Letters to the Editor

Dog safety

July 13, 2007


To the editor:

As a concerned pet owner, I think it's important for people on the street to ask whether or not it's OK for them to pet a dog owned by somebody else. I enjoy taking my dog for walks on Mass. Street, but very frequently, over-excited adults and children suddenly run over to my dog with outstretched hands and screaming voices. Although I am happy my dog is receiving attention and socialization, it's happening in a way that could be potentially dangerous for the dog and to people.

To the unknowing, a dog may look sweet, but who knew Fido could be defensive, fear aggressive or be downright vicious? Most dogs are not prepared to have a hand suddenly shoved in their face while walking along. For them it is startling and unfamiliar.

Since I cannot control the actions of others, I always correct my dog for being skittish toward people. On the contrary, I cannot control my dog if she is provoked and she defends herself. While that would be a worst-case scenario, people on the street need to be aware of this.

The next time you are out on the street, remember to keep your hands to yourself. Parents, teach your children to be calm, quiet and gentle with a stranger's dog or when approaching one. Even long-time dog owners cannot predict which behavior their dog will exhibit in any given situation. We expect the best from our dogs, but any dog owner would say that isn't always what you get.

Eric Tempel,



stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 10 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus ~chuckle~ Ah... indeed...

kansas778 10 years, 10 months ago

Wow, look at the veiled threat in this LTE: Leave me and my dog alone or he might attack you!

imastinker 10 years, 10 months ago

Come to think of it, some dogs are better behaved than some kids. Why not let dogs run free and put kids on a leash?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 10 months ago

Ah: carry and conceal. Another good argument for vicious dogs.

Rightytighty 10 years, 10 months ago

Although people really cannot predict the behavior of there dog, the most powerful evidence someone can have is in your dog's bloodline. Knowing the past history of your dog's breed or bloodline can help to know what you might encounter. I agree that people who have a defensive dog of any type should not show case there dog walking down a sidewalk anywhere.

stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 10 months ago

Ah... vicious dogs. Another good argument for carry and conceal.

gvermooten 10 years, 10 months ago

Frankly, I'm amazed and pleased at how many children--and adults--ask if they may pet my dog when I'm walking him, especially in highly populated areas. A few don't, but very seldom to they "run over to my dog with outstretched hands and screaming voices". And most of the children who don't ask are corrected by the adults with them. Maybe this is because I have a tall dog that looks less like a fuzzy toy than some. The situation isn't perfect, but it's a lot better than it might be.

Dixie Jones 10 years, 10 months ago

gvermooten... maybe its cause your dog has that strange skin condition where his hair is missing is strange places and the slobbers that are falling from his mouth and who could forget the green ooze running from his eyes and nose....lol lmao sorry had to do it . now laugh..... i was joking.........u know they say after time a dog and his owner start to look alike.....lol oh mooten i so deserve to be hit now....or hunted down with rover........Smile

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years, 10 months ago

Recently (geologically speaking) domesticated animals should be muzzled, and also limited in the range of physical motion of their limbs and torso, by other recently domesticated animals. Hence; Guantanamo? Life bites, sometimes. Love it, leave it, lance it or lock it up. At least keep it's mouth shut and claws sheathed on the street...lest the concealed carrier carry off its mortal coil? Oh, and question marks.

mom_of_three 10 years, 10 months ago

My kids were taught at an early age to ask to pet a dog before approaching it. But if you think she may react badly, don't bring her out in public. That's just asking for trouble. If you must test her in a situation, try your own neighborhood block and expand from there.
When we have taken our dogs to Mass street, we are always looking out for kids who seem interested in the dogs, and we nor the dogs are taken by surprise.
Come on- you have to expect it on Mass street or any other busy street.

SloMo 10 years, 10 months ago

People are getting more savvy about dogs and more parents are teaching their kids to ask first before reaching out to someone's dog. That's good progress. Now, we need to take it a step further and learn to look and maybe compliment people's dogs but pass on touching. At the same time, those of us who like taking our dogs in public with us need to work on our dogs (if they're of an outgoing nature) to not approach unfamiliar people for attention.

Laura Watkins 10 years, 10 months ago

imastinker, i totally agree. my parents have two yorkies and a maltese....all very sweet and cute, but who knows what they would do if some little brat ran up to them and started grabbing at their tails.

kerplunkr 10 years, 10 months ago


Your comments seem to be a little bit harsh, especially since you are not too familiar with my particular situation. As the author of this letter, I'd like to make a few things clear. First, since the LJWorld limits letters to 250 words, it was extremely hard for me to expand and explain certain information that I felt the public should be aware of.

My dog happens to be just over 7 months old. She is still a puppy. While I would say she is very outgoing and friendly with all people and all other dogs, puppies still go through periods of fear and anxiety until they reach adulthood. But since you seem to be the dog psychologist, maybe you can tell me where she picked up this behavior? When I referred to "Fido" being defensive, fear aggressive or downright vicious, I was not specifically talking about my dog. I was hoping to warn the public that no matter WHAT dog is on the street, it could be potentially dangerous. I have never seen my dog be aggressive or defensive towards anyone, including children. When I say she is "skittish," she tends to avoid people who seem to suddenly put their hand out to touch her and children who scream "PUPPY! PUPPY!" in a loud obnoxious voice. The most she does is walk towards the other end of the sidewalk.

While she's not showing teeth and growling, I still don't want her to be afraid. If someone does happen to startle her, I'll correct her and have the human "offender" give her a treat. This has been working quite well and over the last couple weeks I have not seen her scuttle to the other side of the sidewalk.

On the other side of the coin, sometimes there are people I just don't want touching my dog. It's common courtesy to ask first, and while some people don't, perhaps they are the ones we need to be putting leashes and muzzles on.

Passive aggressive? Come on, it's called COMMON SENSE!

mom_of_three 10 years, 10 months ago

Maybe people assume since you brought your dog downtown, that is is friendly and enjoys attention. Oh, if it doesn't, then don't bring it there. If you want to teach it, try your own neighborhood first.
Also, when people bring their toddlers downtown, they are also trying to teach them things (public behavior, etc)....so don't be surprised that kids are still learning how to behave around dogs and other animals.

funkdog1 10 years, 10 months ago

kerplunkr: I have to agree with mom_of_three. Downtown is hardly the most "dog friendly" place to be walking your pooch. Hot, hard concrete sidewalk, crowds and really no place to poop or pee. While it is of course common courtesy to ask before touching someone's dog, why tempt kids and those who are less-than-perfect by taking your dog to such a crowded place? A nice walk in your neighborhood should be fine.

Finally, a letter to the editor in the LJ World is hardly "informing the public." I doubt if you notice much change in peoples' behavior.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 10 months ago

The dog owners next to us left one day after 5 years and so did the hordes of flies getting into our house. Never put 2 and 2 together until I figured out that they weren't cleaning up after their dog. The occassional poo in our yard from time to time is more evidence that there are irresponsible dog owners out there. I know it's impossible to fathom, but no one likes your animal as much as you do. I say keep your dogs to yourself, and your kids.

WC Fields

Horace 10 years, 10 months ago

If you don't know how your dog is going to react around people don't take it out into public.

mick 10 years, 10 months ago

I agree with Pywacket. There are a lot of passive aggressive people who use their dogs as an outlet, probably subconsciously. This guy sounds like one of them.

kneejerkreaction 10 years, 10 months ago

Lawrence should outlaw all dogs and cats, hip hop music, car stereos, loud motorcycles and humans under the age of 25, especially teenage boys. Then we could all get about our business of dying in peace.

Confrontation 10 years, 10 months ago

kneejerk: Country music should be outlawed. It makes many of us want to vomit every time it's played.

Confrontation 10 years, 10 months ago

Eric should keep his dog away from others. I also think that everyone should keep their dog away from others. I hate it when idiots let their dogs come up to me on the street. If I wanted to pet your stinky animal, then I would approach it. Keep it on a short lease, and preferably, off Mass Street. Don't assume that others find you or your dog attractive.

Linda Endicott 10 years, 10 months ago

By the same token, anyone who will let their child approach and pet a strange dog, with or without the owner's permission, is an idiot.

mom_of_three 10 years, 10 months ago

But children are still people in training, so "rules of strange dogs" are to be learned. and some people assume if a dog is in public, that is gentle and in want of attention. no one takes a potentially aggressive dog out on in public.

jonas 10 years, 10 months ago

Marion: "Good people get to give tummy, get kisses and licks and sometimes hugs and loves from the animals, all of whom are very large. This frightens folks sometimes.

Bad people get very low pitched growls and barks and I cannot allow the animals near them."

Riiiigggghhhttt, Marion, "the animals." Projecting again?

miker 10 years, 10 months ago

I just hold up my hand & say "Stop , don't come any closer". I then tell them the dog is good, but unpredictable.......Better to be safe than sorry .

kerplunkr 10 years, 10 months ago


I understand about toddlers still learning the rules of social behavior. When I spoke about children I am usually referring to kids who should know better (say 10 yrs. or older). Although I did not clearly explain this, my main point is that people should be on guard when they see a strange animal. It is for everyone's safety.

I have never seen my dog act aggressive towards anyone, nor do I have reason to believe she'll ever be that way. We enjoy walking near people and we are friendly to those individuals who are friendly to us. However, even a place exclusively for dogs is not safe (i.e. the clinton lake dog park). I've seen kids rant, rave, and chase scared dogs without correction from their parents. What happens if the kid picks up a stick and starts poking and prodding a stranger's dog? How much is the dog supposed to tolerate? Hopefully the dog owner is keeping a close eye so they can get the dog out of the situation.

SloMo 10 years, 10 months ago

From an earlier post: "Maybe people assume since you brought your dog downtown, that is is friendly and enjoys attention. Oh, if it doesn't, then don't bring it there. If you want to teach it, try your own neighborhood first. Also, when people bring their toddlers downtown, they are also trying to teach them things (public behavior, etc):.so don't be surprised that kids are still learning how to behave around dogs and other animals."

Maybe the kids should be trained "in your own neighborhood first" before bringing them downtown? Maybe we should all just quit going downtown!

Or maybe we should all just try to excersise a mix of equal parts tolerance and consideration? Both of those seem to be in pretty short supply these days.

SloMo 10 years, 10 months ago

BTW, Mom_of_Three, I don't mean to imply that YOU have been either intolerant or inconsiderate by borrowing your post - I apologize if it came across that way...

Deb Stavin 10 years, 10 months ago

I think best places to socialize one's dog and see how it behaves around other dogs and other people are the off-leash dog parks out at Clinton Lake and in North Lawrence. Dogs are welcome there, and many of the people who frequent those parks are very experienced dog owners who can offer useful training tips.

--Just my three cents (it used to be two cents, but times are tough and I've had to raise my price!)

Eric Neuteboom 10 years, 10 months ago

I remember growing up we had the most adorable - and unbelievably viscious - Maltese. I think part of social responsibility of being a dog owner is understanding the breed and their traits. Most people who've ever had a Maltese will tell you how protective and ouright agressive these dogs are/can be. We fortunately never had any incidents where any kids were bit (grew up on a cul-de-sac with lots of kids around), but there were some close calls (and some scared kids). After a while, word got around the neighborhood not to pet the "cute little white dog."

Man, I loved that dog. She would chase any dog out of the neighborhood - bulldogs, mutts, strays, anything. The sight of that little 8lb furball chasing the bejesus out of some unsuspecting dog makes me smile!

RIP Schotzie, RIP.

mom_of_three 10 years, 10 months ago

still, a reasonable expectation of a dog downtown is to be friendly. If you are uncomfortable with people petting your dog, (or those you don't want), then don't take them.
yes, people should ask (and my kids were taught that lesson as soon as they could talk), but a cute dog on a sidewalk downtown is a big temptation to kids, especially to those without a pet of their own.
My dog doesn't go downtown, because he would eat anyone's food at his eye level. (which for him, is almost every table or 4 year old child).
And I would agree some toddlers need additional training before setting them loose on the public. But you expect toddlers to be downtown with their parents spending money. I don't necessarily expect to see dogs in a downtown or busy area. Dogs don't get birthday money from grandma

TheHeartlessBureaucrat 10 years, 10 months ago

I have a dog. He's gregarious and very passive. He's loving and gentle and has never acted aggressively toward anyone.

HOWEVER, one cannot predict the behavior of many living things. So, I think, the prudent thing would be to be careful around dogs.

But me, I walk my dog in less crowded places than Mass Street because I don't want to be a hassle to the other humans that are out for a walk down there.

Besides, once folks see who's on the other end of my dog's leash, they tend to stay back.



jonas 10 years, 10 months ago

kerplunkr: I understand and appreciate your point of view, and your reason for writing the letter (though I must agree with other posters that writing an LTE is really not "informing the public" in any meaningful sense. You might refer to it as "informing the cynically partially informed and be pretty correct though, but that's a somewhat small sub-section of the general public, if you understand my drift) but I digress. . . . (I tend to)

In the ideal world, of course, the children everywhere would be respectful, and cautiously approach, having been well raised and trained by their parents to do so. I'm reasonably sure that a majority, in fact, are. However, you will not catch all of them, and you will never reach a point where there are no sudden and unknown factors. So it's going to be up to you, as an owner, to take the necessary precautions to keep accidents and injuries from happening, whatever it is that might entail, not the public at large. It sucks, that some ignorant fool and his kids might end up causing you unintended problems by behaving poorly, but its reality, and it can't feasibly be any other way.

So, to sum up, I agree perfectly with the spirit of the letter, and would advise you to not put much stock in some of the harsh responses. If you look around this forum, I think you could understand why we are somewhat conditioned (in the pavlovian sense of the word) to respond harshly, but it's not particularly personal. But by all means, and it does not sound like you are doing this, DO NOT expect the public to change their behavior for your comfort and benefit. It will be the other way around, or not at all.

Still, it would be nice if people weren't stupid or thoughtless about things, wouldn't it?

crayjah3 10 years, 10 months ago

Neighborhood and dog park training is the way to go, at least until the puppy phase has worn off. Also, asking if a dog is approachable is key if there is any interest in engaging with the canine. Something disturbing that I have seen at the dog park: children under 3 running around unattended, while their parents are socilizing = disaster waiting to happen. Be with and watch your dogs people! Oh, and the kids too...

jonas 10 years, 10 months ago

Marion: You missed the joke.

Substitute "the animals" for the projection (i.e. "marion") in the post and you'll see the light.

Not that it's funny now that I've had to explain it.

Or maybe even before.




123smilie 10 years, 10 months ago

kneejerkreaction, i find your post offensive. you are stereotyping people by basically saying that all kids are bad. your generalization also includes me. while i am not a teenage boy, i am a human under 25. please don't stereotype people based on their age.

123smilie 10 years, 10 months ago

okay, this is my comment that has to do with the subject being discussed... i would just like to point out that dogs are not always predictable. no animal, even a human, is predictable for that matter. if someone suddenly decided to shove their hand in my face or something, i would probably smack them.

that's my 2 cents worth.

whatintheworld 10 years, 10 months ago

Nice...Why not just wear a Tee Shirt that says, "Don't pet my Dog" or put a sign on the Dog ;)

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