Looking For Good Dogs (And Their People)

If You Look For It, You’ll Find It

Golden Retriever on bed in Sheraton

When I came to live with my family, they started seeing Golden Retrievers everywhere. Good thing none of them are as cute as I am.

When you buy a blue Honda, suddenly you see blue Hondas everywhere you look.

It’s disgusting to not clean up after your dog. Why do you find dog poop wherever you turn?

And when you’re working hard to train your dog, it seems like every dog person in the world is ignorant, incompetent, and just trying to get in your way.

You’re the victim of confirmation bias—your brain noticing things that confirm what you already believe.

Want to change your world? Know your biases and question them.

The Bad Dogs And Their People

When you’re working with a fearful or reactive dog, every walk is an adventure. Just when you’ve gotten your dog to pay attention to you, along comes an over-friendly, off leash dog whose person trails him yelling,”Don’t mind him. He’s very friendly.”

Sometimes it feels like these booby traps are on every corner.

But they aren’t. They are a small minority in most places. Your confirmation bias is finding them everywhere. And it’s increasing your tension level.

The Good Dogs And Their People

The Yorkie who comes flying out his dog door to snap and growl at the fence line makes me crazy. After comforting our trembling foster pup, Chérie, I’m on edge too. I think of the big black dog who does the same thing at her fence around the corner. And what about the Jack Russell Terror (not a misspelling) and his Beagle brother who attack their front door every time someone walks by?

But my neighborhood has dozens of dogs. Most of them are so kind and sweet we hardly notice them. Or, at least, the tension-producing dogs have pushed them right out of our sights.

Today I fight my confirmation bias. Today I celebrate just a few of the great dogs and their people who live in my neighborhood.

  • Bacon, the distinguished 14-year-old dachshund whose person exercises him like a big dog, keeping him fit and trim
  • Abbie, the beautiful Australian Shepherd mix whose person is living with her first dog but already very wise about dog behavior
  • The well-exercised Border Collie whose person plays frisbee with him at least two hours a day and takes him for long walks
  • The medium black dog belonging to my city representative who started out wild but has learned very good manners over the past few years
  • The small, buff dog who didn’t care for Chérie and Honey walking on the opposite sidewalk but whose person gently directed him toward a better behavior
  • The Great Pyrenees mix and his mellow person who have a very centered energy that makes everyone around them feel comfortable
  • Our new Golden Retriever neighbor who, although he’s pretty white in the muzzle, gets daily, gentle walks with his dedicated person

I could go on. But I feel my bias changing in a new direction already.

What biases do you have about dog people? Do they need challenging?

Thank you to Jodi Stone for expressing so well the frustrations we’ve all experienced with other dog people and for getting me thinking about this subject.

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  1. I have to say, the dogs and their people in campgrounds are MUCH better than the dogs and people in the neighborhood we used to live in. Everyone is on a leash, most of them are very well mannered, and the people are considerate of other dogs. Oh, and everyone picks up the pooh.

  2. This is a great way of looking at things. Evidence confirming what we already believe is easy to find. Turning that on it’s head and looking for proof that we’re wrong is a not something many people do and i think the world would be a better place if we did. (Maybe I need to look for evidence that people are challenging their own beliefs.)

  3. I think it’s important – vital – to challenge one’s biases as often as possible. There are a lot of snap judgments I make about other dogs and their humans, mostly their humans. But I need to remember that most people either just don’t realize their actions could be a problem or don’t know how to fix them. Most of the dogs of the world are very, very good. Just as most of the people in the world are the same.

    That being said, I am still irked about the two small dogs up the road who ran into the street yesterday as I passed, one actually nipping the back of my legs. Grrrr.

  4. We had an idiot visiting next door with her dog last week. Behind the fence the dog kept barking and barking and she kept saying, “If you don’t stop barking, I’m going to put you in the garage.” “I mean it.” “I’m going to put you in the garage if you don’t stop barking.”

    There seem to be people who think that their badly behaved dogs can comprehend English sentences. The whole neighborhood was happy to see them leave.

  5. Thanks for the shout-out Pamela.

    If I am confirming my bias during our walks I can assure you it is totally unintentional. :-)

    The good dog owners are not walking their dogs in the wooded area where I walk, the good dog owners are walking their dogs on the street. That is probably because of the bad dog owners that walk their dogs in the woods. LOL Seriously, I’ve only encountered a couple of people walking their dogs that actually even have leashes with them, never mind poop bags. Why bring poop bags when your dog is in the woods? (That is not my thinking as I always have poop bags on me.)

    I’ve seen two decent sized poops in the field in the last two days, my attention is drawn to them because the dogs find them and pee on them. :-) Since I am constantly monitoring my dogs, I am constantly finding the results of people and their irresponsibility.

    I always try and educate other dog owners I encounter that it is a shared area that we are privileged to have access to, but in my experience it falls on deaf ears.

    I wish my bias wasn’t so strongly reinforced, I would love to encounter other like minded dog owners in my travels.

  6. Lovely post!

    Negativity feeds negativity. It’s something I’m sometimes guilty of! It’s very nice to see a post that goes the opposite way.

  7. This post made me happy! You’re so right. I know where all the yappy little fluff balls that attack fences live but not the good dogs. (Mostly because I have to know when to cross the road to avoid passing by their houses.) I’ve never been a glass half full person but I should try X

  8. What a great post! I think I may feel a lot differently about my biases if my neighbors move. We have The Village Idiots on one side of us who let their dogs crap all over right near our property line because they’re too lazy to walk their dogs over to their turn out pen and let them bark and carry on right outside our bedroom window. And no, they never walk their dogs or even seem to interact with them. Then there are The Renters who live across the street. Their two labs are in a small fenced in area all alone every day. There’s a baby over there, so I guess the dogs don’t need any attention, even though they bark their heads off All. The. TIME! Gah!

  9. I love this post! My hubby and I just had this conversation about bad drivers. The more we complain about it. . .the more often we are behind them!! It’s crazy isn’t it – but something that we are completely aware of. Whatever you focus on, you will see more of!!

  10. What great advice!!! I will have to give this a try!

  11. Funny we agree with Jodi, we too have bad owners walking their dogs in the woods whilst everyone else is in the open. What they are up to who knows as we keep away. Have a good day.
    Best wishes Molly

  12. The only dogs that we have around us right now are 2 little yappy dogs that live a few doors down. They go crazy when we walk by but they are secured in their yards. I use to worry that one day we would would be walking by and they would be running around free and come and try to eat us. After 3 years this has never happened and I feel perfectly confident walking by their house and so do their dogs. I don’t see them as the annoying little yappy dogs anymore.

  13. I’m going to have to try to look for the good in my neighborhood and believe me it will be a challenge, so hold me accountable. Our walks in the neighborhood are unpleasant. There are loose dogs that keep me tense and cause us to change direction if we see them, a yard of 4 pit bulls (not trying to call out a specific breed, but they happen to be pit bulls) who bark, lunge at the (wobbly) fence and then start fighting with each other every time we walk by, a chihuahua that runs loose (who would let such a little dog loose by busy streets?), another large dog who is tied up to the front rail of the house and sprawls across the entire sidewalk so we have to walk out in the street….Despite this, I walk the dogs three times a day, but each time with a negative attitude. You’ve challenged me, Pamela!

  14. I’ve always been impressed by the dogs around here. I think mostly there isn’t a choice about walking the dog–we live in townhouses with tiny back patios, and most people don’t see the patio as a valid bathroom option. (I don’t, either, but Silas won’t walk on the street.) Across the street is a high-rise. So, despite the fact that there are probably 75 dogs with no yards on this block, I almost never see poop. I have never been barked at by the half-dozen morbidly obese Chihuahuas we see.

    I do see a lot of really questionable leash usage–big dogs on retractables, little dogs loose, people getting pulled down the sidewalk while they talk on the phone–but I’ve never seen a dog run out into the road.

  15. You’re very right. I do tend to notice the dogs that are running loose or charging the fence when I try to walk that stresses Toby out. Or the guy riding the quad through the woods that scares the crap out of Meadow. Or the hundred or so feral cats that draw Leah’s attention away from me on our walks. It’s hard not to! But next time I walk, I’ll think of this post and try to do so with an open mind. :-)

  16. That is really true… the bad blocks out the good too many times. It’s hard to pay attention, but well worthwhile.