to slow to a walk and give the other dog a
wider birth than necessary for just you.
I have had at least three people make the mistake of running past my dogs,
from behind, with no space, at night. The result was a surprised 140lb
dog lunging in their direction and growling as they passed within
inches of him. I know my dog well enough that he would not have bitten
them even with out my restraint but it didn't stop him from scaring the
crap out of the joggers. He could very easily have been one of the thousands
of more agressive dogs out there. This isn't really a training issue so
much as it is a "Holy Shit what the fuck is that?!?!" issue for
the dog. Surprising a potentially dangerous animal (and all dogs are)
is just not a good idea.
- Never pet a dog you are not intimately familiar with without first
getting its attention. I have seen a number of dogs in situations with
lots of people, like dinner parties, where, confused and distracted by
so much action a friend of the dog will come by and pet the dog from behind,
startling the dog and causing it to snap. Usually this is just a warning
snap and not a bite but, you never know.
- MissCreant has already stated this but it can not be restated enough.
Never pet a strange dog.
- Never assume that someone else's dog is friendly. I have passed many
people and had them suddenly turn and stick their hands out to pet, or
be sniffed by, my dogs without first asking me if it was either ok with
me, or safe. I have been tempted to bit the person myself for the huge
risk they just took and the stupidity that must have been required to
take it. There are a number of dogs out there that will snap or bite in
- Always ask a dogs handler permission to pet their animal. In addition
to helping keep all your digits attached to your hand, it is polite,
and it is respectful. Many dog owners consider their pets
like children. To them, petting their dog unannounced is equivalent to walking
up and touching a strangers child without permission. If you are interested
in learning about the specific dog you will find the owners much more helpful
and conversive when you ask first.
- In general, the larger the dog, the calmer the personality. You have
a higher risk of being bitten by the small yappy breeds than you do by
the larger, more docile breeds. IMHO the higher risk with
small breeds is due both to the genetics of the breed and some common bad
practices by the owners of small breeds.