Lately, I’ve been noticing a trend, which is weird because I almost never notice trends of any kind. (Side note – are people still saying outie 5000???) But this trend is not about clothing or super cool catch phrases, it’s about dogs. More specifically, it’s a trend that, as dogs have become an increasingly huge part of our lives, people have decided that they no longer have to play by the dog owning rules. And it sucks.
I should preface this by saying I ADORE dogs. I love them to little bits and pieces. (Not literally.) My own sweet pup, Archie, is, in my absolutely unbiased opinion, the cutest and sweetest and all around best creature on the planet. I have even called him “the light of my life” in front of my husband! (Whoops.) But just because I love dogs doesn’t mean I think dog owners should be exempt from basic rules and laws. In fact, BECAUSE I love dogs, I think dog owners should follow basic rules and laws, because it’s better for the dogs and it’s better for society in general.
Luckily, there aren’t many rules to follow to be a good dog owner. In fact, I could boil them down to the most important three, and if you follow those, you’re probably doing an A-ok job. So put your reading glasses on, and let’s get down to it!
Archie (the cutest, sweetest and best creature on the planet) will read along too!
#1 – DON’T PRETEND YOUR DOG IS A FUCKING SERVICE ANIMAL IF IT’S NOT
I have seen this more and more lately (including the part of the interaction where nervous teenage retail and food service employees awkwardly ask questions and then the person with the non service animal huffily leaves) and anyway, it makes me livid. The reasons why you shouldn’t pretend your dog is a service animal should be obvious, but I’ll just highlight a couple.
First, there are plenty of invisible disabilities out there and you are making it much harder on people with those disabilities by bringing your shaking, peeing chihuahua into Target and acting as if it’s a service animal. EVERYONE KNOWS IT’S NOT, OKAY? The terrified beagle that is barking at every person, object and noise in the Baja Fresh is not a service animal. The ancient, pooping mutt that is going number 2 in the aisle of the grocery store is not a service animal. We’re all onto you and it’s super, super gross.
Service animals are allowed to go into places that regular animals can’t go because they have been trained to do things like NOT pee or poop everywhere, snarl at or bite people, or generally go berserk in the meat section at Ralph’s. (There are also, for the record, emotional support animals, but there are different rules and restrictions for those animals and service animals. This helpful article illuminates some of the differences. But really, I’m addressing people who have neither service NOR emotional support animals, but instead just feel like taking their dog with them everywhere they go because they feel like it.)
Anyway, for those of you deliberately bringing non service or emotional support animals into places they don’t belong, you should know that for every untrained animal that bites a child or takes a dump in Target, you’re creating an environment where business establishments can’t trust people to only bring service animals into their places of business. Do you want to live in a world where some veteran with PTSD is grilled by shop owners for bringing his service dog inside just because a million girls with dogs in purses (WHY ARE SO MANY OF THEM GIRLS WITH DOGS IN PURSES???) can’t be bothered to follow the law? No! That would be terrible.
Not to mention, bringing an non service animal into a food establishment violates health codes. Ugh, health codes! Sounds so boring and not as cute as my dog! True! But they are vitally important if you don’t want people getting sick from food borne illnesses that could be easily transmitted via your dog doing its business near or on food items. (I will never shake the image of the girl I saw holding her squirming dog over every single piece of fruit in the produce section, as he shedded and drooled and fought her.)
Now, that said, you should never confront a person with an animal and demand to know if it’s a service animal or not. As I said, there are tons of invisible disabilities out there and it’s not always easy to tell if a pet is performing in a service capacity. However, this is a direct appeal to those of you who ARE abusing the service animal policy by bringing your non service animals where they don’t belong – just stop, okay?
(Also, side note – WHY? People who do this, why? I mean, I love my dog and I love spending time with him, but I have no problem running the majority of my errands without him. It’s fine, guys! I swear! I mean, it’s great that you love your dog, but if you are a healthy person who can’t bring yourself to pop into a grocery store for shampoo without bringing him with you, SEEK HELP.)
2. KEEP YOUR DOG ON A GOD DAMNED LEASH.
This one seems to be the hardest for people and I will never understand it. Outside of an off leash dog park, an off leash dog run, or the sanctity of your own home and/or fenced yard, your dog needs to be on a leash at all times. This is for EVERYONE’S safety and well being, including yours and your dog’s! Yes, your sweet little sparklemuffin might never, ever bite or run away in any of your experiences with her, but that doesn’t mean a.) the exact situation where that WOULD happen isn’t out there or b.) OTHER dogs are the same.
No interaction with a dog is one sided (unless it is this very cute dog and mirror interaction.) In all other cases, there is another dog or a person (or dogs and people) involved and you absolutely cannot predict how things will go every single time. Dogs are (prepare yourself for a shock here) ANIMALS. They do not operate in the same world of logic as humans and we do not understand all of the details of their smell-o-verse and what might make them suddenly protective or scared or run off into traffic. You can’t predict the rogue squirrel darting in their eyeline across a very busy street, or some dog whose butt just smells really weird – but you can certainly predict that something like that happening is a possibility, and that you need to safeguard your pet accordingly.
Also, many dogs that are people’s pets are rescue dogs, some of them with history of abuse or just fear of other humans or dogs. You have no idea how a strange dog will react, and the whole point of leashes is that you can very quickly, without having to physically reach your hand in between two biting dogs, guide your dog away from danger. WHY WOULD YOU NOT WANT TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT??? It baffles me. My dog is a generally sweet and friendly pup, but if he encountered a dog that wanted to eat his face, the best case scenario is that that dog and my dog would both be on leashes, and the other dog owner and I would simply guide the dogs away from each other.
The worst case scenario, and something that has happened multiple times, is that my dog is on a leash and the dog that wants to eat my dog’s face is NOT on a leash, and I (and sometimes the other owner, if they’re even paying attention) have to reach in between two snarling, snapping dogs and pick one or both of them up. That is not ideal, friend. It is even more not ideal if one of the animal owners can’t pick his or her dog up, due to the dog’s size, the owner’s advanced age or some sort of injury or disability. A person who can’t pick up their pup shouldn’t be afraid to walk their leashed dog because of some asshole who is letting their dog roam free unleashed.
Not to mention, there are plenty of people in the world who do NOT love dogs. I don’t personally get it, but they should be allowed to exist in the world without an off leash dog jumping up on them or darting in front of their car. There was a dog in my old neighborhood who was NEVER on a leash, and she used to greet me by putting her paws on MY SHOULDERS. (She was a very large animal.) Look, I thought she was cute, but that behavior is absolutely unacceptable. If I had been elderly, she would have knocked me over. If I had been heavily pregnant, she could have knocked me down and potentially caused serious injury. If I had been mauled or bitten by a dog as a child (or as an adult) and developed a fear of dogs, that would have been absolutely pants crappingly terrifying.
Bottom line – It is selfish to have your dog off leash in public. You are weighing your laziness or misguided thought that your special snowflake dog should run free above everyone’s safety – the safety of your dog, other dogs, and other people. Please don’t do that.
A leash is cheap, easy, and a safeguard against your dog getting into trouble or dying. USE IT.
3. PICK UP YOUR DOG’S SHIT.
This doesn’t apply to dog owners whose dogs poop in their own giant backyards. I don’t even know what that luxury would feel like, but I suppose it’s awesome. And in that case, whether or not you pick up and dispose of your dog’s poop has more to do with your personal preference on the amount of feces you want in your yard at any given time.
However, for those of us who do not have yards, but have dogs, everyone walks their dogs around the neighborhood. And most of us pick up said dog shit and dispose of it. BECAUSE THAT IS HOW A SOCIETY SHOULD WORK. Everyone else is an asshole.
I don’t really know how to elaborate on this other than by saying, STOP LEAVING YOUR DOG SHIT EVERYWHERE, YOU GROSS, WEIRDOS. Joggers and small children should not have to step in your dog’s shit because you don’t want to pick it up. Cleaning up dog shit is part of the package deal of having a dog. If you find the idea of cleaning up dog shit gross, or beneath you, or too much work, DON’T GET A DOG.
This is also really rude because guess what? Someone is going to pick this up eventually and it’s going to be some poor gardener or maintenance worker and by leaving your dog’s shit out in a public area, you are leaving it for that guy to clean up. Would you do that to his face? Hey buddy, sorry, I really do not feel like picking up this fecal matter, would you do it? Of course you wouldn’t say that to someone’s face. So just don’t do it.
Aaaaaahhhhh, it felt so good to get that all out. But really, when it comes down to it, it is SO EASY to be a basically good dog owner. Just don’t act like Rufus T. Peesalot is a service dog, keep him on a leash outside of designated off leash areas, and pick up his shit. Not that complicated! I would add, don’t leave him in a car, ever, but I feel like a.) everyone knows that by now and b.) since we have entered the era of window breaking/dog saving vigilantism, if you do that, you will learn your lesson very expensively at some point!
Anyway, as reward for getting through my ranting about bad humans, here are some photos of ridiculously cute dogs. Wouldn’t you want them to live in a world where everyone followed the good dog owner rules?