What did I do wrong?

The other day a Twitter pal spotted a news item about a dog attack and suggested dog owners should be licensed. That led to a vigorous debate around licensing, registration and dog owners who are / aren’t responsible, and this Letter from a Dog below.

I republish the Letter here (graphics added by me) because it’s something all of us dog owners should ponder on.

November 28, 2012

Letter From My Dog

Dear Human,

I’m a good dog. I know I’m a good dog because you keep telling me so. I like having you in my life, despite those times when you get that vet man to look at my bottom or stick nasty, sharp needles in me. I stay still and let him handle me because you taught me to do this. Then, you tell me I’m a good dog and I wag my tail to show you that I understand.

I love the food you give me and the special good dog treats I get once in awhile. I especially love that you send me off to day care for a day or two each week. I get to run and pounce and play with other good dogs there and it’s just wonderful to be able to burn off all that energy without leads and without having to worry about humans.

You see, my favourite human, other humans sometimes bother me.

I’m supposed to let you know if someone comes into my territory. I do this by giving you my special, “there’s someone around” bark when they come to the door. You have a door-bell but, sometimes, they just walk around the back and come in the back gate. This gives me a fright if I’m outside playing.

Do you remember those kids from across the back fence? I was happily playing, listening out for anyone coming to the door, when those children thew a ball into my yard. I love balls! It was so nice of them to throw a ball for me to chase. I wasn’t happy though when they climbed over the fence and took the ball off me. They didn’t say, “give” but they then started a chasing game. It was such fun playing chase with them but they wouldn’t give me back the ball. I got scared when the boy yelled. Then he threw stones at me and hurt me. What did I do wrong?

You came out and told the children not to climb over the fence again. They haven’t been back while I’ve been on duty but every now and then they bang the fence and give me a fright. Then I bark at them. Then, if I keep on barking at them, you tell me I am a bad dog. What did I do wrong?

Sometimes, when I am inside, I hear the neighbour call out for me. He yells, “hey, dog” and bangs the side of his garage. His kids tease me and he laughs. I know you have asked him to stop but every time you have talked to him he makes bigger noises. I hate that because when that man is in his yard you keep me inside. This is not fair. What did I do wrong?

I love going to obedience classes with you. I do everything you ask of me, even when I don’t want to. It gets hard to be so obedient when we are out and about though. If I am focusing on you and walking nicely to heel, I’m being a good dog. But so many people charge me. Don’t they know they shouldn’t walk up to strange dogs? Small humans run up to me and throw their arms around my neck. I hate that! I show the white of my eye, yawn, turn my head aside, and despite me clearly showing that I don’t want them draped all over me they keep on hugging. I only have so many ways to tell them that I don’t want them near me. The only way I haven’t tried yet is by biting them.

And what’s with their parents? They sometimes say, “sorry” but do nothing to stop their children from charging at me. Other times, they just laugh. Or worse — pat me on my head. Aarrgghh! Hasn’t anyone told them that dogs don’t like to be patted on the head? Perhaps they keep doing it to dogs they meet because we are generally a tolerant species and none of us has bitten them yet to remind them.

You watch me closely whenever anyone is around. You know my signs and know how to keep me comfortable and safe. The thing that really scares me, my beloved human, is that one day you will be distracted and won’t see my signs. Or that someone will come into the back yard while you are on the phone. I will use all my body language and eye signals to alert people if I am feeling threatened, agitated, or downright scared. If they don’t work, my only other recourse is to use my mouth. I will never willingly hurt anybody and you have taught me bite inhibition but, dear human, other humans don’t care about keeping me safe. I’m a good dog but unless humans are good people someone could get bitten.

Then, dear human, it won’t matter that I am friendly, happy, and highly-trained. It won’t matter that I’m the best dog in our obedience classes. It won’t matter at all that you, and everybody else that knows me, know I am a good dog. The newspapers will just report that a bad dog has been put down.

Republished with permission from Letter From My Dog — Discourse & Data.

Any dog attack is a bad thing, but the reasons for the attack are important too. Some owners train their dogs to be aggressive, some owners don’t train them not to be; others go to great pains to train their dogs to behave well.

And on the dogs’ side of things, as explained in the letter above, we people don’t always understand dogs and their ways, or learn the signals that tell us to back off.

What are your thoughts on licensing dog owners?