“It’s what dogs do, love”: or mansplaining, puppy edition

Puppy-splaining. (Mansplaining about dogs, but it’s not just men doing it.) It’s a cross between unsolicited advice (one of my biggest pet peeves) and the assumption that I am doing something different than the speaker, so I need to be educated, corrected, and set onto the path of righteousness.

Look. As long as you are tending the basic welfare of your dog (for example, not breaking any laws) and making a reasonable attempt to keep him or her healthy, safe, and happy, you can do anything you want. Oh, and if you don’t allow your dog to infringe on the rights of others. Do you want to feed your dog ice cream? Go ahead. Do you want to let your dog off leash in an area where it’s allowed? Go ahead, unless your dog bothers my or other dogs (not to mention people). And no, your dog is not friendly and “just wanting to say hi.”

Ladybug and I were walking in the park the other day, and an out-of-control dog came bounding up to her. She was on her flexi leash, which is our current compromise between heelwork (impractical for our long walks) and off leash (she’s not reliable yet, and after our attacks neither of us is ready–we are working on it almost daily, though).

While I don’t like it, I accept that off-leash dogs will bound past and sometimes give Ladybug a sniff. Almost always, their owners will call the dogs back or even put them on a leash until they pass us. It’s a nice, unspoken etiquette that off-leash dogs aren’t allowed to get too close to on-leash dogs. (Unless, of course, both dogs and owners are okay, and they want to have a sniff.)

Anyway, this dog came screeching toward Ladybug. I reeled her in lightening-fast, but the dog wouldn’t leave her alone. It kept circling her, sniffing, and walking in her path.

Luckily, Ladybug was having a pretty good day. She was calm, gave back a neighborly sniff, and stayed close to me. On a bad day, however, it could have been a different story. For the first few days after our attack, she jumped in fright if any dog or person approached us. She lunged on the leash, straining to get away.

Still, no harm no foul. The dog was a pest, but Ladybug handled it well. Other dog owners would walk by and call their dog, or even offer a quick apology. This dog owner, however, strolled by a good five minutes later (no clue or concern where his dog was, no effort to tell his dog to leave us alone–who was still pestering Ladybug and getting in her way.)

“It’s what dogs do, love,” he said, and the condescension was stifling. He might as well have said, “Look, little lady, don’t worry your pretty head about the dogs. Aren’t you cute trying to walk your dog by yourself? You should leave this to the men.”

Um, what?

I stared at him, speechless. I’ve gotten the, “He’s friendly!” “He just wants to say hi!” “He won’t bite!” responses before. While they are dismissive and show lack of respect/awareness for all of the various reasons a dog is on a leash (many which include not being able to tolerate being approached by off-leash, out of control dogs), at least they’re not insulting.

This one, though, took the cake. “It’s what dogs do?” Seriously? Dogs also bite the mailman and attack children. They pee on things they don’t like and destroy shoes. Do we allow this because “it’s what dogs do?” Or do we accept responsibility for not forcing our badly trained dogs onto others?

Note: I did not complain while he walked past, although I’m sure I looked annoyed. Ladybug was handling herself well, and the dog was out-of-line rambunctious but not aggressive. I did have to hold her leash very close, though, in case the other dog got too close and Ladybug freaked out.

At the end of the day, walking a dog off-leash in public is a privilege. Not a right. When your dog bothers other dogs, especially those on leash, your response should not be to mansplain “it’s what dogs do, love.”

Disclaimer: 90% of the dogs and owners we meet in the parks are great. In fact, they’re the ones who taught me this etiquette by example. They’d often say to their dogs, “It’s not fair to tease that dog. She’s on lead.” Or, “Come away and let that dog have space on lead.” I continue to be amazed by British dog culture and how these dogs are (mostly) trained to walk off-leash–and come back! Reliably! Okay, they might get a bit naughty and chase a duck or squirrel first, but the dogs I’ve seen have been amazing.

Another dog (on the same day) was a five-month-old Weimaraner puppy. He was off-leash, but his owner walked right behind him. He came up to Ladybug for a sniff. Ladybug took one look and went down into an immediate “PLAY WITH ME!” bow and tail-wag. I asked the other owner if her dog was reliable at coming back and friendly for a run. She said sure, so I let Ladybug off her leash. We then had a fantastic chat while fawning over each other’s dogs and trading puppy care tips. 😀

If you ever want an adorable sight, watch a Weimaraner and border collie puppy play together. He matched her for size, but he couldn’t control his body movements. They tried to play wrestle (up on their back legs with front legs wrapped around each other), but he kept falling over. (I remember when Ladybug was that young and everything knocked her off-balance!) It was so cute that I couldn’t stop cooing long enough to get a photo or video. (Rats!) From the first moment he approached Ladybug, it was clear he was gentle, mild, and harmless. Ladybug’s response made it clear that she felt safe, and he didn’t get near until she invited him to do so. Ha, invited? More like begged and pleaded and groveled.

In that case, Ladybug had a lovely play with a sweet new dog friend. I live for these moments because the poor puppy should have been chasing after sheep for miles every day. She shouldn’t be cooped up in a tiny apartment with no grass to run. We’re working on the off-lead recall every day. I’m to the point where I nearly trust her, but I don’t trust the other dogs. It only takes one, sadly. There could be one hundred lovely dogs like this sweet Weimaraner puppy, but one nasty dog who won’t leave her alone.

While I don’t believe Ladybug would ever bite anyone, she will growl and bark when she feels threatened. If another dog is aggressive enough, he or she could take that as a threat and attack.

Hey, ignorant man in the park who felt the need to “teach” me “what dogs do?”

Maybe people would stop pulling their dogs away from yours if you stopped being such a jerk.

And to the lovely young woman with the sweet Weimaraner?

I hope the parents of this world create more people like you. I hope I get to see you when you finish growing up.

And I hope Ladybug gets to see your amazing dog again.


One thought on ““It’s what dogs do, love”: or mansplaining, puppy edition

  1. rozharrison says:

    Hi Ana,

    What a real jerk that guy was, so fortunate that his dog at least wasn’t aggressive and that Ladybug took it in her stride. The two pups playing together…how cute 🙂



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