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Dear PoPville – Training Unleashed Dogs on Downtown Streets: Is It Ever OK?

by Prince Of Petworth August 3, 2011 at 10:30 am 81 Comments


Photo by PoPville flickr user C. Michael Poole

“Dear PoPville,

Several years ago my wife and I rescued two mutts picked up off the streets of Southern Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina. They’re both very good with people, affectionate as all get-out, but they’re aggressive with other dogs. For this reason, we don’t take them to dog parks and are always careful to keep our distance from other dogs when walking ours on city streets.

Last night I took the dogs out for their nightly walk in our U Street neighborhood. As soon as I closed the front gate I saw a gentleman with his dog (which appeared to be some sort of pit bull mix) standing at the corner of 14th and T. I thought the gentleman was simply waiting for the light to change and would keep moving, so I stopped in my tracks and waited. Then I noticed that the gentleman had placed his dog’s leash on the ground and (from what I could gather from a few buildings away) was instructing his dog to sit, stay, and not approach my dogs. At this point I yelled to the gentleman “which direction are you heading?” so I could get out of his way — and right after that his dog darted away from him and ran towards my pair, oblivious to the fact that my dogs were prepared to greet him with open teeth and not open arms. The gentleman ran after his dog while yelling “don’t worry, he’s not aggressive!” to which I responded “no, but mine are!” I followed that up with a shrill — and, frankly, panicked — “your dog belongs on a leash whenever it’s on a city street!” His response: “I’m just trying to train him.”

I managed to keep my dogs at bay just long enough for the gentleman to collect his dog, but barely. Unfortunately, under the circumstances I wasn’t in a position to stick around, apologize for being shrill, and explain why I think his training approach is not only wrong and illegal — it’s dangerous and puts his own dog at risk. I’m assuming the gentleman and I are neighbors, so I’m hoping he sees this, gets my message, accepts my apology, and appreciates the spirit with which I am offering this advice.”

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