A Dog's Life

Cheri Kolstad is a certified dog behaviourist, dog groomer and trainer who lives in Penticton

There are many sizes of dogs, but I have a habit of slotting all of them into big dogs and little dogs.

It is disconcerting to approach a large dog and owner and see them boldly coming towards me with the intention of having a visit.

My dogs are not little, but they are much smaller than some of those I encounter.

I try to politely move away from their advances and rarely say anything until I realize the owners are not controlling their dog and are continuing to make a point of coming into my space.

I am forced to express a very straightforward statement that I have no intention of letting them come any closer.

For me, I am on a walk and have no desire to chance an aggressive encounter. It seems to me that the more a dog is encouraged and allowed to visit every dog they encounter the more the dog thinks it is required to make a point of going to any dog in the vicinity.

Do they really want to play or are they just doing what the owner expects them to do? Although a dog is perceived as friendly by their owner, not all dogs like each other, and putting them within each other’s bubble offers a chance of close encounters of the wrong kind.

Dogs, as people, don’t like or feel comfortable with everyone they meet. If the owner is looking for a place to play, maybe one of the local dog parks is where they should head to on their walks.

The very large dogs alarm me more than most. If I have a 15 to 30 pound dog and a 120 pound dog is being brought over to where I am walking, I am ready to run. Even when the owner says their dog is very friendly, I am still apprehensive.

It only takes a paw landing in the wrong place, a big jump, or a playful bite to ruin a day. A big dog getting their leash wrapped around the handler or the owner of the dog they are trying to get at, can be a major catastrophe. It is a difficult situation to get out of.

If I see that big dog pulling on their leash to approach me, I see an owner that is not in control. If the dog is panting or getting very excited about the prospect of reaching me, I don’t see a safe situation.

For the owners of big dogs, they chose to have a big dog, it makes them feel right to have such a large animal to walk with, but they need to understand that most people don’t want to socialize with them.

I worry for the very small dog owners that feel threatened as a large dog approaches and they quickly pick up their little pet to wrap their arms around. The result is often owners yelling, dogs jumping and a very intimidated small dog owner who doesn’t care about making friends.

Most dog owners are not interested in having a play time with a large dog. Dogs can annoy each other. Large dogs not understand how to play when their sizes are so different, and feel frustrated and confused at the quick footed and barking small dog.

Not only people can become annoyed with a yapping little dog racing in circles.

So maybe initially, if a large dog owner could find suitable friends for their dog to visit and steer clear of inviting their dog to visit the smaller dogs, they might find that a large dog will eventually be better received by everyone.

Cheri Kolstad is a certified dog behaviourist, dog groomer and trainer who lives in Penticton