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Great Expectations Part 1: A Note to Joggers and Bikers

Author: Andrea Obey | Date: August 14, 2013

Last month, I was walking a long-time client’s lovely Golden Retriever in her crowded Chicago neighborhood when something potentially quite dangerous happened.  A young woman was jogging in her very high-tech and ultra-quiet running shoes (think “sneakers”) and ran up behind us on the side of the dog within two feet of her.  Neither one of us heard her approaching.  The Golden Retriever was very startled, as was I, and spun around to orient to the quickly approaching object and backed into me away from the jogger.  The sudden movement also startled the jogger and she backed up into a building.  She must have assumed the dog was lunging at her because she glared at me.

I was pretty angry about that glare for several reasons.

First, no one should ever get that close to a dog you do not know.  Second, never sneak up on an animal.  This dog is incredibly sweet, well-socialized with strangers and other dogs, used to being walked in her crowded neighborhood, and in no way leash reactive.  Of course, the jogger would not know that.  Nor would she know that this dog is getting a little older and I suspect has some minor hearing loss.  But in all honesty, I didn’t hear her either.   Third, she assumed this dog was lunging at her, which she didn’t, and in no way thought it was her fault by running up next to her in such close proximity.

The very next day, we went for another walk along a bike path by the lake and another person rolled up behind us on a bike also very close to us without announcing themselves.  Thankfully, the dog was slightly in front of me and I happened to catch the biker in my peripheral vision so I was able to move myself between her and the biker at the last second.  Sigh.

Now, let’s pretend that this dog is a reactive dog or just a nervous dog and it wasn’t me walking her. I’m trained to keep diligent about surroundings, where the dog is placed when leash walking, and measuring the dog’s mood. But even with all the diligence and tools, it’s very hard to properly navigate someone appearing silently and suddenly from behind. The jogger and biker could have been bit and things could have spiraled downward quickly.

If you are a jogger, biker, pedestrian, skateboarder, etc., please keep these very important things in mind:

  • Give dogs a lot of space when you encounter one.
  • NEVER sneak up behind a dog unannounced.
  • If you are moving quickly such as running or biking, please remember this is more likely to startle a dog or trigger chase mode.
  • The dog may be reactive or have a health issue like deafness, blindness or arthritis.  All of these may impede them from moving quickly away from you to a distance that makes them comfortable.

We expect so very much from animals, especially dogs. Over my next few blogs, I’ll explore some of the great expectations we have about dogs.  Dogs are animals.  I know that seems like a silly and obvious statement but really think about that for a minute.  They are different from other domesticated animals such as sheep, goats, cats, and also very different from wild animals like deer, bears and lynx.  They have been adapted to live more closely to us than any other animal.  That’s a really big and wonderful deal.  We’re so used to having them in our daily lives, whether or not we have them as companions in our homes, because we see them every day.  But sometimes we expect too much from them and bad things and/or relationships can happen as a result.  We don’t want that to happen with man’s best friend so let’s explore some great expectations we have for our beloved canine companions.

Are there any expectations you have of your dog that may or may not be realistic?  I’d love to hear what you think.

 

    1. Brandon Philbrick says:

      This is such a real risk. I run into this all the time in Orlando which is significantly less crowded than Chicago.

    2. Audra says:

      Nice article, Andrea! One expectation some dog owners have that drives me crazy is that they think they have perfectly behaved and trained dogs and therefore, let them walk off-leash. Sure, the dog is trained and socialized, but you never know when a loud noise (or something else) will occur that could spook the dog causing it to run uncontrollably, possibly into traffic. A tragedy that can be avoided.

      Additionally, I love dogs (and have one) but when I see a loose dog I am immediately alarmed as I don’t know if it will be aggressive towards me or my dog. When I see a person a few seconds later walking behind it, I become furious. I can only imagine the fear that may strike others who are not comfortable with dogs. Another unnecessary reaction.

      So when I see an owner walking his/her dog off-leash, I am not impressed with their training skills. All I see is an arrogant and selfish owner, putting their vanity ahead of the dog’s (and others) safety.

    3. I often bike on a trail with pedestrians and/or pedestrians walking their dogs. When I am approaching them to pass I always announce “Watch on your left” to let them know. Believe me, when I am going 20 mph I don’t want someone or something moving into my path, and I don’t want to startle them.

    4. Desiree Wallis says:

      Lovely, thank you. This needed to be said. I’ve gotten a lot of calls from distraught owners because “My dog nipped a jogger” or “My dog lunged at a bike!”… when explored it’s rarly the fault of the dog and owner.

    5. Emily Vecere says:

      It is NEVER the fault of the dog.

    6. Carl Madsen says:

      headphones are my biggest problem as a bicyclist – i approach a jogger / walker with or without a dog, I ring the bell and then announce ‘bike on your left’ but they do not hear because they have headphones in, then they are startled when I ride by. The dog hears the bell, but the clueless jogger / walker has no idea.

    7. Andrea Obey says:

      Thank you so much everyone for the feedback! I feel like we expect our dogs to never react, never “misbehave”, and never be nervous in situations where it is impossible. Situations like we’ve all talked about here are potentially very dangerous for the cyclist, jogger, pedestrian, dog and dog owner.

      Carl, yes! I certainly enjoy a good tune on my headphones like most other people but even just walking around the city I’m amazed at how many people are not aware that they have no peripheral hearing. Announcing yourself while biking or jogging is just a common courtesy I feel. Whether there is a dog involved or not.

      Here is another thought on the matter: As Desiree mentions, this is a common “bad behavior” that dog owners worry about. But think of it from the perspective of the dog and its future impact on behavior. Say I’m a dog walking along on a nice day with my human mom or dad, when out of nowhere a super fast moving object is in my comfort zone! I’m startled, I bark and lunge and it goes away quickly! Whew! That was close! And what I just did worked really well so next time that happens, or if I think it might happen, I’ll do that again!

      Audra, that is another good example of an expectation we place on our dog. I know very few dogs and dog owners I trust to with the responsibility of off-leash walking. And, the owners are dog trainers.

      Thanks again everyone! Remember to share this information with non-dog owners too. The bottom line is safety.

    8. Lynn Brezina says:

      This is beautifully written Andrea!!! And it conveys very important information. Well done.


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