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Ah. I hadn’t thought about that ….

December 28, 2015

Sometimes we are force to appreciate that our own understanding of something is far ahead of the common thinking on a subject. Sometimes, it smacks us right between the eyes.

For example: the common courtesy of not allowing your dog, who is very friendly, (aren’t you lucky?)  to run up to other dogs that you know nothing about. Parking your car where it causes other road uses inconvenience. We could call this “being stupid”, “thoughtless” and this certainly applies to a small percentage of the population. I have faith in the majority of people who do want to be considerate and live harmoniously in their community. How do we become considerate and thoughtful? We need information and we need to know what information we need to know to become informed.

Many of the rules and guidelines that are an integral part of driving are designed to keep people safe. Speed limits are there for good reason, warnings about “do not change lanes” on motorways, are there for a good reason. In the experience of the combined road managers, these restrictions, rules or guidelines are implemented as a result of a potential or serious consequence.

One motorway I drive regularly has multiple junctions where motorways combine. Very fast moving traffic that has to merge. Two key components of high risk of accidents. If you then add “adverse weather” such as fog, heavy rain, or freezing conditions the risk components multiply.

I read a detailed report of a serious multiple traffic collision at a junction that made my hair stand up on end. The outcome was recommendations that all motorway junctions have lighting. I read this 40 years ago and it still stays in my mind. When I see “do not change lanes” my frustration is quickly built by the drivers who ignore this (and of course use the space I have left in front of me as the perfect slot for them  ….grrrrr). But then the question becomes are they actually aware of the risk and potential consequences? Would they still take this risk if they were? Do we have frighten people into take care and consideration, or is that just knowledge?

Does the person who lets their dog run into your dog have the knowledge of the consequences of their (non) action and do they have the skills to make a change?

The common practice of bagging your dog’s faeces is a “modern” change, mostly bought about as a reaction to the infection risk with the toxocara canis. Most thoughtful dog owners are going to walk their dogs, be prepared and are willing to clear up.

But there will always be a percentage that does not comply with this element of living in a community:

  1. They consider it does not relate to them (“after all it is out of the way ….under a tree”)
  2. They cannot be bothered (“what am I supposed to do with it”, “there are no bins, so I shan’t bother”, “they pay other people to do this”). There are always good reasons to be found to not bother. I wonder if they put as much energy into the solutions as they do to the avoidance …..?
  3. They like to defy the common policy, simply because they can, the risk of punishment is small enough.
  4. They are not “in the moment”. Day dreaming, worry about a life situation, over stressed. Bag-less …..

But perhaps we can reach those border line people who simply were not aware of the consequences or had not considered them. The wheelchairs users who have their wheels coated in faeces and then want to go into a restaurant, the pushchair with poo-wheels where the child can run their hands, and of course the driver on the motorway who now has a shoe full of poo warming nicely in the car heater.

Ah. I hadn’t thought about that. When the consequence is likely to relate to them, we can expect more consideration. Often as teachers we need to explore their world to find a consequence that they can relate to. Poo-on-a-shoe is an everyday consequence, poo on wheel-chairs are not.

We have to consider different tactics to combat thoughtlessness, and of course seek to reinforce thoughtfulness.

Many of us are directly or indirectly involved with training dogs “on the social fringes”. For whatever reason they do not appreciate unsolicited social advances from either people or dogs.

These advances can vary from being completely unacceptable, potentially life changing, to just selfish.

When Merrick was about 16 weeks old I was faced with an oncoming situation that had the potential to be life changing for her. I was coming along a tow path by a canal. This is only about a meter/yard wide, with fencing on my left and canal on my right. Coming towards me was a guy with two boys on bikes, one with training wheels. The older one was quite a way ahead, the younger one being supervised (Really? Training wheels alongside a canal …. that should give you an idea of his risk assessment abilities). Additionally the family was made up with two large, boisterous lurchers. These were jumping in and out of the canal barges where people were eating.
On viewing this and within 3 seconds I sought avoidance. My puppy bitch was NOT going to be exposed to this selfish use of community space. My route for avoidance was to open a gate into someone’s back garden and let myself in. I was prepared to risk that embarrassment for me than the potential fallout from a full-on, unescapable assault from bikes and dogs.

This type of skill assessment process needs practice. Would that we could have a freeze button to have the time to assess the components speeding towards us and then sort through the possible solutions.

I doubt the guy was actually that thoughtless. He was taking his kids and dogs out (at 12am on a Tuesday morning). He chose an area where it was safe from traffic, but he may have not considered barges containing picnickers. He may have considered that he had enough control of both kids and dogs to manage any situation (don’t we all). Sometimes we do not know what we cannot manage until it occurs. That’s one of the reasons we do fire drills.

Maybe, if I could have had his full attention for a moment and explained the consequences of his behaviours he would have changed the situation. I would then wonder if he had the training in place for an appropriate response from both kids and dogs – that would take considerable preparation.

When we have a situation that continues to build our frustration it takes thoughtful effort to bring about a change. That thoughtful effort will make you feel a little better than dwelling on the negative frustration, but sometimes that level of frustration has to drive us to the point of encouraging change for the better.

Our dog communities share space. A pre-license to make use of shared space should be earned.

Dog folk have to be aware of the non-dog folk using that space. Equally dog-folk have to be aware of other dog-folk. How can we make the changes:

Avoid it. This tactic is excellent for the days when the frustration level is going to spill over. We can also do a short term avoidance by simply escaping in the moment if it is available to us.

Education. Are we making a judgement that this is deliberate thoughtlessness or simply an “I really did not know, my apologies” situations. If a person has a friendly dog, do they fully appreciate:

~ that not all dogs are friendly and the actions of their dog can have life changing consequences on your dog?

~ that you have been working for weeks on this dog with a good program to be able to walk down the road and not cause issues for other dogs, and that their moment of inconsideration has set you back months.

~ if this becomes the norm for this park / woodland / beach, then the local council may draw up a byelaw that requires all dogs to be on lead AND under control.

~ that blasting up to another dog is a discourtesy. Dogs would not normally do this*

*dogs would greet each other with a more cautionary protocol of standing off at some distance and enquiring about closing that distance. If the opening enquiring did not receive a positive response a diversionary tactic of marking the nearest object is often employed and the dogs then go their own way. But because we walk with dogs on leads directly towards each other without this courteous stand-off dogs have not learned to develop this normal dog protocols, it has been overridden by human protocols.

If you have to explore consequences that relate to the individuals try the “have you any children / grandchildren” approach. Would you like a 12 year old child in your care, to be exposed to inappropriate behaviour from an adult?   It should bring consideration to the moment – remember the “excuse” for inappropriate behaviour is often “I was just being friendly


Put your energy into change, not complaints. Seek solutions and let’s reinforce the thoughtfulness.

Changes can happen and will happen when we add our collective ideas, actions and energy together. Recycling is becoming the norm, not the exception. Dog diets have become “grown up” and for dogs, not just re-purposing unwanted human foods.

We have all experienced the feeling of learning and changing – something we did in the past because we considered it the right thing to do at that time. We can view it retrospectively and appreciate that we did not know what we didn’t know, at that time. So let’s give strangers that consideration – an innocent lack of knowledge.

How you open their eyes to this is another story.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. lmpaul76 permalink
    December 28, 2015 4:13 pm

    Great post!

  2. December 28, 2015 5:23 pm

    Considerate and thoughtful trainers are the best! Thanks Kay! Happy New Year!!

  3. Gwen Quon permalink
    December 29, 2015 12:32 pm

    Very interesting post and it is another area to work on .
    Happy New Year to you and yours.

  4. November 9, 2016 2:44 am

    Good post. I might add that a lot of dog people don’t realize that there are some people who are afraid of dogs…especially children. Having a dog (even a truly friendly one) run up to small child who is afraid is a truly heartbreaking experience for all involved. Let’s think about educating our dog loving friends about that as well.


  1. Ah. I hadn’t thought about that …. | Kudos for Canines

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