When you’re out and about and you encounter someone who is distressed and barely keeping their shit together because they’re in charge of a dog that has clearly lost the place – dragging their owner around screaming, barking, straining at the leash, up on their hind legs, foaming at the mouth with all their teeth out, looking for all the world like the rabid beasts from old Hollywood movies?
How does that make you feel? Do you feel irritated or angry? Are you afraid? Do you empathise? Try to understand? Want to help make it better?
As dog owners or even just people in the street, when we see a reactive dog in the midst of a meltdown these are the kinds of responses we know their owners have experienced.
• Crossing the road to avoid them
• Scorn, scowls and dirty looks
• Being verbally abused
• People feeling fearful of them and their dog
• Looking down on them with pity or superiority
• Kindness, Empathy and Help
Which do you think people most appreciate when they’re already struggling?
People with reactive dogs need help and understanding. They may well be working their dog through a program of training and on this occasion things haven’t worked out fantastically well and the dog has been overwhelmed. Cue Reaction.
It could be that they are struggling on their own and they may need some words of support. So many of us have been there, at the end of our tether, tearful, angry, ashamed and upset.
It’s always going to be better if you can (without a dog!) approach and ask the owner if they’re okay and if you can help at all. They’ll most likely be so relieved that someone isn’t about to demonise or berate them.
What kind of person do you think you can be the next time you see someone struggling?
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