Not My Dog!

Patch editor David Mills discusses dog owners who feel they can let their pet run loose wherever and whenever they want.

The sign at Foothill Middle School is pretty clear: "Dogs Are Not Allowed On School Property."

Not only during school hours. Not on just weekdays. Not on just the hallways and classrooms.

Not on school property. No matter what day it is or what time it is. Period.

Yet, if you walk past the large, picturesque grass field on any weekday evening or on a Saturday or Sunday morning, you are likely to see at least one dog owner letting his or her pet run freely on this green expanse.

It's behavior we see throughout our society. People who feel the rules don't apply to them.

It's the same type of people who bring small children to expensive restaurants or let their phone ring during a movie.

However, dog owners seem particularly prone to this self-centered behavior.

Now, I don't want to paint with a broad brush. The majority of dog owners are responsible and are aware there is an appropriate time and place for their pets.

But there are enough dog owners who don't abide by this self-awareness to make this behavior a societal problem.

At Foothill Middle School, there are reasons dogs aren't allowed on campus. Beyond the irritation and annoyance factor, there are health concerns. Students have physical education classes on that field. Children play soccer, baseball and flag football on that grass.

Dog owners say they clean up after their pets, but do you get all of the mess that is left behind? And do you clean up after your animal urinates on the grass?

You see the same thing at Heather Farm Park where there are clear signs saying dogs are not allowed in the sand where the toddlers and elementary school children play. Yet, you see the "I'm the exception" dog owners there, letting their pets roam in the play area.

You see it on the bike trails, where signs state dogs must be on a leash. Yet, dogs are running free on those paved paths all the time, just waiting to get entangled with a bicycle rider.

I actually saw it at Saturday morning's Mount Diablo trail runs at Castle Rock Park. People actually took their dogs onto the course's dirt paths. Several runners remarked on how they had to dodge the roaming animals.

A loose dog at a race with hundreds of participants? Seriously, people? Are you completely stupid?

There are dog parks in Walnut Creek. One of them is at the north end of Heather Farm Park. The other is San Miguel Park, where most people expect to see loose dogs. Take your pets to those designated areas and let them go nuts.

Dog owners will tell you, "My dog won't bother anybody" or "He doesn't bite." Don't believe them for a second.

Dogs are by nature programmed to bite. It's how they protect themselves. It's how they survived as a species.

Some dogs bite easily. Others need to be seriously provoked or threatened before they bite. It's a matter of degrees, but all dogs will bite at some point.

This is all a matter of courtesy and thinking of others, whether it be your dog, your child, your cell phone or your loud-playing iPod.

If you remember "There's a time or place for everything," then society will be a little more pleasant place to live.

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Donna Lynn Rhodes April 22, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Well said. :) dl
responsibledogowner26 April 22, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Bite me - I have taken my dogs off-leash to an open space area for years that is neither school nor park - just an old dump that nature has reclaimed, beautiful and free. My dogs, and many others, have galloped and explored there for years and bit nary a soul. They do nothing at the dog park but sit, bored to tears. It is entirely possible to do this responsibly.
The Merry One April 22, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Thanks for this well-written piece, David. The other thing that I don't understand is how some dog-owners feel that it's completely acceptable to bring your dog into a public establishment. How inconsiderate of the people that are highly allergic to dogs! If it's too warm to leave your pet in the car (which I commend the owner for not doing), then leave him/her at home. I am a huge dog lover; dogs have been always been a part of our family. But we have taught our children to be considerate of others and follow the rules. And we have happy dogs.
Katie Fries April 22, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Thank you for this! Beyond dogs in outdoor spaces, I have seen dogs in Trader Joe's, Target, Nordstrom, and the Apple Store. It appalls me that people would bring their animals into stores, particularly those where people purchase items that are to be eaten or worn.
David Mills (Editor) April 22, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Responsible: If you take your dogs to open spaces to play and roam, I have absolutely no problem with that. Sounds like you are indeed a responsible dog owner who takes the time and effort to bring your pets to appropriate places. When I chose to go to Shell Ridge or other open space regions, I expect to see loose dogs. I figure that's a natural place for them to run.
KD April 22, 2012 at 09:20 PM
I'm a dog lover and owner. Dogs do not belong on children's play fields. It isn't just the 'ick' factor of a child touching dog feces. There are zoonotic diseases (ones that can be passed between humans and animals) that are a real threat. My dog had a nasty campylobacter infection. It is passed through feces. His vet warned me to very careful or we could pass it around the whole family. I friend of mine so sick with a campylobacter infection (food poisoning, not my dog) that she was hospitalized. Leash laws need to be obeyed. Maybe your dog is friendly, but mine is not. I take great care in keeping my dog on leash and a safe distance from other dogs. When your friendly dog comes running over to meet my leashed dog, my dog attacks. He hasn't bitten or injured another dog - yet. Please keep your dog safe too and leash up where leashes are required.
Amanda April 22, 2012 at 10:04 PM
I don't care where people take their dogs, I just wish they would clean up after them. My dog pet peeve (haha) is my two neighbors who let their dogs wander around our neighborhood and my other neighbor who ties his dog up all day while he is at work.
Irysa April 23, 2012 at 05:07 AM
I'm sorry to inform you that the aggression and boundary issues are coming through you, channeled into the dog and culminating in aggression towards other dogs. Don't beleive it could be possible? Forget Cesar, just go directly to animal behavior at Davis University. Sounds like you could both benefit from an investment in socialization. Start with your own belief systems, otherwise behavioral training on your dog will be a waste of time. Also, check-in with the term you used to describe your relationship with your dog "owner". Are you his "owner" or companion? M beliefis that we own THINGS not living beings.
Irysa April 23, 2012 at 05:11 AM
It takes courage to speak up for your beliefs, it takes caring more for the welfare of animal (that can't defend themselves) than of maintaining a safe relationship with neighbors. The fact that an animal is tied up all day is inexcusable ad btw, animal abuse. Report them, you can even remain anonymous.
Irysa April 23, 2012 at 05:15 AM
All I can say is, don't ever travel abroad, you would be mortified at where animal companions are allowed to travel with their humans, for a longer period than this young conservative country has existed. You my not want to eat sushi either or pork for that matter, parasites everywhere and dogs can't be blamed for those. Happy Trails.
jessica freels April 23, 2012 at 02:25 PM
I am not sure how I should feel about this. First of all I clean up after my pet. I also take him to San Miguel park. San Miguel is an off leash park from dawn till 9 am, a fact that just about sets the neighbors who don't have dogs into seizures. These people make a point of walking through the park, or worse yet ride their bikes, knowing that the place is full of dogs. Most of us grab our dogs quickly because we know its not worth having the argument, but its doesn't always work. My pet peeve with non dog owners is when they let their children come up and pet the dogs without asking permission first. I will make my dog sit, even lie down to make it easier for a child. Then Let the dog sniff your child's hand and get to know their scent. And most of all teach your child what it means to pet gently. Smacking my dog is not petting. And if you let your child run around the park, know that dogs see that as a sign your child wants to play. But most of all, if my dog being off leash scares you, JUST TELL ME. I have no interest in traumatizing you. I will leash him and walk away because i do not want to cause a problem. Heres something non dog owners should know. Don't threaten people with the police if a dog is annoying you. The police can do nothing and will tell you as much. You call animal control. Animal control can assess the situation and determine of a law is being broken. I look at the world from a TO EACH HIS OWN standpoint. I personally hate Cats.
David Mills (Editor) April 23, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Jessica: Some good points here... especially about parents talking to dog owners before allowing children to approach their pet. Makes sense. Also, as you note, San Miguel is designated as off-leash in the morning. If people don't want to be bothered by dogs there, they shouldn't go to the park during those hours.
The Merry One April 23, 2012 at 06:49 PM
@Irysa: I have travelled extensively around the world for years and I beg to differ. Yes, you see well-behaved dogs everywhere on leashes, but they are tied up outside of public establishments, waiting for their owners to return--never inside the store or restaurant. If a dog owner brings his/her dog to an eating establishment, they are seated outdoors and the dog is at its owners feet. @Amanda: Please call Animal Control, if you don't feel comfortable having a discussioun with your neighbor. It *is* abusive to have your dog tied up all day long. So much can go wrong for this poor pet--it deserves better!
Rosemary April 23, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Thank you! I had my 3 year old great nephew with me (why my sister thinks I want to be a surrogate grandmother is beyond me...I didn't have children for a reason) recently. Nevertheless, we were at a park in Orinda which is clearly marked, "All dogs must be leashed." And, of course, there was this guy with his dog - not leashed - and it comes running up to us and the owner is shouting, "He's friendly and doesn't bite," and all I kept thinking was, "You're a selfish, ignorant jerk who shouldn't own a plant much less an animal since you clearly are too dang selfish to observe a simple rule that is clearly marked." Such dog owners should be tased or whacked with a wire hanger.
jo clare April 25, 2012 at 12:54 AM
I love dogs but see them all the time off leash on trails full of mud and poison oak. They come up and get my clothes all dirty!! Do they think I want to hike around with muddy smelly clothes for over a hour? Yes the owners say they won't hurt me well the poisen oak will or if i was allergic to dogs ..
srl99 April 25, 2012 at 01:31 AM
I agree, rein in your dogs and cats. And ... while we're policing minor offenses how about silencing the screaming little darlings in stores, transit and other enclosed spaces. The next time one of those little power horns lets off, I have to charge the parents with assault.
CAgirl April 25, 2012 at 01:40 AM
I'm very annoyed with the lack of responsibility by the stores. We were at Home Depot recently. Not only were there small "purse" dogs, but large breed dogs that were blocking the aisles. Trying to navigate the store with my children is more of a challenge than trying to find what I'm looking for.
Rosemary April 25, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Yeah, because children & dogs are the same thing, in your world, at least.
CAgirl April 25, 2012 at 02:57 AM
I'm pretty sure I don't have to worry about someone's child coming up and biting me on the leg. I can't say the same thing about the dogs in the stores.
srl99 April 27, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Rosemary's baby notwithstanding ... a lot of dogs are better behaved.
Davidson Freeman April 27, 2012 at 03:35 PM
The degree to which dogs are not allowed in various public places is a little out of control. Restaurants aren't legally allowed to let dogs lay down in outside dining areas...why? If dogs are a nuisance to you or their presence makes you feel there is a health concern, go eat somewhere else. Leave that decision to the owners and patrons. If dogs at public parks bother you, go to another park or just deal with it. You can still keep it illegal to not clean up after your dog, and it's still illegal for dogs to attack people.
WC-Independent April 27, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Dogs don't belong in restaurants, grocery, hardware or clothing stores. I'm sick of it. Who wants to site at a table where some dog's nose was against it, gross. How about buying some clothes with dog hair? I was in the gap once and some guy had two bull dogs in there, weird. Does the dog really want to go shopping? Take your dogs for a walk in your neighborhood or the open space. Keep them out of stores.
Mom of the Horde April 28, 2012 at 06:20 PM
My daughter had a serious allergic reaction after an off-leash dog ran up to her and licked her face. The dogs owner claimed that his dog "likes children and is friendly"... uh, that doesn't matter if the person your dog is running up to is terrified of dogs and could land in the hospital because your dog licked them. There's another reason why dogs should be on leash in the open spaces... wildlife. In the many years my kids have gone to a school adjacent to Shell Ridge Open Space, there have been a few small dogs that have been taken by coyotes, and several large dogs bit by rattlesnakes. If your dog is off leash anywhere, it darned well better be under voice control.
srl99 April 29, 2012 at 07:15 PM
"Whacked with a wire hanger". Thanks Mommy Dearest!
Michael Walling May 03, 2012 at 07:56 PM
It doesn't make any difference if someone believes a rule is "stupid": when a property owner or some other governmental authority puts a policy in place, it is our obligation to abide by that policy. If a school declares that pets are not allowed on their property, the rule should be followed, regardless if the pet owner thinks the policy is ridiculous. (I understand that exceptions exist where civil disobedience is necessary. This issue is not one of them.)
Mary M. Webster May 10, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Although I am all for blocking dogs from property when the owner does not want pets present - I think the reasoning should be valid. The reason of "health concerns" is not valid - especially when you have birds, rodents, etc.. that inevitably are in and around the field where children have their gym classes in. These animals spread more disease than a dog could with a little #2 on the grass. Just saying...


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