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An Open Letter to the Man Who Smacked His Dog

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

fearful dog

Hi there! I passed you this morning while walking my dog along a mountain trail. I’ve seen you with your dog before, and you’ve always been pleasant as we exchanged greetings. I’ve also noticed how your dog is reactive toward other dogs, so we give you a wide berth.

This morning, as we hugged the far side of the trail, you allowed your dog lots of leeway on the long line. He ended up in the middle of the trail lunging and barking at us. I had just a moment to notice that he was wearing what looked like a wide-muzzled head halter, before you smacked him with the leash across the nose. He was startled, and stopped what he was doing immediately. You kept walking, and after you’d passed us I turned to see you yelling at him and smacking him again over his muzzle. This time he was cringing, ears back, trying to move away from you.

Here’s the thing: you seem like a nice guy. I don’t think you beat your dog; in fact, I’m guessing that at home, you take good care of him. When you smacked him the second time, I said calmly, “You don’t need to do that, he’s already stopped.” You replied, “I don’t want him doing that!” But let’s think this through. Although I’m not a fan of smacking dogs, at least the first correction was delivered as your dog was doing the thing you wanted him to stop doing. Clearly, he got it. He stopped. The second time, he’d been doing nothing but walking obediently along beside you, and got smacked for his trouble.

Look, I know what it’s like to be really irritated with your dog. If we’re being honest, most dog owners do. But how about using good management by keeping him closer to you, and better yet, teaching him what you expect? He seems intelligent and eager to please. I bet he’d love it if you gave him some instruction on what to do—for example, walk next to you and pay attention—instead of what not to do when passing other dogs. It’s so much easier for a dog to focus when he knows what specifically you’d like him to do. You saw my dog put herself next to me and look up at me when I said, “With me,”  and she got rewarded for it, especially because it was a difficult, high distraction situation. Believe me, she did not come fully trained, in fact she’d apparently had very little guidance if any, and had with such a high prey drive that it made training a challenge. Still, I’d rather have her happily complying than being fearful of being struck, and I’ll bet if you think about it, you feel the same way about your dog.

Again, I don’t mean to get on your case. It just pained me to see your wonderful, sweet dog being hit across his sensitive nose, and cringing that way. I truly don’t think you’re a bad guy. I just hope you’ll have an open mind and consider your options so that you, your dog, and everyone you encounter can have a nice, pleasant walk. Have a good day!

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