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Give Fido A Break

Several mistakes pet owners were making today (and ways to correct them).

TIME: STAR DATE 8 AM.

LOCATION: Starbucks in the galaxy of Studio City/ Sherman Oaks adjacent.

We observe a frustrated pet owner talking to a dog which isn't sitting on command:

"Oh, come on! You are being so stubborn!"

She follows this criticism with scorn, scowls, and six firm pushes on the little dog's hind quarters.

Pet Peeves steps into the scene: 

PP:    "How long have you been teaching this command?" 

OWNER: "About three weeks."

PP:      "And he's been doing well so far?"

OWNER: "He's been perfect on our walks and at home." 

PP:      "I see..."

OWNER:    (And then she abruptly adds) "Except for other dogs or squirrels. Or if lots of people walk by--especially if they say hi to us! He's such a glutton for affection."

ASSESSMENT:  This animal is smart. In fact, at home and on walks, the dog totally gets it. This is week three, actually, and the dog is okay. 

CORRECTION TO BE MADE:

1. I expained to her that her dog has made progress at home and on walks.

2. I point out that distractions have been an issue all along, and she'll need to start practicing this and other commands in new environments once they have been effectively taught and learned at home.

3. Going from a quiet street or the privacy of one's own house to a park filled with good-smelling treats, pets, and lots and lots of people nearby (many saying hello and petting this little canine student) is new and difficult on a dog.

I repeat to the owner, that this will require patience and practice in new settings with different amounts and types of distractions.

TIME: STAR DATE 9 AM. 

LOCATION: Beaman Park in the viccinity of Studio City/Sherman Oaks adjacent.

We observe a bustling park. There are children, aging one to eleven, swinging, sliding, digging in sand, running in circles, climbing a turtle statue, and parents of varying degrees of interest in their children.

No parents are paying attention to the leashed dogs with the exception of the dog walking folks doing dog walking laps around the parks perimeter.

Enter a dog owner with a large muscular dog in a muzzle. This muscular dog snarls at the other pets leashed and bound to benches and objects. Some of the bound pets snarl back. 

One little fellow, a toy poodle mix, jumps up and confronts the muscular aggressor with head-on attack. The muzzled beast jumps into the little toy dog and pushes it under the bench, where it is leashed. 

The owner of the muscular dog laughs at this. Pulls with all his might to get his dog back into a sloppy heel. They walk away, and then, oddly enough, park themselves only a few feet from the scene. Soon both dogs are staring at one another. In no time whatsoever, they are pulling at their leashes to attack one another again. 

ASSESSMENT: Oddly enough, the point is not only about playing with aggression. It's about the owner's many choices. We had observed this owner and his muscular dog (breed unmentioned) earlier in the morning.

They were walking in the hot sun over an hour before this. Clearly, they had walked the same route as we did, because we'd seen them at the Starbucks earlier. 

We observed this owner making similar choices regarding leashing his dog nearby to another aggressive, smaller dog. We had observed a similar near mishap and flair-up of aggression. We observed the owner walking away to get treats (both times, this time to a snack truck, earlier to go inside Starbucks).

Remember this was a hot morning. At no time did the owner give his dog a drink of water. At no time did the owner remove the muzzle. How could he? His dog was left unsupervised both times and both times was within a foot of confrontation if leashes were extended. 

CORRECTION TO BE MADE: 

1. Dogs do not sweat. They pant to keep cool. It's cruel and illegal to keep a dog muzzled for an hour and half on a hot day. It's unconscionable to put this dog on a patch of concrete, in the sun, to lie down wearing a muzzle after hiking for forty or fifty minutes. No refreshment. No panting time. 

2. There is no training going on. There is no disapproval of the aggressive attacks and there is no rewarding the active release from aggressive behavior. The owner just pulls his dog along, laughing when it's close to another dog and going off like a bomb.

3. This owner has no sense of the lives of others: safety, manners, respect? Nope. He gets off on his dog's aggression, and he goes to very public places NOT to teach his dog to be social and acclamate to society but to react, attack, and show its muscles and growl. 

This dog should be kept away from hot places until it has recovered from the hot hike. It should be taken out of its muzzle, given a drink of water, offered time to pant and recover. It should be placed in the shade when the hikes are over. 

Further, while this muscular, aggressive dog is still young, it should be socialized with professional assistance. Someone or someone's dog will be hurt by this animal. And the laughing boy is to blame. 

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