I had to yell at some guy in The Camp today when a Dalmation wouldn't get out of Sparky's face. After yelling for the owner to call his dog, I walked over and told him to enroll in a recall workshop. He had no idea why he needed to, even though his dog was busy ignoring him when he yelled "Murphy!" Murphy had found a young cocker spaniel to play with, and the two of them kept trying to get Sparky (who we'd put on a lead) to join in. Sparky, of course, has no desire (or know-how) to play with other dogs, so when they got too close he barked at them in an effort to make them go away. Probably my attempts to move the dogs out of the way was riling him up even more, since he thought he needed to help me out.
Anyway, after arguing with the guy, and explaining to him that we try really hard to keep Sparky from reacting like that and his dog being in his face didn't help matters, he told me that it simply wasn't a problem if Sparky went after his dog. It would teach Murphy a lesson, he told me.
The problem is, Murphy was just as likely—even more so, in my opinion—to "teach a lesson" to Sparky. Sparky's a 'fraidy cat. He's never escalated into bite mode; as soon as a dog looks at him funny he runs crying in the opposite direction. It wasn't likely that he was going to teach this bold Dalmation a lesson.
When I was trying to get Murphy's attention, I knew I was dealing with a dog who wasn't going to back down. He wanted a good sniff of Sparky, and he was determined to get it, regardless of the frantic barking he was hearing.
But the owner had no clue. He was convinced his dog was just being "friendly" and when I told him he needed to teach his dog some manners he probably wrote me off as a stupid American (insert slander here)—well, I've been called worse.
So we kept Sparky on the leash (he was perfectly happy to be close to us) and went around the Camp until we found a space clear of ill-mannered dogs.
The Camp has become as bad as a dog park in the States, all because so many owners think it's fine for their dogs to run up to other dogs, head on, and try to engage them in play. It's a shame that we can't enjoy our time there without having to be on guard, unlike in other places where dogs generally go on their way without running up to every dog they meet. There's something about a semi-enclosed space, even one that's several acres wide, that makes dogs and their owners think nothing of interrupting their ramble to have some one-on-one action with other dogs and their owners. They just get too bored there, walking around in giant circles.
As we left, I decided I should print out Suzanne Clothier's excellent article "He just wants to say hi" and place it on the cars parked there. I've often wondered how I could get other people to realize that their "friendly" dogs aren't so friendly—to other dogs. What looks like friendliness to us is extreme rudeness to a dog, especially to a dog who's busy telling the other dog in no uncertain terms that he'd like them to stay away.
Sigh. I'll probably never do it, and besides, we have other issues to work on with Sparky. Like his behavior in the car. We've planned a trip to Devon, and we hope to take him with us, but only if we can keep him calm in the car. I firmly believe in the power of positive training to work miricles, but so far we haven't had any success; if anything, the problem is getting worse. So I'm calling the vet next week to talk about medication.
I'll post an update, for those of you who tune in to read about Sparky's progress...I know this blog has gone from being an eclectic, niche-free blog to being The Life and Times of Sparky, but this is my world right now. Well, that and my latest book. I think my next book will feature a dog's point of view.
Because I've got a great understanding of that, now that I've learned to hear what Sparky is trying so hard to say.