Dog Trainer's Dilemma - Maryland Dog Training and Puppy Training

I came across this in one of the news feeds I receive daily.

Apparently an individual who obviously took advantage of the good nature of the Home Depot she frequents, placed her dog in a compromising situation and allowed it to make aggressive contact with an employee.

The employee who was bitten clearly doesn’t understand personal space issues and stuck her face where it doesn’t belong.

The employer is justified in not filing for workmen’s comp because the employee was not injured in the commission of her duties as a greeter. She clearly was acting of her own volition when she allowed herself to get bitten.

The owner of the offending animal is patently at fault not for owning a vicious dog (gawd how I hate that term) but for breaking the posted rules of the establishment and bringing her dog into the store, and she should pay.

The comments, which number practically more in volume than words in the article itself, range from the folks who side with the dog, those that side with the victim and those that just relish in making a joyous noise unto their maker.

The woman who owns the dog was out of line for taking her animal to a public area where it is clearly posted that dogs are not permitted.

The victim clearly can’t comprehend that dogs have personal space issues and was foolish to stick her face near the dog in the cart in that yappy, obtrusive way people who “know dogs” do and end up with holes in their faces. I don’t give a rats a$$ that her daughter was able to pet the dog on the street; or in a chair, or on a pear or any other damn where. She did a stupid thing and paid the price for that stupid thing.

The manager of the store needs to make up his mind. Are they allowed or aren’t they? Corporate policy dictated otherwise and if he followed through with the corporate mandate, none of this would have happened at all.

But hey, people are demanding more access with their pets and I can sympathize. Well mannered dogs should be allowed to accompany their owners anywhere.

Well mannered dogs.

Let me repeat that; WELL MANNERED DOGS.

So, here is the Dog Trainer’s Dilemma: Maryland Senate just approved a law that will allow diners to be accompanied by their dogs in outdoor dining areas. Many institutions at the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Annapolis and greater Baltimore areas already permit it, but now it’s a state law that as long as the restaurant offers separate seating for outdoor dining and are so inclined to offer the privilege; our dogs can lie quietly under the table while we sip a few cocktails or enjoy a meal anywhere in the state.


As a dog trainer, it’s my job to provide positive examples for not only my students, but the citizenry that may see me or my students in public. That includes cleaning up after ourselves (lemme tell ya about the one where Iz goz to the publik park to workz some obedence dawgs and setz upz our jumpz and ringz and thingz to have some dipstik let his dog crap near where we wuz set up see, pop his mutt back into his truck and drive the hell off) and also owning the space we occupy.

Let me explain.

I have a dog who is no fool. He is a wonderful dog and I love him dearly. He is tolerant of strangers only because good, solid training made him that way but he doesn’t like the attention of strangers, prefers not to be touched and part of my job is to protect him from the touchy-feelies who would offend his sensibilities, let alone mine.

It is his job to keep his eyes on me, to work for me, to obey me. It is my job to run interference for him when obnoxious little ankle biters and their OCD parental units wish to gush all over his magnetic cuteness. It’s like these people have a pathological obsession with sputtering how well they get along with “all dogslovemeeeeeee!” squeals, as they descend upon my hapless companion. Who justifiably becomes quite rigid as he seeks my eyes for permission to escape. Or defend.

I instruct my students to own their space. Demand, if they permit their dog to be the target of these vulgar onslaughts, that people play by their rules. For the safety of their canines and themselves. People do stupid things, act stupidly in the presence of dogs, squeal like prey animals, use inappropriate movements, tones or the cardinal sin, offer strange dogs food.

My dogs are polite and will ask permission to accept food. I usually decline on their behalf. I take the opportunity to educate the offenders that not only is it not polite, but it is dangerous to accost a strange dog, no matter how well mannered, in that way. I state that they should approach the owner, ask to pet the dog. See if perhaps the owner has a treat that they can give to the dog. Or just respect our shared space and admire a functionally obedient dog as he patently ignores their attempts to become his long lost friend.

I have a young dog here for training as an Assistance dog and he has to tolerate a lot. He is young and ambitious, but attentive and very bright. He is also allergic to chicken in any way, shape or form. He cannot digest it, at all, and any attempt to introduce it into his diet have been met with explosive bouts of diarrhea. It is important that digestible products containing chicken are avoided at all costs.

So we are at a public venue the other day and I was working him on long downs and stays out of sight and this girl was trying her level best to bribe, coerce, force, distract this pup from his work. When her mere presence failed, she started pitching the remnants of her Chik-fil-A sammich at him. I marched out to her, picked up the remnants and handed them back to her. In a nice way, I swear. She oggled me in that weird way that people who think they know more than you tend to do and wanted to know why I had left this poor goggy (sorry, Heather) “out ‘there’, all alone.”

Because he’s working, dumb ass. And at times, it will be part and parcel of his many tasks to IGNORE MORONS LIKE YOU.

But I didn’t say that. I was actually polite. The first time, anyway. I even invited her to stay and watch as I ran Jack through his retrieve and tug skills, his obedience drills and his distraction work with Cotton and best pal, Brody. So then she starts with Cotton. I call him to follow (an actual command that has deep meaning for the dog in this context) and she tries to lure him away. He is avoiding her, which should have been her first clue to leave the dog alone.

At this point I intervene in the not-so-nice-Linda sort of way that all my friends know me for and I told her to move off. I may have used more colorful language, by that time I was so pissed, I can’t remember.

So she retorts that it’s a public place and she’s done nothing wrong, and I suggest that that’s all well and good until one of these dogs bites her sorry ass and she goes on about then why would I have a bitey dog in public and I say I don’t, but it wouldn’t take too much of her offensive behavior to get me to. Bite her, that is.

I owned my space, I didn’t think I should have had to defend it. I mean, really?

I use similar dialog with students to demonstrate the absolute need to own their own space. Our dogs occupy the same space as we do, a mannerly dog would not abandon that space, why do people have this obsessive need to breach that zone and invade our space?

This is why people get bitten, it is also why dogs are being banned from public places.

Foolish owners who have no hope of control over their misguided missiles at the end of their Flexi leashes and the dogless, clueless wonders who take great pleasure in interfering in the personal spaces of others.

I am careful where I go with my dogs in public. I have agreements with several public venues where I am permitted access that others are not and I cherish the privileges that have been extended to me because of this. I also work very hard to preserve them through my actions and the actions of my well trained dogs.

My dogs are clean and well groomed when I go in public. Nothing is worse than a dirty dog in a public setting. It’s a direct reflection of me. What they do at home in the play yard is one thing, how they look in public is entirely another.

I rarely have to pick up after my dogs because they are appropriately aired before we get to the public training areas. Timing is everything. Dogs need to move their bowels and bladders at specific times every day, and usually after traveling. This is where a toilet command will come in handy and relieve you of the embarrassment of your dog relieving himself in a public setting, like a mall, restaurant or library.

I pick up after my dogs if they relieve themselves in a public area. I also dispose of the waste in a receptacle, or if one is not available, I take it with me when I leave. I can count on one hand  the accidents my animals or animals under my care and supervision have relieved themselves in public settings in the last 20 years and every one of them was MY FAULT.

If you own your space, own your responsibility as well.

It would never occur to me to take a dog into a public venue that was not ready for the venue. I would not take an untrained 6 month old puppy to a bistro in Baltimore if I even remotely suspected that his presence would discomfit other diners.

What I wish for the dogless public to understand is that when they see a dog in public, please don’t interfere with it; it’s usually working. A novel concept, I know, but as the presence of dogs in public becomes more commonplace, be careful with how you approach a strange dog, and listen to the handler. If the handler says no, the answer must always be no.

For the dog owning public out there, be mindful that you have a moral obligation to the public with a clean, mannerly dog that is neither obtrusive nor offensive before you can own your space. If you want more rights, you have to earn them. With well trained dogs that are examples of your hard work and ambassadors for the species. Dog haters are looking for any minutia they can to further perpetuate the bans on access for dogs in public. You have a moral and ethical obligation to them as well. Don’t give them reasons like the one at the beginning of this post to deprive you of any more privileges, or me of mine.

Thank you, that is all.