Posted on: December 9, 2022 Posted by: Petsynse Comments: 0


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Hi Damon: I need to know how not to insult or ostracize pet-owning friends when I visit their homes. Some love their dogs so much that they are willfully oblivious to the bad behavior caused by zero training. I am rushed immediately upon entering either by a large dog leaping up at me, the gross slobbering on and licking of my extremities or a nose directly to the crotch; none of which is restrained or controlled, all of which I despise.

Whenever I have said something about actions like this in the past to other people, I have been met with either indignant astonishment (“you don’t like DOGS?”) or clueless denial (“Fido is very friendly” or “Junior is so protective of me”).

For the record, I am not afraid of dogs — just potentially unsafe unruly behavior. My standards are such: when a live being shoves its way into my undercarriage, it is by invitation only; otherwise, it is assault. If an unleashed dog did this to me on the street, I would have no hesitation using pepper spray or an air horn, but, obviously, this would not fly at someone’s house.

— Get Out of My Personal Space

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Get Out of My Personal Space: I was immediately reminded, when first reading this, of one of the speeches Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort gave in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” when he said “I’ve been a rich man and I’ve been a poor man,” because my relationship with dogs has had a similar trajectory.

For the first 32 years of my life, I was a person who vacillated between “sheer annoyance” and “abject terror” when encountering dogs. Big dogs. Small dogs. All dogs. But when I started dating (and eventually married) a dog owner, I grew to love her dog too, and I even eventually became a “walk the dog unleashed” guy. Which is not a great person to be, I know. I knew Mickey (the dog) was harmless, but everyone didn’t know that, and everyone wasn’t as comfortable around him and other dogs as I grew to be. Also, “harmless” in this instance is a misnomer. Even if I hadn’t seen him commit any physical harm to a person, or even bark at one, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t possible. And, physical harm isn’t the only possible way to injure someone. The anxiety someone might experience when seeing an unleashed dog in their path is a form of a harm too. I was wrong for doing that.

Your request to not be undercarriage assaulted by a living thing is perfectly reasonable and valid. I have a 4-year-old son, and if he had a habit of rushing houseguests like a linebacker sacking a quarterback, I probably wouldn’t be asked to leash him, but I would be expected to do something to prevent him from committing felonies on my friends. If I refused, people would just stop coming over, and would wonder if I was training him for some sort of toddler fight club.

Unfortunately, some dog owners aren’t exactly the most rational and objective people when it comes to their pets — particularly about the level of comfort other people might have around them. It doesn’t surprise me to read that you’ve been met with resistance just from asking to not be besieged by a pack of Shih Tzus when walking through the door.

The next time you’re planning to visit one of your dog-owning friends, I think you should just tell them, ahead of time, how uncomfortable their dog’s behavior makes you. I wouldn’t worry about the possibility of insulting them, because how they decide to receive that is out of your control. As long as your ask is clear, calm and concise, you’ve done your part.

I would hope that your friends would make adjustments to help you feel more comfortable. And if they’re unwilling to accommodate you, maybe that’s a friend you just don’t visit anymore. They’ll have chosen their dog’s freedom to roam and rush over your safety. If that happens, maybe you should make a choice too.