Dear Small Dog Owner,
I’m sorry we have to meet this way. I would much rather have sat down with you over coffee and talked about organizing a doggy play date. If you knew me, you would realize that I don’t like conflict and our meeting like this is completely out of the norm. I don’t typically insert my self into general conversations and I certainly don’t correct strangers. It’s just not the kind of person I am. Still, we need to talk.
I should start off by saying that I am sorry my big dog lunged at your small dog today. We all share a beautiful walking path and I had hoped we were far enough apart that there wouldn’t be an issue. I was holding the leash tight enough that my dog couldn’t actually reach your dog, but I know that her actions scared you. Honestly, I would have been frightened too if a large German Shepherd had lunged in my direction.
As a big dog owner, it is my responsibility to make sure that my dogs are well trained and socialized. I have spent a lot of time making sure that my dogs learn good manners and constantly work to reinforce their lessons. Unfortunately, I am not a perfect dog owner and my dogs aren’t perfect dogs. Sometimes my dogs have bad days and sometimes they forget what my husband and I have worked so hard to teach them. I hear it’s a lot like having little kids…
When I saw you and your dog on the pathway today, I did what I could to mitigate any conflict between our furry companions. I shortened the walking leashes of both my dogs and moved over to the far side of the path. I gave my dogs a cheerful and firm verbal warning to behave themselves and continued walking past you with the calm confidence that usually assures my dogs that the situation is under control. Still, at the last second as we passed, my dog lunged at your small dog. I heard you gasp and I am truly sorry my sweet German Shepherd scared you.
While I have some serious responsibilities in raising and training two big dogs from working breeds with intense prey drives, the fault with our meeting today doesn’t fall completely on my shoulders. If you ever see me on the trail again, please understand that I am walking 130+ pounds of muscle and instinct. My Siberian Husky was bred to pull loads that far exceed my body weight all by himself and my German Shepherd isn’t a slouch. I can take my dogs out in public and to crowded dog parks because they are both generally well mannered and well trained. Still, few dogs can resist the threat of a barking and growling dog repeatedly lunging towards them. Let’s be honest, your dog started it.
Yes, I know your dog doesn’t weigh more than 10 pounds soaking wet. Both you and I know he isn’t a threat to either myself or my dogs. The thing is, my dogs didn’t know that. While I was busy moving to the side of the path and preparing to walk past you, you let your dog bark and growl and lunge across the path at my dogs. I know it might look cute to you because your dog is so tiny and he just wants to play like the big dogs, but it doesn’t look cute to me..and it doesn’t look cute to my dogs.
My big dogs are protective and natural predators and don’t give two cares in the world that the creature attempting to attack their pack weighs less than a full water bottle. Your dog acted like a threat this morning and it is only because of repeated training and conditioning that both of my dogs did not respond as if they had truly been threatened. If you don’t know how big dogs respond when they are attacked, you need to do some research on YouTube right away.
You’re not the first small dog owner I have encountered whose dog acted aggressively towards mine, so I was prepared. I knew not to let my dogs get close enough to pose a real threat to your dog, but there is only so far over I can move before some of the consideration needs to be placed on you.
Some day you might meet a big dog owner who is new and unprepared to referee the interaction between a big dog who is just curious and a little dog who is giving every sign that he wants to attack. Small dog owner, you need to be prepared. No matter how cute or precocious your little dog is, if he attacks the wrong big dog, he can be seriously hurt or even killed. No matter how much you think the blame should rest solely on the big dog and it’s owner, your little dog will still be hurt.
Please think about the instincts of dogs, both small and large, and consider how dogs react to each other. I hope some day our dogs can play together in the park or stop for a friendly sniff on our morning walk. Until that day comes, I will continue to assure my dogs that yours isn’t a threat and will keep a short leash on them just in case.
Alicia (big dog owner), Sam (German Shepherd) and Miko (Siberian Husky)