Are you a dog owner in denial?

Empire editorial

Posted: Sunday, February 22, 2004

There's one thing Alaskans will defend even more than their annual dividend checks - their dogs. So when talk spreads that some would like to see more restrictions on dogs, pet owners, no doubt, are paying attention. Some outdoor lovers would like to see dogs banned from some trails because man's best friend is not a wild animal's best friend, and dogs scare off wildlife. Other people would simply like to see leash laws enforced or fewer dog droppings around town.

Many dog owners train their pets well, pick up after them and keep them leashed when needed. But a funny thing happens to some people when they get a dog. These people may be extremely responsible and considerate in every other aspect of their life, but they are strangely blind to what a nuisance their dog can be to those around them.

There's a simple test dog owners can use to figure out into which category they fall: Do you think it's not that big of a deal when your dog jumps on other people? Do you find yourself making excuses and noting how cute your dog is when others are wincing and politely pushing him away? Do you constantly forget to take that plastic bag when you take your dog on a walk? Do you think those trail signs that say dogs must be leashed don't really apply to you? Do you find your blood pressure rising when someone suggests that dogs scare off wildlife? Do you immediately assume anyone who suggests any limits on your pet is a dog-hater?

If so, you could be a dog owner in denial. And if you don't get real about your dog's behavior, other people in the city may do an intervention and force you to.

These types need to avoid getting defensive when others suggest various restrictions on dogs. And by all means, they should avoid branding people who want to discuss the issue as "dog-haters." It's a cheap shot used by those who don't have a strong argument.

Juneau's Dog Task Force was created to try to come up with solutions to dog-related problems, and - as touchy as the topic can get - it has a tough job ahead of it. Some dog owners have the right idea. They've formed a group called Grateful Dogs to help clean up trails and educate people on responsible dog ownership.

Dog owners need to be proactive and rein in their pets if they want to prevent the limits on dogs that have been put in place in other parts of the country. The community needs to pull together to forge rules and guidelines that strike a balance. The city needs to strive to prevent dogs from infringing on other people's outdoor experience, while preserving plenty of opportunities for people to enjoy walks and hikes with their dogs.

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