(Kinda linked to the previous blog.)
I was bootcamping Max, the abandoned rottweiler, to make him a bit more rehomeable. He was the biggest rottie I’ve ever seen and I’m a very small person, so I made damn sure that he knew who was in charge and what was acceptable behaviour.
We were walking nicely on one side of the road. On the other side, this older guy came up with his Alsatian, who is notoriously dog-aggressive. His dog started to go nuts. Max braced up to lunge forward, so I checked him back with a yank and a “don’t even think about it” in my least friendly tone and we carried on walking nicely.
A few days later, the older guy collars me in the local shop. “Someone like you should not be taking out a dog like that. If he’d wanted to have a go, you couldn’t have stopped it.”
Mkay. So, you’re hanging at the end of your dog’s leash while the damn thing is, literally, doing somersaults around you trying to get at other dogs, and that shows that you can control it? But because I check my dogs’ behaviour before it gets extreme – control their intention, basically – that means they are out of my control?
I’d like to think that it takes a special kind of genius to think in those terms. Alas, it seems fairly common.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve spotted a guy who was clearly (to me) going to be trouble and made him know in no uncertain terms that he was shit outta luck if he thought I was going to play along. If there are people with me, they almost universally tell me off because “he hadn’t done anything”. No, but that’s because I didn’t give him a chance to. The fact that nothing happened was a result of my intervention (and, as far as I’m concerned, if I can get someone off my case without having to go physical that’s the best result I can get. I’d much rather not “wait and see” how far he escalates, and then find myself having to use greater force.)
When the result is “nothing happening”, people can’t judge the effectiveness and appropriateness of an intervention, unless they can accurately read the situation. And the problem isn’t just that many people can’t do that, but that they absolutely believe that they can.