No bad dogs, just bad owners

I’m at the vet with Scout this morning so he can get his kennel cough booster shot. Other than a couple with a cat (who clearly isn’t interested in dogs) we’re the only ones in the waiting room. In order to avoid annoying the already hissing cat, Scout and I take a seat on the far opposite side of the room, and as I sit down a man with two young boys and a small puppy come out of an examining room. Before I realize what’s happening, the family’s small chocolate lab has come barreling at Scout, dragging his leash behind.

While Scout may have his quirks, he’s still very polite in public, and while the puppy begins nipping at his snout, Scout restrains himself from putting the misbehaving lab in his place. Scout backs up, with one paw in the air, while the lab goes for his back leg.

“Isn’t that cute?” the father laughs. “He’s going after that big dog!” The kids start laughing at Scout.

I keep a tight hold on Scout’s leash and tell him to sit, not because he’s afraid of the puppy. He’s very gentle with small animals, but after the initial meet and greet he’ll be ready for some play. I’ve seen him put his entire mouth around the cat’s head, so I know that, if encouraged, Scout could quickly pin the pup and have him in a head lock, all in the name of fun.

“Your puppy is very cute,” I say, reaching down to pet the lab and shove it back to its owners.

For the next few minutes, I try and keep a hold on Scout while the family lets their dog run at Scout untethered, and I shove him back, which is annoying not only for Scout but for me. When the father picks up the puppy, the boys try to pet Scout by standing over him with hands held high and palm down, jerking back when he lifts his nose to sniff them.

I explain to the boys that the proper way to approach a dog is to put their hand down low, palm up, and let the dog sniff. Once he’s comfortable, you can pet him. Otherwise it looks like you’re teasing or threatening, which can spook the dog. It’s a good way to get bit.

Understand that Scout is about the most submissive dog you’ll ever meet. He’s never had the chance to defend me from a threat, and I have no doubt that he’d rise to the challenge given the chance, but let’s face it. He’s a cream puff. The only danger those boys are in is getting their faces licked clean.

But that’s not the point. This family doesn’t know my dog, so they don’t know if he’ll bite. They have no idea why Scout is at the vet, so they don’t know what risk they might introducing to their puppy. (I almost tell them he’s there for a highly contagious infection.)

I feel badly for that poor puppy. I say “poor puppy” because a family that thinks it’s funny to let a puppy run loose in the vet’s waiting room will probably not see a need to teach the dog how to be a good citizen. Without training, a cute rambunctious puppy will grow up to become a menace to everyone it encounters. A dog that becomes a menace gets yelled at chewing and jumping and barking, and becomes a frustration to live with.

And it won’t be his fault, entirely. Dogs need guidance from their masters to learn how to behave so that they don’t drive people nuts, but also don’t get into something harmful.

It’s kind of how God directs our lives. Not to be a control freak, but to keep us from harming ourselves, to help us become people who are a benefit, not a frustration, to society.

Just something to think about.

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