But I am an adult who is used to having dogs around. A boisterous, friendly pup looks very different when you’re a small child. I was reminded of that over the weekend, when a dog terrified my son and ruined his day out.
I was taking my kids for a bit of a hike, somewhere a long way from our suburban home. There were a few people walking their dogs along the track, mostly on leashes. We stopped occasionally so my kids could pat the dogs and chat to the owners. My kids like dogs, generally.
Then we came across a group of people walking their dogs off-leash. One of the dogs, a smallish terrier type, was obviously still a bit of a puppy. He ran up to each of us, jumping up on us playfully.
My older kid was fine, but my younger one was terrified when he saw the dog bounding towards him. He turned and ran. The dog clearly thought he was playing and chased him.
“Stand still!” I called out to my kid. “It’s okay – he won’t hurt you!”
fOf course my kid slipped on the loose stones underfoot and fell over, grazing his hands and knees.
I picked him up, dusted him off, and told him that running away from a dog wasn’t a good idea. I tried to explain that the dog would just follow him, and the dog could run faster. Then the owner strolled over.
“He was just being playful,” she told my son. “He was wagging his tail. You shouldn’t have run away.”
We all went our separate ways. But the more I thought about it, the angrier I got. Was it really my son’s own fault he’d got fallen over and grazed himself, or was it the dog owner’s fault? Is it okay for an owner to let a dog run around off-leash when she knows he’s going to run up to people and jump on them?
I think not.
I started to remember back to when I was a kid and I felt scared of boisterous pups. It didn’t matter how small they were. I could feel the fear kicking in as they bounded in my direction. I remember turning and running, and I remember people laughing at me as they assured me that their dog was friendly and just wanted to play. How could I possibly be scared of their adorable Fluffy?
I’d almost forgotten those feelings until my son turned and ran.
The truth is that a lot of people feel uncomfortable around dogs. More and more kids are growing up in apartments and don’t have any pets at all. And it’s not just kids. Nowadays, there are plenty of adults who’ve never lived with dogs and don’t know how to tell whether they’re being friendly or unfriendly.
Dog owners, I don’t care how small and fluffy your dog is. I don’t care how adorably playful it is. I don’t care if you know for certain that it wouldn’t hurt a fly. You need to remember that one person’s lovably bouncy pup is another (small) person’s terrifying beast.
If your idea of a friendly dog is one that runs up to people and jumps on them, then please keep your “friendly” dog away from my kid.
Do you think dog owners should keep their dogs away from children? Tell us in the comments.