Don’t Be “THAT” Person: A heartfelt plea from the owner of a reactive dog


There I am on the trail, dried brush baking in the sun, kicking up dry dirt with every step we take.

A light but pervasive layer of dust encases all four of my dog’s paws – that’s going to leave fantastic little paw prints all over the backseat of my car. I’m walking my dog-aggressive dog in a remote area on a 15 foot leash. It’s one of the few places we get to enjoy and not worry about tons of dogs passing us on a walk but I always keep the leash on just in case. We’ve hiked about 2 miles – we are relaxing and my dog is enjoying sniffing everything. Several thoughtful people have left behind their dog’s post-meal offerings for my dog to investigate; shout out to all the dog owners out there who forgot a poop bag.

All is well and then it happens.  My dog goes rigid. Her body is tense. Her mouth is closed tight. Her ears are pinned back. All the signs are there – there’s another dog around, and it’s close. I look around and sure enough, here he comes.

Happy as a clam, big ol’ grin, tail up labrador trotting towards us like all is right in the world. I want to tell him no, go away, shoo! But I’m too busy reeling in my dog’s leash in hopes of avoiding the confrontation that I know is about to happen.






Here comes the other dog’s owner, hand up in a friendly greeting. They and their dog have one very clear thing in common: both are oblivious to the signals my dog is throwing.  They’re both grinning in happy anticipation of making a new friend.

And, here comes that incredibly predictable yet so-annoying-I-want-to-throw-something-at-them phrase:



Don’t be THAT person. Please don’t be that person.

I understand your dog will make friends with anyone, whether they have two legs or four. I understand your dog would NEVER bite anyone. I understand you and your dog are just enjoying a walk.

I’m trying desperately to keep my dog at a safe distance but yours keeps approaching at the same steady trot. I’m getting anxious. It’s not fair to put my dog in this position – if she reacts aggressively EVEN THOUGH SHE’S ON LEASH when your dog comes up to her, not only am I going to be responsible for your dog’s vet bills but my girl is blamed even though you’re the one breaking the law.

So please try to remember that you’re fortunate. Your dog carries no baggage. Your dog gets along with everyone. That’s amazing, and I envy you that!



But my dog doesn’t walk so lightly; she is heavily laden with issues from her past that we are still working through. I don’t want to be rude. I don’t want to come off as short with you or as a hater of happy dogs. I just want to walk in peace with my dog without worrying about another dog approaching us while off-leash in an on-leash area. There are plenty of outlets for off-leash play. Doggy day cares are great for this. Please take advantage of them and keep everyone’s dogs safe – including your own!

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