I was walking my dogs the other day. Nothing new.
They decided to wrap themselves around a pole. Nothing new.
Entwined, they waited patiently as I picked up their poop.
They were distracted anyway.
An owner and his little dog were headed our way, on the narrow sidewalk.
I was actually quite shocked.
1. The sidewalk, one of two paths in the park, is very narrow. The sidewalk is really a sidewalk (i.e. next to a quiet dead end road). It was not the only way to go.
2. I have two large dogs.
3. The dogs have never met.
4. Creamy had already barked at the little dog.
I was very surprised, and annoyed, that he chose this path. Not the parallel one, to go the same direction. Not the road to give us a courteous wide berth. Not going the other way. Or simply waiting for us to pass by.
I had two dogs wrapped around a pole, one barking, and I was handling a bag of fresh poop. And did I mention the sidewalk was extremely narrow?
The meeting didn’t go well nor poorly. The dog didn’t appreciate Creamy barking at him. Understandably. There was a moment I thought the little grey dog would snap. Not unusual.
As the owner passed by, I mentioned that it might not have been the best idea to come this way (ie on the narrow path). He replied that I should’ve said my dog was not friendly.
That’s when I got thinking. I had an aha moment.
THIS is why helpers call their dogs “naughty” rather than unfriendly. No one wants to call their dog unfriendly, unless they really are unfriendly or aggressive. Or unpredictable. Some dogs don’t like other dogs. No biggie.
Dogs are like any other animals, with moods and preferences. The issue isn’t always whether my dog or the other dog is friendly or not. It comes down to their interaction. Dogs start checking each other out from afar. They don’t really need a face-to-face (or a nose-to-butt) to know if they want to meet. If your dog keeps on walking, don’t force the issue.
(Tip: dogs don’t like meeting straight-on. That’s a bit aggressive for them. Arcs are better. That’s why they circle ’round and ’round. Less provocative. Dogs are pack animals and they know how to survive and thrive in groups.)
Labeling your dog “naughty” is almost cute. Naughty is your dog stealing sausage or cake from the kitchen or dining room table. Naughty is your dog running away, dripping wet, after a bath. Naughty is harmless.
In Singapore, however, “naughty” is usually an euphemism for something else.
Saying your dog is unfriendly means almost certain ostracization in the neighbourhood. People talk and word gets around. That dog is unfriendly. I’m sure I’ll be called “that unfriendly woman” now. Funny.
Creamy isn’t unfriendly. She is loud and likes to bark. If the other dog doesn’t care, Creamy and her new friend usually get along like a house on fire. Her best playmates are the young and well-socialized, still with the ability to recognize play signals, like crazy wagging tail, little bunny hops, floppy ears, and play bows. Yes, I’m describing Creamy.
When dogs understand, even “rough play”, like chewing on each other’s ears or rolling onto the other dog, is simply play. How they once played, as puppies. We humans see it as “rough” and for people not familiar with dogs (dog owners or otherwise), “rough play” is aggressive. And for some people (even dog owners), barking is aggressive and “scary”. I think you have to listen to the tone of the barking, and look at the posturing of the dog to see if it is aggressive.
In the brief exchange with the (pretty good humored) owner, I explained that my dog is friendly but it depends on the other dog. Creamy is NOT unfriendly. Vocal? Yes. Loud? Yes. But in explaining my beautiful dog, I felt like she and her wonderful personality needed defended. They do not. Spend any time with her, you’ll know Creamy is the most affectionate dog. An ambassador for the breed and dogs in general.
What I really wanted to say, though, was that it’s kinda common sense and common courtesy to bypass a meeting if the other person looks preoccupied, is holding poop, and has her two dogs wrapped around the pole, standing barefoot (but that’s another story). It would’ve been nice to give this woman, hacking away with a bad cough, a break.
The first meeting is so crucial. I say, why set yourself up for failure? On another day, at a different time, they may have had a lovely greet-and-meet.