As I type this at mid-afternoon no less than four dogs in my neighborhood have been barking non-stop for five minutes. Three are a block over and one is next door.
My dog is not barking. Rarely does Dante bark. I wish I could say the same about some other dogs.
Dante was not always like that. As a rescue Dalmatian whoever had the audacity to have custody of him before turned him into a nervous wreck. It took a while but Dante doesn’t bark at the drop of a pin nor does he join in the neighborhood barking chorus.
I tried to make him feel safe, secure, loved, and not threatened. I’m not the dog owner that treats my pets as if they are surrogate kids or surrogate friends. There’s nothing wrong with that. It just isn’t my style. Dante is not an indoor dog. My large backyard is his domain.
Don’t mistake Dante for a pansy, if you will. He’s been charged by a pit bull when we were walking and stunned— strike that — shocked me when my happy go lucky Dalmatian literally stood up on his hind legs, almost pulled me forward straining on the leash, and showed so much teeth and attitude that the pit bull stopped and turned around. I don’t know who was more shocked, the pit bull or me.
Dante still has a thing against cats. He doesn’t attack them as much as chase them. Since he is on a leash when he is outside of the confines of the backyard, it never leads to anything.
And on the few occasions when someone had rattled a gate besides me, he goes into full barking mode.
The bottom line is if you work with your dog to curtail his barking it doesn’t turn him into a wimp when he’s threatened or means he will sit there silently when someone he doesn’t know isn’t simply walking by but trying to get into his turf.
I have lived in my current house for more than 11 years. Nearby neighbors have been in their home two years less. Yet like clockwork when I head toward Woodward Park on a run this morning a fairly large dog that is kept indoors will go nutso barking and even snarl when I jog past. This will cause three or four other dogs nearby to go ballistic just on the strength of hearing his barking.
You do not have to hire the services of a dog trainer to curb barking. You just need to work with your dog. Parents don’t tolerate their kids screaming non-stop for minutes. Instead they work with them to civilize their behavior. The same should hold true for dogs.
My favorite is a neighbor that “babysits” Doberman pinschers from time-to-time. They dump them in the backyard. This means every time without exception when I walk into my backyard they start barking non-stop and continue to do so until 5 or so minutes after I go inside.
I’m not going to lie. It irks me big time. Some people suggest I should call the police and complain. I think police have better things to do as well as the people who work in animal control. Rest assured, though, the neighbor knows if one of the dogs breaks through the fence one more time and corners Dante in my backyard I will not hesitate to call the police or defend my dog with a baseball bat.
This leads up to the problem that the City of Manteca should be working to proactively address — people who walk their dogs without a leash or open the front door and turn them loose in front yards that have no fencing.
Twice in the past 10 days I have been charged by unleashed dogs while jogging. This is a common occurrence. It comes with dogs in chase mode, snarling teeth, and incessant barking. Most of the time they eventually drop off, sometimes they go into a snarling dance getting within kicking/tripping distance forcing me to go into a dance to avoid doing a face plant while firmly raising my voice.
The last dog to chase me actually lunged — even though it was a bit tentative — at me.
Just seconds earlier the owner of the dog — that had a whole lot of pit bull in it — opened her front door apparently to let the dog do his thing. Instead the dog started growling and then made a beeline for me. That prompted me to stop and square off toward the dog while shouting “no”. If I’m going to be attacked I’m not about to increase my chances of being bitten by allowing a dog to come up behind me. You learn some things after being bitten eight times in your life simply because you had the audacity to bicycle or jog down a public street. As I looked like I was ready to kick at the dog, the following exchange took place:
LADY: “He won’t bite.” (She said as the dog was charging me.)
ME: “That’s what they all say.”
LADY: “It’s not his fault you’re running.”
As ludicrous as it may sound, that is what she said.
I get that dogs have a natural tendency to give chase to moving objects. It is one of the reasons why almost every city in the country including Manteca have laws on the books requiring dogs to be on leash in public areas as well as in non-secured yards.
When the dog started to lunge at me after I had stopped and turned, I kicked at him, missing.
Without missing a beat, the lady yells “don’t you dare kick my dog!”
I’ve got bad news for anyone who thinks that I’m not going to kick their dog or defend myself. I didn’t do it once when a Chihuahua charged me 12 years ago on a public street after its owner did the same thing and opened the front door for him to go to the bathroom. The dog bit me right on the heel. I could barely walk for two days. The ER physician told me if the dog had bitten just a tad deeper he could have severely damaged my tendon.
Yes, lady, rest assured I will kick your dog like there is no tomorrow if it charges me.
My most serious accident was due to a dog attack when I was bicycling downhill 32 years ago on a country road at 40 mph. The subsequent crash flipped me end over end almost twice and shattered my bicycle helmet. I came to 45 minutes later as I was being loaded into an ambulance strapped to a backboard. I landed on my left knee with such force the bone of the knee cap was actually exposed.
Nine months after the accident when the dog owner’s insurance company paid for the ambulance, medical bills and damage to my bicycle, they were trying to get me to take $1,000 and to sign off against future claims. I was fortunate the hit on my knee had been perfect. The ER doctor doubted I’d be able to do anything for six weeks. I was back in a Jazzercise class five days later — granted it wasn’t at full speed — and bicycling up steep climbs in Death Valley three weeks later.
When I told the adjuster that I doubted I’d have residual issues we got into a long chat about how insurance works. I said I wasn’t about to take any money as I used vacation days to cover the two days I couldn’t work and argued to take money for no reason is why insurance rates are so high.
He said he had to pay me something when I signed or else his boss would be mad. Whether that was true I doubt it since I understood the legal ramifications. I eventually did agree to take $150 as he noted the claim didn’t include the new cycling shorts and jersey I had worn for the second time. At the end of the conversation the adjuster shared how the dog’s owner wanted to sue me for damages because his dog was a purebred and he used it for breeding. Apparently my bicycle hit the dog where it hurt. The adjuster said he told the client given the law regarding unleashed dogs it is clear that he was lucky I wasn’t suing him.
Dogs in Manteca have been known to bite people when they are walking down the street. Over the years there have been several vicious attacks but no one has died although one elderly woman didn’t fare too well. And while there isn’t an epidemic, the city could send a message if they had animal control for just one day every month or so to drive the streets of Manteca with the express purpose of citing people who walk, run, or bicycle with their dogs off leash or turn them loose in unfenced front yards.
I can tolerate people who can’t control their dog’s barking. But rest assured if someone’s dog bites or attacks me again when I’m jogging on a public street and some serious damage is done I’m not going to be so understanding.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.