There comes a time when you have to talk about difficult situations regarding our lovely companions. For me, that difficult moment will be the moment I will be forced to make the decision to retire Joba. Hopefully, Joba will be able to work for many more years, but it may surprise you how many dog guides and other service animals must retire early. Some of these early retirements can happen if a dog is simply not cut out for the job, gets sick, or the dog is just not happy to be working. But another reason why a guide dog may have to retire early is because that dog was attacked.
Somehow, some way, we must protect not only our service dogs but also those pet dogs who enjoy leisurely neighborhood walks. Those of us who enjoy walking or working our dogs should have the right to walk freely down a street without worrying that an aggressive dog might decide to intervene, attacking the owner and/or the dog. These experiences are not only emotionally traumatic for you as the owner, but your dog may experience emotional problems after that horrible experience. One of my friends from the Seeing Eye had to retire her guide dog early because the dog became aggressive after being attacked by loose dogs not once but several times. You would probably agree that this is a very sad situation, but what can we do to prevent it.
In New Jersey, there is a law that protects the rights of working dogs. This law is called Dusty’s Law and was named after Dusty, a puppy training to be a working dog. The 9-month old German shepherd was attacked by a pit bull. Unfortunately, because Dusty was emotionally traumatized, he was unable to complete dog guide training. In Nebraska, we don’t have laws like this. However, the general public can help protect our dogs. First, by making sure your dog is securely behind a fence or on a leash will not only protect your dog but also the dog that may walk by. Also, walking your dog when it’s light out rather than when it is dark is safer not only for your dog but also for you. Also, have a number for an emergency clinic with you at all times so you can always call if there is ever an emergency.
If you are ever in a situation where your dog is fighting with another dog, there are a few things you want to remember. First, stay calm. Getting excited will urge the dogs to continue fighting. Scream for help, but make sure not to scream directly at the dogs. Second, never try to get your hands in between the fighting dogs unless you have expertise in breaking up dogs. There is the possibility that one of the dogs, maybe even your own dog, will bite you accidentally. Also, never go after the dogs with a defense mechanism. You may unintentionally hurt your own dog. Now, you can hold something out in front of you such as an umbrella to make you look bigger and in control. Finally, and this is the most important, whatever you do, never, never leave your dog. Always have your phone so you can call someone. It is never a good idea to go on a walk without it.
I don’t want to scare you or make you afraid of walking, but dog attacks happen all the time. Taking the precautions listed above will hopefully protect both you and your dog from any harm. As I said before, you have the right to take your dog on a pleasant walk without the fear of an aggressive dog bothering you. And I, also, want to be able to work my dog without the fear of an attack. Obviously, we can’t control everything, but we can protect our dogs as best we can. It’s important that both you and your furry friend feel safe.