Sorry, Your Dog Isn’t that Kind of Special

The other day I was at the local farmer’s market, looking for some fresh strawberries. There was a lively, happy crowd of people of all ages buying everything from herbs to artisanal sausage. There was also a group I didn’t expect to see there: dogs. Yes, there were about a half-dozen dogs, mostly golden retrievers, shopping along with their owners. My children were very excited to see the dogs, but I asked them if it would be OK for us to bring our beagle, Cricket, with us the next time we met. They shook their head solemnly. “No. They are cooking sausage and she is a beagle.” Wise children. However, what I didn’t mention to them is that none of those dogs should be at the farmer’s market. It’s clearly stated outside the entrance that dogs are forbidden. It’s also common sense, since health codes are involved.

This isn’t an isolated incident:

  • A few days later, I was at my town’s Memorial Day celebration, which was crowded with tens of thousands of people and extremely noisy. Again, posted signs said very clearly that dogs were not allowed. Again, quite a few people chose to ignore that. I left before my husband and kids, but my husband told me that he had seen a Chow Chow there and under the guise of talking to another Chow lover, he let the owner know that the Chow was showing clear signs of distress due to the loud noises, crowds, and children darting up to meet him. The owner seemed to get it, thank goodness. But even if the Chow Chow had nerves of steel, it still wouldn’t be OK to bring him to an event where dogs are not welcome.
  • Every day after school at my kids’ school, there are approximately a dozen dogs waiting on school grounds with parents to greet their children and walk home with them. It probably won’t be a surprise to find out that it is clearly posted on school grounds that dogs are NOT allowed on the property. Some parents appear to get that, and remain slightly off the property while waiting for the children. Others, though, don’t.
  • Finally, I can’t tell you the number of people I have encountered over the years who let their dogs off-lead (forbidden in our community). When I ask if they have passed the canine good citizen test that allows superbly behaved dogs to be off-lead, they look at me blankly. And frankly, I know the answer to that question already. Most of these dogs are affable, moderately well-behaved dogs, but NONE OF THEM are perfectly obedient — they take a beat to respond, wander slightly, and are overly interested in stimuli such as children and other animals.

Folks, I love your dogs. I love meeting them. I do. But what are you thinking? Your dogs don’t get a pass just because you looooooove them so much, or because they are really nice dogs. I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain this, but here we go:

  1. Dogs are often forbidden because other members of the public who will be at a specific location DON’T LIKE OR ARE AFRAID OF DOGS. They don’t own them, and they don’t associate with them, and they have a right to go to public events without encountering one. Your dog is not a Fairy Dogmother or Dog Ambassador whose magic powers convert all who meet them into dog lovers. Nope, in that situation your dog is a stressor, possibly for someone who has had a traumatic experience with dogs in the past. Making them confront your dog is a jerk move on your part, pure and simple.
  2. Dogs aren’t allowed some places because of health codes. You aren’t allowed to bring dogs into most establishments where food is prepared, served, or sold. There are inherent health risks involved with bringing a dog into these environments. That’s it.
  3. Dogs aren’t allowed to go off-lead because their behavior cannot always be predicted. Every time your dog is off-lead, you are betting their life. You are betting that they won’t get distracted for a minute, that they won’t dart into the street, and that they won’t step away briefly to investigate something. You’re also betting that they will be able to resist approaching another dog while off-lead. You’d be amazed at how many dogs don’t meet those requirements. If you are willing to risk your dog’s life, if you just KNOW that they are more reliable than a Swiss timepiece, then see if your community has Canine Good Citizen tests that allow dogs to be off-lead in certain (NOT ALL) circumstances. Then take the test. If you don’t pass it, then keep your dog leashed. If you do pass it, I’ll be the first to admire their skills and congratulate the two of you. Likewise, if they change the policy about dogs at the farmer’s market or at school, I’ll be the first to welcome your well-behaved dog.

I know how amazing your dog is. Chances are I’ve admired them before, or asked a ton of questions about them. I know better than anyone that each dog has a story to tell, and a distinct personality complete with quirks aplenty. But when it comes to the circumstances I’ve described above, your dog isn’t special. Not at all. Your dog is like all the other dogs, and needs to follow the rules all other dogs follow.

Beagle begs
Cricket begs to go to the farmer’s market off-lead. (Photo courtesy of author)


By Moretta

Moretta will take that applause. Her Twitter is

27 replies on “Sorry, Your Dog Isn’t that Kind of Special”

I work in a fairly busy outlet center and the amount of dogs I see out shopping with their humans astounds me. My former store had an associate that was severely allergic (like, can’t breathe, needs massive amounts of anti-histamine to catch her breath). I was dumbfounded when customers (in a store that sold mainly handbags) were horribly offended when I asked them to not bring their dogs inside, even when I told them that I had an allergic associate on the floor. Even when it is clearly posted on the doors of every store that non-service animals are not permitted.

ETA: I have also witnessed dogs in my old store bite sales staff and other customers. Both incidents were total nightmares that could have been avoided. I love my animals. They are my babies. But I also don’t trust the general public to train their dogs to behave in such environments.

The farmers’ market I frequent explicitly states that it’s dog-friendly for friendly dogs, and every. single. time I’m there, there’s a dogfight. I never take my dogs anywhere (except maaaaaybe when we go pick up they’re food, and only then if it’s not likely to be crowded). The younger one is well-socialized but leash-terrified, and the older one is blind and antisocial. Anyone who knows me knows I love my dogs more than anything else in this world, but I know that in public, they’re either going to cause trouble or receive it. They’re tiny and barky and frankly, happier when they’re at home.

I love seeing dogs out and about where it’s appropriate for them to be, but people push it way too far. My job is governed by the Board of Health, and the number of people who get offended that they can’t bring (non-service) dogs in is staggering. And don’t get me started on off-leash dogs. Your dog may be friendly and well-trained. It’s irrelevant. Having them off-leash is dangerous and irresponsible.

Good piece. People need to realize that having a dog is just like having a toddler, and just like a toddler, every dog handles situations differently and is going to have weak points and as a dog owner/parent, you need to cope accordingly.. Unfortunately, dogs do not grow into human beings like toddlers do and you have to act accordingly. It’s always a good idea to have a dog on a leash in a public place because they know what their boundaries are.

Yes. Thank you.

I like dogs, but I don’t like when unfamiliar dogs have no obvious behavioral guidelines, like a leash. Or are in spaces that are too crowded or not set up for animals.
I like that several local restaurants keep doggy water bowls available. I like that there are dog-friendly areas in town, where I can (usually) trade belly rubs for doggy love. (And, obviously, service animals where they’re needed.)
BUT. If I go to the state fair or an all-day outdoor festival, and there are obviously stressed out, overwhelmed, and dehydrated dogs around, it makes me sad. Poor puppies.

Yes! My wife and I went to a Pride festival a few weeks ago, and there were so many dogs that really were not comfortable in that kind of crowd, and did not have the behavior skills to handle it. My mom has been a dog trainer for years now, and frequently uses events like that as training experience… where she stays on the periphery and leaves as soon as the dog starts getting uncomfortable. Our dogs? No way. Both far too anxious to be able to handle an event like that.

(A few notable exceptions, of course, of incredibly well-behaved dogs, including the many instances of Beefy Biker Guy Carrying Tiny Chihuahua, which is one of my favorite things.)

I had a discussion with one of my stepdaughters about this recently. Where she lives, there aren’t very strict leash laws— if a dog proves to listen enough to please whichever LEO is around, then it’s fine. She routinely walks her dog off leash and she listens very well. The dog is medium-sized and doesn’t appear threatening (but I think Dobies aren’t threatening either so what do I know) but there are people who complain about the dog being off leash (even after permission is granted). If there are enough complaints are made, then the leash goes on as per orders. She gets annoyed with this because she feels the dog has just as much right to enjoy the park as a human does. I explained that everyone isn’t comfortable around dogs and they don’t know she’s obedient. hen she made the statement that if “a person of which ever race is being marginalized in the community walks into the park, should that person have to leave because someone is uncomfortable or had a bad experience? No. So why should a dog?”

I honestly didn’t know what to say to that.

In my personal experience with this rhetorical device, I have noticed that “which ever race” never means white. I mean Howard Stern spread the rumor that Lauryn Hill kicks white people out of her concerts for no reason (completely untrue) and it still dogs her because white people like to pretend oppression is a universal experience.

Also, your daughter is either saying her dog deserves as much consideration as non-white people or that non-white people deserve as much consideration as her dog. Neither argument bodes well for the decency I’m positive she was raised with.

I’m fairly positive what she meant was that we wouldn’t tolerate a rule asking any person to leave the park for the sake of someone else’s comfort, so why should we accept that type of rule for an other living being.

I think the “which ever race” came from another conversation we had where she was complaining about how hurtful people can be toward an entire group of humanity because of skin color and she didn’t want to single out a particular race. I’m guessing here. She gets incredibly passionate when there’s an injustice due to ignorance.

I sincerely hope I didn’t offend. If I did, I apologize for the insensitivity and will try to remember this in the future.

“You aren’t allowed to bring dogs into most establishments where food is prepared, served, or sold. There are inherent health risks involved with bringing a dog into these environments. ”

Huh, interesting. I live in the UK, and many pubs (most of which serve food) are dog-friendly. (I didn’t know this until I moved here as Ireland is not the same!). Obviously they’re not allowed in the kitchen but they can be where people are eating and drinking. What health risks do you know of?

Think about it this way: it’s not that the dog is a hotbed of rare zoonotic diseases, it is that in an area where food is prepared or served, certain events have a strong likeliness of transpiring: 1. The animal will relieve itself inside the restaurant. 2. Employees will pet the animal and then not wash their hands before returning to work. 3. The animal will not be kept up-to-date on shots or will have a condition that is transferable to humans (e.g., ringworm or giardia). It’s been my experience that the UK is miles ahead of the US in terms of responsible pet ownership (I think I’ll write something on that later because there are some people who will cite UK norms to support behavior that would be wildly irresponsible in the US), so maybe these aren’t a huge factor where you are. Here, however, you can’t rely on owners taking appropriate precautions, and the health codes are written with that assumption.

This is the story of why my doofs have never been to the beach, despite living so close. They’re just flat out not allowed at most local beaches most of the year, and the leash laws require leashes too short to allow swimming or fun during the off season.
We’ve got great local dog culture and many restaurants advertise their outdoor dining areas as dog friendly, but they’re still not allowed everywhere.

Also, just generally crowded areas can be a problem because your dog is shorter than people.

Years ago my parents had our dog out on a daytrip and we stopped at the Byward Market. There are no restrictions on animals since it’s basically stalls along the sidewalk, but it’s a major tourist place in the city and it was very crowded that day. Byron’s happily walking along until the crowd parts and he’s suddenly face to face with another dog. No violence, lots of loud posturing, embarrassed Dad and a vow that if we’re stopping for veggies on the way home next time, someone’s waiting beside the car with the dog.

Another reason Byron didn’t like the Market was because he wasn’t fond of horses. Never showed up with people, but the dog had a dominant streak with other animals and really didn’t like something standing over him on four feet.

Argh – horses and dogs! I can’t imagine I will ever forget the terror of being mid-canter whilst out on a hack, and someone’s dog running UNDERNEATH the horse. The barbed wire fence and I were very nearly introduced to each other, but thankfully we were “okay”.

WOOHOO! Love this article. (And I am in love with Cricket’s begging ways now.) I am one of those people who takes her dog everywhere she can, and this ticks me off sometimes too. I saw somebody running with his dog off lead a few weeks ago, and was really impressed by the way that every time the dog started to wander he would come right back. Until I realized that what was in the owner’s hand was not a cell phone but the button for the dog’s shock collar. Boyfriend had to walk me away to keep from blowing a gasket. If you know your dog can’t be off lead, inconvenience yourself enough to hold a damn leash, or get a hands free leash. BRB, have to go seethe in memory for a minute.

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