Puppy protests and know-it-all dog walkers
How to diffuse conflict when your puppy throws a tantrum in public
Every dog has had his moment — those tantrum years where he’s trying to find out what he can and cannot get away with. Some protests come down to lack of space in a living facility or not getting enough exercise. Other times it’s simply testing their boundaries. And there’s not one adult around who doesn’t remember being in a dog’s shoes — we were all human kids once and had our “terrible twos.” So when I see dogs do it, I’m rarely surprised.
One of the most common (and frustrating) protests I see as a dog walker is during the puppy stage, when he is not particularly thrilled by being on a leash and either pulls to get away from it, or just sits or flops down. I’ve walked enough puppies to know it’s going to happen, but one particularly clever dog (who will be used as my example for this piece) has gotten to the point (months later) where he’ll do it just to get you to carry him the whole walk. (Petful can co-sign this carry-me-home trick; savvy dogs can find tricks to get their way once they know certain behavior works to their advantage.)
Be prepared when puppies pop a squat
When you have a new puppy and you’re all set to walk out the door, don’t be surprised when he sits or lays down. For a new puppy who doesn’t quite understand who his owner or walkers are, it could be as simple as, “Why are you taking me away from my safe place?” For other puppies, it could be a matter of not knowing how to maneuver their way around (ex. climbing up and down stairs). Other reasons include distractions (i.e. seeing other dogs, being interested in other people walking by, spotting new and interesting things like leaves or food, or smelling another dog’s urine).
During those paper training or crate training years, it can be tough to find time to walk your dog on a consistent basis within your tight time frames. That 15-minute walk can easily become 25 minutes. The 30-minute walk drags out to 45 minutes. Or, it can work the opposite way — the hourlong walk can become 15 minutes because the puppy simply stands as still as a statue, and you finally give up and carry him back in.
Why I choose the 60-second rule for puppy protests
Before I go into the know-it-all dog walker, let me first introduce you to a real-life dog who I’ve been walking since he was too little to walk down steps. This dog is adorable. During one of our first walks in his teeny tiny years, he decided my coat was as good as the floor and peed all over it as I carried him down the stairs. I couldn’t do anything but laugh and scoop up a bit of snow to clean off the surface area. I already smelled like urine and had ruined my coat. May as well finish the walk and deal with my “pee coat” on my way back.
It’s the same personality type who walks outside to show you how to mow your lawn or tells you why you didn’t cook a meal “the right way.”
I know which blocks this dog loves to play on, which dogs he tends to avoid, to compress my lips because he is notorious for trying to lick my mouth and cheeks if I pick him up, and what usually works to get him to stop protesting while walking. My general rule of thumb is a 60-second wait time. If he sits down or lays down, I give him 60 seconds to lose interest in this sudden break before coaxing him along. I give him a sideways tug on the leash to jolt the dog back into walking, as CesarsWay recommends. Sometimes I’ll scoop him up a few feet before sitting him down again. And occasionally he’ll get up on his own, losing complete interest in whatever made him sit down in the first place.
But of course, as does happen with so many human parents, sometimes those tantrums can happen at the most inopportune time — in front of an audience. Enter the know-it-all dog walker who wants to give you tips and make the walk even more annoying.
The magical appearance of the know-it-all dog walker
This walker — and personality — will show up from time to time during your walk. It’s the same personality type that gives pregnant women advice on parenting with moms they don’t know. It’s the same personality type that will lecture you about buying American-made cars when you are unlucky enough to stop at a red light with him. It’s the same personality type who walks outside to show you how to mow your lawn, or the expert chef who tells you why you didn’t cook a meal “the right way.”
And this personality type always manages to appear when your kid is throwing a tantrum or whining in a grocery store or toy aisle, or when your puppy decides walking is overrated. This entitled personality type has convinced himself that you need to be graced with his presence and require his advice. That’s when the dog walk becomes a complete drag.
Today may have been worst experience with the know-it-all dog walker. I was on a very tight time schedule for an impromptu doggy day care drop-off. Factoring in that this dog would absolutely stop walking, lay down and/or sit, that meant my drop-off time was going to be quite the task. As with my usual 60-second wait time, the dog decided to twirl around in circles and refuse to walk. I gave him a tug after a minute and heard a voice from behind me: “He can say ‘hi’!”
Originally I thought it was coming from someone’s car and ignored the voice, never looking back. I tried to coax the dog along while confirming directions for the doggy day care facility. And I heard the loud “He can say ‘hi’” again. I turned to see a man walking a massive Australian Husky in the direction of this puppy small enough to hold in both hands.
As mentioned in the “No, your dog cannot always say ‘hi’” post, it is a terrible idea for dog owners to storm up to you with their dogs and basically give you no ultimatum other than to play with their dog. Not only is it overly aggressive, but it’s also dangerous for the other owner — specifically if the dog is terrified of other dogs (whether it’s a puppy or an adult dog), is a jumper or a biter. (And I’ve sat, boarded and walked all of the above.)
Diffusing the know-it-all dog walker nearby
Now you could stand there and argue with the know-it-all dog walker who has decided that you must stop to talk to him and his dog. You could tell this person to mind his business and walk across the street. But you’re better off trying to diffuse the situation before it can escalate to BBQ Becky or Cornerstone Caroline — because this personality type calls 9-1-1 more than you call GrubHub.
Let the other dog-loving busybody know that you’re on the same team. The truth is that everybody who owns a dog doesn’t necessarily know how to interact with a dog. Some things are just trial-and-error. You can’t knock the know-it-all dog walker at first; he clearly loves dogs, too, and is trying to look out for it. In my case, I quickly explained that I knew the protesting puppy already and had walked him many times. I also mentioned the day care drop-off and why we didn’t have time to stop.
Give him time to calm down and rethink the arrogance. Now he may calm down altogether, or understand that maybe you just simply don’t want to stand there talking to him and his dog — nor are you required to. Your goal is to get the dog from Point A and to Point B, and basically to hang out with the dog. That didn’t work, in my case. He insisted that I pick the dog up and carry him during the walk. I reminded him again that this is not a dog that is new to me. And this dog is notorious for sitting down, getting a little jiggle/pull, and then walking again like nothing ever happened.
Do not lose track of your end goal — walking the dog. If you allow someone else, especially the busybody who doesn’t know you, to control the entire walk, your dog will still not get walked. He will sit on the grass and just enjoy the show. The puppy sniffed the other dog for a second and moved on to something else he found interesting. Meanwhile the know-it-all dog walker decided that he was going to threaten to call the police … because I wouldn’t pick the dog up. My response? “Call them then.” And I stood there and waited, and he did nothing. So I walked on.
Always notify the owner when there is notable conflict. I sent a message to the owner letting her know what had just happened, as we continued to walk. As expected, the owner confirmed that she already knew I took great care of her dog and told me to just ignore him. She thanked me for letting her know that this was going on. I also let the dog walking company know, who thanked me for keeping them in the loop. If you know you did nothing wrong, do not let the busybody dog walker try to force you into believing it. Let all relevant parties know what is going on, and go about your walk as normal.
Expect your dog to completely not care about the entire situation. And as I suspected, once I got across the street away from the know-it-all dog walker (I did give in and carry him across the street, after this debate had eaten into a few minutes of my drop-off time), the dog happily skipped along for the rest of the 30-minute walk. And after all that drama with the know-it-all dog walker, the tantrum-throwing puppy reached the facility safely. I looked back to double-check that he was OK and saw him scooting his way down a dog slide. Just like that, the tantrum-throwing puppy moved on to his next adventure. And so should you. Don’t let two-legged folk ruin your four-legged puppy memories, even if the latter makes you want to sit on the ground, too.