I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. It's a very diverse place and that allows for a lot of fun (and food!) but it has also allowed me to experience something that is a problem for other dogs I know.
People are afraid of me because of the way I look.
I'm a spitzy-boy...
Some people think I look like a dingo:
[photo by Ogwen on Flickr]
There are so many cultures here that I even get mistaken for a dhole (not everyone would know what those are!):
[photo by Guwashi999 on Flickr]
Whether they realize it or not, this 'wildness' in my look often makes them afraid. People have even gone so far as to bring their children inside when I walk by. They don't know that I love children and that attention is good for me. Rainy says good interactions reinforce good reactions. There are so many people that don't even give me a chance. Smaller dogs are seen as 'cute' but larger or 'primitive' looking dogs are often considered 'aggressive'...just like that! There are even laws passed that ban breeds completely! Even if a dog is a certified Canine Good Citizen they could be forced to leave their home or even euthanized if they are found to be a banned breed in an area where they aren't allowed. This kind of thinking really hurts us dogs and doesn't resolve the issues that can lead to a dog behaving aggressively.
I'd like to invite everyone to consider the dogs they might see as they are out and about. If you've ever avoided saying hello to their owner just because of they way they looked, maybe you should re-think it. I'm not saying that you should run up and hug every dog you see (I think I'll teach you about how to say hello properly in the next entry), but talk to a dog's humans and learn about them as individuals. You may be surprised at what you learn, and you could make a friend out of a dog and their human who are so often avoided.
Remember that the breed doesn't make the problem! Bad situations, bad handling, fear and stress can make a dog react aggressively. These aren't reactions that occur because of our skeletal structure, fur color, or size. Small dogs and big dogs of any breed can react aggressively without proper care, handling, and training. Small and big dogs of any breed can also make great pets, good friends, and happy members of your community.
Make understanding dogs as individuals a habit! Support owners in their quest to foster balance and happiness in their dog and report those who abuse them.
Maybe I'll give you a high-five on my next walk.
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