The Pack and I enjoyed being out at our local dog park this weekend. We have been going to this same park since Kaya was a puppy so every weekend I see a lot of the same faces there with their dogs. I enjoy going to this dog park because it is smaller and less exciting than some of the larger parks. It is less exciting because many of the truly thoughtless dog owners and their problem dogs tend to frequent one of the other larger parks leaving this park quiet and uneventful.
This weekend I did see a new face. It was a man who appeared to be in his early twenties. He had with him a young silver and cream coloured Husky. Sadly, as I watched him make his way over to our group, where we had eight Huskies and Malamutes already playing together, I could see that our pleasant afternoon visit was about to come to an unfortunate end.
The Stranger And His Husky
The young man was loud and brash. His young Husky arrived and immediately began jumping on every dog. He was throwing flying wrestling moves, headlocks, and he got into every dog’s face. It was very apparent that the dog had never had any obedience training nor did he receive any kind of guidance from his clueless owner. The dog had no idea how to greet politely.
The young dog’s owner stood there with his hands shoved down deeply into his pockets and he seemed completely oblivious to the ripple of irritated energy that was now running through the pack of dogs. Many of the dogs were beginning to get visibly annoyed at the rude social behaviour of the young dog. We began to hear soft rumblings emerge as some of the dogs tried sending warning signals to the young hooligan in an effort to stop his over the top behaviours. But the little dog ignored all the signals, as did his owner.
Finally, most of us felt the need to intercede before the agitated energy turned truly physical. I called my dogs to leave it and return to my side. Many of the other people made efforts to remove their dogs from the middle of the activity too. None of the humans were saying much in the way of words but the look on people’s faces said it all. They were clearly miffed by the actions of this pair, though the fault lay completely with the dog’s owner. This poor Husky was a product of his owner and lack of training.
The young man clearly had no idea why everyone was calling their dogs away from his dog. He muttered something half under his breath about how his dog was just “trying to have some fun”. Some owners did try to initiate a dialogue about why his dog’s behaviours were improper but the young man clearly was not hearing what was being said. He debated and argued each point so people just gave up talking to him. Gratefully, he and his dog did not stay for very long, mostly because his dog ran off to find some “fun” at the other end of the dog park.
My heart ached for this poor little dog because I can pretty much guarantee that this dog ends up being dumped off at shelter when it reaches full size and his behaviours are too hard and inconvenient for the owner to handle. Unless this poor dog manages to get very lucky and finds a new owner who will have the patience, skill, and love that it takes to rehab a mature formerly untrained Husky, he may even get euthanized if he is deemed unadoptable.
After the young man left, the conversation turned towards how it is this type of owner that causes our breeds to be painted with the same brush in the eyes of the public and the media. When a Husky or a Malamute behaves in an inappropriate or out of control manner, in the eyes of the public, suddenly all of these dogs are deemed vicious and uncontrollable.
The Face Of Growing Discrimination
The sad reality is that, due mostly to irresponsible ownership, Husky and Malamute attacks are starting to become more common and the media is right there to report on the attacks. In the USA, these dogs are starting to make it onto the BSL (Breed-specific legislation) lists along with the Pit Bulls, Mastiffs, and Rottweilers. House insurance companies are refusing to cover new clients if they have a Husky or Malamute and there are insurance companies that dropped long time clients when they became Snow Dog owners. These days it seems that all you have to do is to walk down the street with Snow Dogs and you watch the look of fear and horror creep into people’s faces.
I know that quite often when people see me walking my leashed and in-control dogs down the street they are quick to cross the street and scoop up any small purse sized dogs that they may have with them. My dogs do not even have to act aggressively for them to start worrying about being attacked by them. At the dog park, my Herd now wear the bright green friendly dog collars, signalling to people that they are indeed friendly to people and other dogs.
Over the last five years I have often heard people remark that they have never met Huskies who were this friendly and their behaviour was this controllable. Considering that Huskies and Malamutes naturally love people and are not aggressive by nature, how and why did their reputation get so tarnished and tainted?
The Thoughtless And Ignorant Owner
Unfortunately, for the rest of us, owners like this young man and his out of control young Husky are going to be what sticks in people’s minds when they hear the name of Husky or Malamute mentioned. It is people like him who are making it more difficult for the rest of the responsible owners. If you are not part of the solution, then you are indeed part of the problem.
How To Be Part Of The Problem
- Make sure that you do not research the breed before getting one so you have no clue if one of these dogs fits into your lifestyle. Let it be a total surprise.
- Make sure that you don’t spend your money on pointless socialization or obedience classes for your dog. Why spend money on something that they are perfectly capable of figuring out how to do on their own? Dogs are smart and really good at figuring things out for themselves.
- Make sure that you don’t saddle the poor dog with a bunch of pointless rules. Let them grow up free and “au natural” so they can have the maximum amount of FUN every day.
- Make sure that you never leash the dog, after all, who would like restrictions being placed on them? Let them run free. Make sure that he has plenty of “fun” running up to the other dogs and wildly jumping all over them because “that’s just how huskies play”. There’s nothing that you can do about it, right?
- At the dog park, make sure that you let your Husky do whatever he wants because he is here to have fun while you send those very important text messages on your cell phone.
- When you are at home, do make sure that you keep the dog chained up in the back yard without human companionship. I mean you have to keep him outside because you cannot let him into the house. Inside, he leaves hair every where, he pees everywhere, and keeps knocking the kids over making them cry.
- Make sure that you do not give them adequate daily exercise. After all, you have a busy life to lead. You only have so many hours in the day and you still need to have a social life too.
- Do make sure that you leave your untrained dog alone with young unsupervised children. After all, your dog loves children.
- Make sure that you do not spay or neuter your Husky. After all, you never know when someone will want to pay you some money to breed your dog. There is good money to be made selling Husky puppies.
- And when the dog fight breaks out, do make sure that you blame the other dog. After all, it could not possibly be the fault of your dog. He is a big “sweetheart” who would not hurt a fly, right? He is just a big friendly dog who just wants to have fun.
How To Be Part Of The Solution
- Don’t do any of the above things.
- That’s pretty much it!
Sadly, the responsible Husky owners have the task of cleaning up the mess created and left by the irresponsible Husky owners. All we can do is to diligently train our dogs so they are in control at all times, socialize them so they are comfortable in all situations, and exercise them so they are not a mass of psychotic and neurotic pent up energy ready to explode.
It is up to the rest of us to help to change the image of these breeds that has been created by the media, by public hysteria, and through public ignorance. Take every chance that you can to use your well behaved, well cared for, properly socialized dogs and educate the public about the truth of this breed. Let your Snow Dog be an ambassador for its breed.
It is very hard to argue the point that a dog breed is “vicious and dangerous” when the example that you have sitting right in front of you is nothing like that. The only way to effectively change the stereotypical image that has been created is to actively create a new image.
Choose to be part of the solution, not part of the problem by being a responsible and dedicated Husky or Malamute owner.
As always, we welcome your questions, comment, and stories regarding this topic. When we share our wisdom and our stories we may be helping someone who is struggling with their Snow Dog.
Helping ALL Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.