Updated: Feb 17, 2021
Picture from Instagram, courtesy of @kumasamoyede
Yesterday I was in a dog park with my dog Coco. I usually don't go to dog parks unless they are super big and there are only a couple of calm dogs and calm owners. But this one is in my neighbourhood, and it is always empty, so it is an excellent moment to unleash him, let him sniff the tracks of previous visitors and observe from safety what is going on outside the fence. Also, to make some "treat hunting" on the ground just as great pause in our walk before heading home.
But yesterday we were in the park. At some point, Coco was very interested in a particular scent when a man and his dog were approaching the sidewalk at the other side of the fence. The man was walking with a small poodle with a short leash and, when they were closer to us, the poodle became very interested in Coco. The dog stopped to look at him, but the man only waited 3 seconds (I counted them) before calling him back to continue the walk. The poodle resisted because he didn't finish his observation (his assimilation of the situation around). Still, the man didn't even wait another 2 seconds and pulled the leash while he continued walking. The poodle was dragged and started to walk while still trying to make eye contact with Coco. A couple of meters ahead, the poodle stopped again and turned his back to the man to try to look back at Coco. This time, the man waited 1 second and raised his voice to call him. Of course, the poodle didn't pay any attention to his name (he was too busy trying to resist the pull and understand the situation around him) and continued staring. The man, 2 seconds later, pulled hard with the leash and dragged him again. Anybody who had paid attention to the man's face would have noticed that he was angry.
Unfortunately, what I witnessed is not something uncommon. Moreover, most people I see are like this man. They don't "listen" to their dogs; they don't consider what their dog wants and what their dogs need. And we are not talking about huge needs! Maybe just to wait for 15 or 30 seconds instead of 2... is it so hard to concede?
If our dog could communicate in our same language and say "Please can you wait? I saw another fellow dog, and I need to observe him and understand the situation", what would you do? In the same way as humans do, dogs observe to assimilate the world around them. They watch to understand that something/someone is a threat (if they have fears), or a possible friend to play with or assimilate/understand/learn why or how other dogs or persons do what they do. Same as every human being since we are born.
Is that "listening" a lot to ask? Is it too demanding to ask you to wait for him while he sniffs or while he looks at something? I don't think so. Furthermore, if you put it all in the perspective that he is tied to a lead and only goes out a few hours per day, it makes even more sense.
Unfortunately for them, they can not speak our language, but they can (and they do!) certainly communicate with us through gestures, with their body language. So please, don't drag them like if there is no life in them, like the person who carries a piece of luggage in the airport. Please "listen" them, and you will realize how satisfactory it is to understand and communicate with your 4-legged friend.