When Your Dog Wants To Say Hi

Friday, April 8, 2016


One of my favorite things about Chicago is that it's a dog friendly city. Harlow goes everywhere with me. We go shopping, to the bank, the dry cleaner, the bar... basically everywhere. And when we go on walks he knows all of the treat stops and will wait patiently (not patiently at all) for me to get a treat from the jar for him.

Given that Chicago is so dog friendly, on any given walk we'll pass by at least ten other dogs. When it's nice outside, it could be twenty. Which is wonderful, until we get that owner who insists their dog "just wants to say hi."

Harlow would not hurt a fly. In fact, he's actually scared of moths (my fault, he senses my fear.) His other fears include shampoo bottles, bubble wrap, statues, and mustard. He's an odd duck...

But he's an animal and he does show aggression from time to time. And those times are always when he's on leash. Because I spend every waking hour with Harlow, I know him inside and out. And you might think I'm crazy, but I can distinguish between every single bark, growl, and ear movement he makes.

So when we're walking on leash and a big dog approaches,  I see him move back toward me and put his ears down in a way that tells me a. he's nervous and b. he's insecure. (No matter how much I tell Harlow he's the best, he does suffer from some major insecurities. Don't we all, though?)

Anyway. I know my dog so I simply take him out of any situation that might not go over well. His leash aggression didn't start until he was about four, but it's here now and I can't seem to break it. So when we see another dog approach, we cross the street. If we can't cross the street we move beside a car. Or into the alley. It's not a huge issue because there's always a lot of options.



There's options until the other dog owner takes them away. Which brings me to part two of this post.

Last week Harlow and I were minding our own business, having a jolly ass walk as we usually do, when I noticed a medium sized dog up ahead. We were on a busy street I couldn't cross and there was already another dog in the alley, so we waited. And then suddenly the dog from ahead came barreling our way. The owner had it on one of those extendable leashes (which don't get me started on those... in the city that's just not smart) Harlow and I literally had nowhere to turn and the owner was just smiling and shouted,

"It's okay! She's friendly. She just wants to say hi!"

Well what about my dog? Harlow is not friendly (on leash.) And now we're in a shitty situation because a dog we don't know "just wants to say hi."

And you can see this is also where I get pretty grumpy because it happens a lot.

I tried to keep my cool, but as the dog got closer and no attempt to stop it was being made I got a little snappy and said, "can you please get your dog back? Mine doesn't do well on leash." Then of course the owner got all pissy at the growly person (me) and the growly dog (Harlow) and made a half ass attempt to pull her dog back, but not before I had to quickly step between the two dogs.

I don't like being bitchy toward other dog owners. They're my people. But why is it so hard to understand that not all dogs "want to say hi?"

The other thing that happens quite a bit is people will actually step aside and wait for Harlow and I to get close to them. And if I can't cross the street for whatever reason I'll have to ask, "can we pass by you?" And they'll respond, "Oh we just want to say hi..."

Okay. But we don't.

And then me and Harlow are the grumpy duo as the other dog owner looks put off and begrudgingly walks away. But we don't want to be the grumpers!

The worst is when people say shitty things to me about it like, "I thought all Vizslas were friendly dogs?" .... I've had this one more than once from people in my neighborhood. That's like saying, "I thought all humans were friendly people?" Some of us are. Some of us aren't. And some of us just don't do good on leash.

If you're someone who has one of those happy go-lucky dogs who just wants to say hi to every other dog, I'm envious. I love that dog. But know that all of us aren't so lucky. We're not walking away because we don't like you, we're doing what's best for our dog.

And now to end with a photo of Harlow being "walked" by his toddler cousin, Timber, because this photo kills me.

For your weekend reading I also suggest you check out Harlow's Guide To Chicago, as told by Harlow.

Have a great weekend, everyone! Give your pups the playtime they deserve.

36 comments:

  1. I wish more people knew (and respected) the yellow ribbon project. Basically, people tie a yellow ribbon on their dog's leash if they are not people/dog friendly. (https://iheartdogs.com/do-you-know-what-a-yellow-ribbon-tied-on-a-dogs-collar-means/)

    However, when looking up this URL, I just read this: "American juries (urged on by plaintiff’s attorneys) are using the yellow ribbon the same way they’ve been using the “Beware of Dog” signs for years: as an admission that the dog owner knows he has a dangerous dog. And your dog could pay with its life if it’s labelled as a “known dangerous dog”. The dog doesn’t even have to bite anyone. In Texas and a number of other states, it’s legal to shoot a dog if someone is “reasonably” afraid of it." (source: https://debmcalister.com/2014/01/05/dont-tie-a-yellow-ribbon-on-your-dogs-list/)

    So. Catch 22. I wish people were just better.

    From one animal lover to another - thanks for posting!

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  2. Oh my gosh YES. Thank you. My biggest fear when I walk my dogs (besides being abducted) is that we'll come across a friendly dog that's NOT ON A LEASH and "knows" to stay with their owner except when they trot over to say "hi" because they're friendly. That's wonderful. I'm happy for you. I have a friendly little guy, too. He's about 35 pounds (and ON A LEASH). BUT this 75 pound monster in my left hand is NOT FRIENDLY and that's why she's on a god damn leash and we stayed so far behind you on the sidewalk. JESUS CHRIST DOES YOUR DOG WANT TO DIE?
    And the dogs that are in yards without a fence or electrical fence or a tie? The ones that "know to stay in the yard" but still come hauling balls to the very edge barking their damn heads off. (And it's always the 5 pound squirrel dogs). So my dog obviously reacts because she thinks this mutant chipmunk is trying to attack us. And then the owner straight up voodoo glares at me. Um, YOUR DOG JUST CHARGED US.
    Obviously I get worked up about this, too. I love my Lylee and she loves me (and she loves our 35lbs dog), but she doesn't love the bitchy neighbor's dog and she doesn't have to! I will NOT be the one responsible if she injures another dog. A) I couldn't stand it and B) my dog is the leashed one. Plus I always put myself between her and the other dogs.
    (I love all dogs. Even the little squirrel dogs. Just not when they're running after us.)

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  3. I have this same issue. My Labrador, Emmett, was attacked by a dog a few months ago, and since then, his leash aggression has been terrible. Because he's a lab, everyone just ASSumes he's "happy go lucky", which he is, just not around big dogs. I just don't understand why fellow dog owners can respect your boundaries. Or, when they give you that condescending "oh you didn't raise your dog right, huh?" Look. The whole thing is obnoxious.

    I find that if it's a safe area, it's best to just drop the leash when another dog is insistent and usually the other owner will do the same. It's alleviates the tension. (Em was attacked off guard while on a leash)

    I'm glad I'm not the only one with this issue.

    Leanne
    Www.waiticant.com

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  4. Taylor our Vizsla Matilda is the same way. She's timid and totally submissive but yet feels "trapped" on a leash and will very frequently freak the f out when she feels threatened. And always if it's a German Shephard (do Hungarians and Germans have a history of hating each other? I should read up on that.) anyways I always feel like an asshole for crossing the street or avoiding the "hello" but I know Tilda won't like it. We have tried lots of training and I think her leash aggression is here to stay. Glad to hear she's not the only V that way.

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  5. One of the reasons I'm glad to be out of Chicago. My dogs are sweet, but one barks because she gets super excited meeting other dogs and the other gets kind of hostile toward big dogs (only when I'm handling him, not when he's with my husband). Anyway, people think the two of them are psychos. I always try to avoid other dogs, but it's not always an option. I had a guy (across the street and two doors down) yell and scream profanities at me for several minutes because my dogs were barking at his (and it's sometimes hard for me two handle two 30 pound dogs by myself). Seriously, words that even I don't use and should NEVER be said to another human. Several people came up and asked if I was OK after witnessing the whole thing, which (of course) made me cry. I desperately avoided him after that and was so happy to move the next year. I still sometimes think about that guy and how glad I am that I'll never see him again. Your post is what I wish everyone would know!

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  6. YES! My border collie is the sweetest, happiest girl, but she does NOT like meeting other dogs when she's on a leash. We live in an apartment complex with lots of dogs, and all dogs are supposed to be on a leash on apartment grounds. Well, you just know there are people who don't follow those rules, so we regularly have dogs who aren't on a leash (and who's owners are barely paying attention) running toward Leia. Then they don't understand why she isn't more friendly! We also have kids in the apartment complex who, whenever they see her, run toward her yelling, and sure enough she gets spooked. I've had to ask these kids to stop so many times!

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    1. Yes!! I think this must be a herding dog thing - I have an Australian Shepherd who does the same thing. It's tough when the weather starts getting so nice and everybody is all out on the same sidewalk...

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    2. My Aussie/pit mix is also the same - leash aggression with about 50% of the dogs we see, with no discernible commonalities. So it's hard to know who he will react negatively towards. We try to just step away from all oncoming dogs...but as others have noted, it's hard. And then I look like I have an a-hole dog. Woof.

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  7. YES!!! As an owner of a bigger dog, I totally get this! I don't care if your dog is friendly, mine will flip out, it'll be overly dramatic, and just not very friendly. So we can take that route, or you could just listen when I ask you NICELY to NOT let your dog run towards me/mine.

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  8. I have one of the "friendly" dogs. He is 130 pounds, 1 year old, and tall enough that he steals things out of my jacket pockets. He is a Rhodesian Ridgeback and is the sweetest thing in the entire world. He LOVES people and other dogs ( all animals really, hes obsessed with bunnies). He would never hurt a fly but he is massive and even though he doesn't run or jump to greet people, he is extremely intimidating looking just walking. I always feel like the ass for saying "he just wants to say hi!" because, hell, if I saw a ginormous dog staring at me I probably wouldn't want to say hi. So why would other people? He also goes with me literally everywhere I go so I always try to be the one to cross the street or get out of other peoples way. I live in a very dog friendly town and most people are super great. But others are huge jerks. Being a dog owner is pretty much the best thing ever and with all the great comes the responsibility to know your dog and to be respectful of other people and other dogs. You and Harlow have it down pretty dang well.

    The one time none of this applies is at the dog beach. We live in California on the coast in a small town with a designated off-leash dog beach. Nothing pisses me off more than when people show up at the beach and flip out when other dogs what to play with their dog but their dog doesn't like to play or doesn't like other dogs!!! UMM NO. That doesn't work there. Sorry sir. The beach full of 30 dogs and their owners happily playing is not going to leash and restrain all their dogs so your one can roam freely.

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  9. I have one of the "friendly" dogs. He is 130 pounds, 1 year old, and tall enough that he steals things out of my jacket pockets. He is a Rhodesian Ridgeback and is the sweetest thing in the entire world. He LOVES people and other dogs ( all animals really, hes obsessed with bunnies). He would never hurt a fly but he is massive and even though he doesn't run or jump to greet people, he is extremely intimidating looking just walking. I always feel like the ass for saying "he just wants to say hi!" because, hell, if I saw a ginormous dog staring at me I probably wouldn't want to say hi. So why would other people? He also goes with me literally everywhere I go so I always try to be the one to cross the street or get out of other peoples way. I live in a very dog friendly town and most people are super great. But others are huge jerks. Being a dog owner is pretty much the best thing ever and with all the great comes the responsibility to know your dog and to be respectful of other people and other dogs. You and Harlow have it down pretty dang well.

    The one time none of this applies is at the dog beach. We live in California on the coast in a small town with a designated off-leash dog beach. Nothing pisses me off more than when people show up at the beach and flip out when other dogs what to play with their dog but their dog doesn't like to play or doesn't like other dogs!!! UMM NO. That doesn't work there. Sorry sir. The beach full of 30 dogs and their owners happily playing is not going to leash and restrain all their dogs so your one can roam freely.

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  10. This is super helpful. I grew up with dogs who loved other dogs and this honestly didn't cross my mind since I've never personally had a bad experience. Of course it makes sense once you spell it out, but I wouldn't have thought about it on my own. We are thinking about getting a dog in the next year or so and this is good info to have. Some of this stuff is common sense- walk your dog on a proper leash in the city and back away if one of the dogs seems intimidated, scared, or aggressive; however, I probably would have let my dog say a quick hello walking down the street if you hadn't brought this to my attention. Thank you! I'm sorry you have to deal with this on a regular basis.

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  11. I have one of those friendly dogs who wants to say hi to every dog on the street, even if that dog looks like it wants to rip her head off and play fetch with it. But I try to be congnizant of the fact that not everyone's dog is super friendly so I try to hang back or turn down a side street when I can, if the owner or dog seems agitated. Honestly, though, sometimes I hang back or turn down a side street because I want to enjoy my damn walk in peace and not have to make small talk with a stranger while our dogs say "hi" to each other haha.

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  12. YES. My pup is super friendly and wants to talk to everyone, but I am very aware that not everyone wants my slobery, jumpy, hyper puppy all over them so anytime we are on a walk, we try to avoid people and dogs to respect other people. We'll let people pet her if they ask but I cannot stand when someone just comes barreling at her trying to pet. She wouldn't hurt a fly, but you never know what could spook a dog so I don't understand why people aren't more cognizant?

    Also, not sure if you've heard of the yellow dog project? We took Ellie to Zoom Room (it's a positive reinforcement training facility) and they have talked about it to us. It's for dogs that need a little extra space - whether on just on leash or all the time.

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  13. This SO hard. Couldn't have said it better myself. I hate retractable leashes in any setting. I'm constantly complaining about them to my husband. Offleash dogs are bad enough in a non-designated offleash area, but I honestly think retractable leashes are even worse, because people exhibit LESS control over their dogs because they're "on leash." Nope. They're on glorified flimsy pieces of string that snap and break and cause injury all the time. I used to work in animal health.

    My dog loves other dogs, but that doesn't mean I want every dog coming up to her when I just want to take her for an f-ing walk (on a proper leash). I just had a baby; this is my exercise, not social hour. Sure, you can ask if they can say hi, but you can't get offended if I say no, although I'm always the one who ends up feeling awkward. And don't even get me started on the ones who just LET their dogs approach. When Zoey was in training as a puppy, a great trainer said something that I'll never forget: "When I'm in public with my dog, I always assume that every dog is unfriendly and every owner is stupid."

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  14. Children are just as bad. I live at the end of a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood and I've stopped taking mine on walks if the kids are out. They have NO restraint and run up to my dog, even when she's barking and barking at them! "Wow your doggy is so loud!" Ummmm yes she is and she's trying to tell you to back the F away! Super sweet dog, but she is TERRIFIED of people, especially kids, so please - just back away!!


    So, could any of you offer some advice or input - Taylor or other dog mom's - I've lived in my house for 2 years. The ENTIRE time my dogs have to be on a leash when in the yard. My yard is fenced in - with a chain link fence. The problem lies in the neighbor dog. It lives outside 24/7. The minute it sees or hears me or my dogs it runs up to the fence barking and growling - no matter what time of day. Of course, my dogs retaliate and fight back. I got tired of pulling them away from the fence and started just putting them on a leash. I've called the police, who do nothing, saying that the dog is in a fenced in yard. Any ideas on how to get this dog to stfu OR get mine to ignore it so they can run around the yard? Or am I just shit out of luck?? (Sorry if it's bad to post this, but I'm desperate for help. I hate that my girls can't run around and have fun! :()

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    1. YES on the children! My Toy Manchester was maybe 10 lbs and children always assumed he was a puppy. I'd pull him back while telling them that he bites, but did that stop them? Even when I told the parents that he bites they would say to their children, "be gentle". Did you not hear what I just said?? At that point I hoped he would bite them. And when he did, the parents would be super pissy with me. Jerks.

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    2. Get a squirt bottle of water that has a stream not spray. When your dog goes to the fence and starts engaging, squirt of water to the face. This is also helpful with jumping or just dogs who bark at you for attention. It breaks their attention on whatever they're fixed on.

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  15. Oh my goodness YES!! Cocoa is a wonderful and almost perfect dog, haha, but on leash she is very protective and some people do not get it. I am being a responsible dog owner and human because I know my dog. This happens all the time where people either come walking up wanting to pet her because she looks super innocent or they say their dog is friendly. Cocoa is not so please show some respect!! Also, Harlow is beautiful.

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  16. Uh, SAME. My two dogs are both rescues and very timid, so they're not always friend off-leash either. But it drives me insane when people are like, "Oh he/she's friendly" or "just wants to say hi" etc. And then you try explaining to them that your dog is afraid and they just give you this puzzled look. I totally wish my dogs loved every single person and dog, but they just don't. Our apartment building says dogs must be leashed but this guy constantly lets his pug out without a leash and it SPRINTS toward my dogs. One time this happened and the guy was outside holding a big box, and my husband and I were just struggling to pull our dogs away and pick one of them up (she slips her harness sometimes) and he just stood there like an idiot, not putting the box down, letting his dog run wild. Drove me insane.

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  17. I have a friendly dog that thinks that everybody wants to play with him and love on him, but I can't let myself trust other dogs because our dog has been bit by a few dogs who are uncomfortable around him. I always hold him back on a leash until we pass the other dogs, or if the owner says their dog is friendly. I just think that thought process, and yours, is what's best for everybody. You never know how dogs are going to react in certain situations.

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  18. This post made me so relieved that I'm not the only one in this situation! I have 2 Lhasa Apsos and they are the same way as Harlow! Unless it's a dog behind a fence..then they haul ass because it might eat them..from behind the fence.

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  19. Way back when we had a our dog Dot Dot she was not a friendly dog by any means couldn't take her for a walk she would attack other dogs

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  20. Great post. It would drive me nuts when we were in the beginnings of training my pup on the leash and socializing him when people would let their dogs come up to sniff him and say hi. "Oh, he loves puppies!" Yeah, well, this puppy is still timid around other dogs, do you mind not letting them barrel at him willy nilly? THANKS. He's become super confident with other dogs by now, but we still have issues with people who see the cute puppy and head straight to pet him without asking. Those are worse than other dogs now! They always wonder why Kirby backs away--maybe because he thinks your actions could be aggressive, dummy. Greet dogs slowly, and not before you ask! That's all.

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  21. I have a dog who hates it when people put their hands in his face when they greet him. He is a rescue so I don't know why he doesn't like, and we went to a trainer and everything and pretty much the trainer said that is a very aggressive move in the dogs eyes. However, I constantly have people come up to me and say this is how I read the greet a dog, and I love dogs.They don't understand that even though I have dog in public that doesn't mean you can constantly touch my dog and shove you hand in their face. You wouldn't do that to a kid would you? I don't think so. People really need to understand that not every dog reacts the same way and you should respect the fact that isn't your dog.

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  22. Like everyone else around these parts, I CONCUR, GIRLFRIEND. My rescued dog Einstein is 30 pounds and looks like a giant, friendly Yorkie. He's a dream dog around people (and dogs) that he knows and loves, but he has major leash aggression with new people/dogs. I've had the same exact "oh my dog's friendly!" shit happen to me. I simply reply "ok great, my dog isn't!" or I even say "sorry but my dog is kind of an asshole, please don't bring your dog near him." Another fave? When people go to pet him without asking me. Dog mom probs, am I right? Tell Harlow he is not alone. Perhaps we can all create a leash aggression support group for them & all our dogs can FaceTime & talk about their issues. Just kidding, but isn't that a visual.

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  23. Ohhh gosh you would hate my dog!! He is Mr "must say hi to EVERYONE." My husband will always let him but I've learned my lesson. Not all dogs or humans want to say hi to a giant lab baby. He is a jumper too..so that's always fun to explain. "He likes to give hugs..." I am really glad you wrote this though, because I usually pull him away when I see another dog coming because it's just my instinct, but then I feel bad. Dogs are funny little things. It's like they need a sign around their neck describing their personality because they're all so different.

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  24. Thank you Taylor. I am not a dog owner myself, and didn't really know any of that. Now I do. You've done a nice public service.

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  25. These make it super clear & I personally find SO useful! www.friendlydogcollars.com.au

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  26. The picture of Harlow and his cousin is adorbs!

    Listen, I get it. I have two Bichons and I'm also a dog walker. I freaking cannot stand no matter what you say or shout to people, the whole "my dog just wants to say hi" or "he she is friendly", GREAT, but what about my freaking dog?
    Twice in the last two months when I was out dog waking clients dogs, I had to put myself in between the dogs because I had one charging at us full tilt and despite repeated attempts to be reasonable, I had to yell my face off because PEOPLE DONT GET IT. Why is this such a hard thing to understand?! I find most dog people understanding but some are just complete ass hats with zero common sense.
    Loved reading this. :)
    www.theflynnigans.com

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  27. I have two small dogs (chihuahua and chiweenie) and the chiweenie is the same way as Harlowe when he's on a leash. Everyone assumes that because he's small that means he's friendly and submissive. He's not. He came from a rescue and he's not at all welcoming to strange people or strange dogs. He does even worse when he's on a leash because he feels trapped. He's insecure. Everyone we see thinks it's ok to reach down, scuffle his ears, or let their big dog run up to say hi. I hate it. Don't assume that small dogs are toys!

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  28. Oh yes yes yes!!!!! This is such a freaking problem for me too. I have a small dog who is the very sweetest and wouldn't hurt a person, he would however bite another animal if he felt like it was coming at me on a walk or getting in our "space." People see him and automatically say "oh he's so cute" and let their dog approach us which means I have to pick Chino up and I always seem like I'm being super rude about it! A neighbor did this recently and actually let his animals off the leash to run toward us, chino became very defensive and def on the attack, the neighbor says "eh they are dogs, let them fight it out" WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I hate the "oh he just wants to say hi" thing! Great, but my dog doesn't have that personality and you interrupt our walk and stress me out by not understanding this! I've actually gotten to where I don't even care if I come off rude, it's so inconsiderate to not consider other people and animal behaviors when letting your dog run up to us or stopping so our animals can interact!

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  29. this post is right on the money. Just last week I was walking Kidd on a trail and saw a woman with two dogs approaching. Kidd is super sweet, but a total and complete spaz on a leash. I KNEW he'd freak out, so I walked the other way. No joke, that lady followed me. She went out of her way to follow me. Then she yells out to me that "it's okay, they are friendly". If I am ACTIVELY moving my dog away from yours, respect that please.

    Sarah
    The Midwest Darling

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  30. I just stumbled on this post and I have to say: THANK YOU. This made me feel such a sense of relief. I have very similar issues with my dog: most of the time he's friendly, but he has triggers and I can't always anticipate them. I opt to avoid interactions with other dogs when we're on our walks so I don't put him in a situation where he gets upset. Our dogs trust us to look out for them and stand up for them and other owners threaten this bond and trust when they decide for you that your dog is okay for their dog to meet. As much as I want everyone to see the sweet loving dog I know, it is not for me to decide who he loves back.

    Thank you again for your honest post!

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