A call to dog owners

Rousing the Rabble column by Roy Ronaghan, Sept. 9 Grand Forks Gazette.

I enjoy walking in the evening, the quietest time of the day and for the most part my walks are peaceful and free of annoyances with the exception of the presence of several dogs inside fenced yards along my route if I walk on the sidewalk. It is seldom that I meet other people on my walks and those with dogs on leashes have well-behaved animals.

On Sept. 3, what began as a quiet walk was disturbed by a couple of incidences with dogs, one in Barbara Ann Park and the other in a parking lot on Third Street.

At Barbara Ann Park a couple had just released four dogs for a free run in spite of a sign that informs them that dogs should be on leashes. As I entered the pathway that skirts the tennis court a small short-haired dog ran out of the treed area and approached me aggressively. I stopped and waited for the dog to leave but it was persistent and kept barking as it approached to within a metre of me. If I moved, it came closer.

One of the dog’s caregivers shouted, “He’s only a little guy.” My response was, “Little guys can bite.” On other occasions I have been told that a big dog bounding toward me and barking is friendly. If it is a friendly beast why is it barking in a threatening manner?

I have never been reassured by the comments of dog owners about the behaviour of their particular pet either large or small.

After making my usual trek to and around the downtown business area, I walked north on Third Street, up the slope to the parking lot behind the small apartment block on the corner. As I entered the lot a large dog ran toward me while barking aggressively. I stopped and waited as I have learned to do on such occasions. A man eventually grabbed the dog, gave it a slap and told it to stop.

A week ago I was confronted on Second Street by a couple of   small dogs that are usually behind a fence. On this occasion the gate to the yard was open and they charged out at me. No one in the house responded to their barking and it took a while before I could continue.

The incidents described are with dogs out of their yards and not on leashes but there are a few other that are bothersome from behind fences. I avoid these properties as much as possible.

I would be remiss if I did not mention three large dogs that live along my chosen route. They behave in a manner that is highly acceptable to me. I have never heard them bark. I respect them and it appears that they are not bothered by me. One in particular is not behind a fence although it is tethered. It lies at the front door of the house like a sphinx at an Egyptian temple.

When I meet dogs that behave in the manner described above, I think of the example of our family’s watchdog during my childhood. His name was Fritz and his job was to let our family know if something out of the ordinary happened and to keep my siblings and me safe. He did both jobs well. He barked only when he sensed there was a need to.

Fritz never barked unnecessarily and he was trained to respond to my father’s first command to stop his barking. As I recall, all that was needed was, “It’s okay Fritz, that’s enough.” He would immediately leave the scene and pick a spot to lie down.

Given the experiences that I have had with dogs during my walks, it seems reasonable to ask dog owners to make an effort to train their pets to respond to real threats, not someone out for an evening walk. If they need help there are people available in the city.

And yes, I will continue to be cautious around “the little guys” that are off leash.