By Jan Magnuson

I am a long-time “dog person” and I adore dogs! I have three myself – one “Biggie” and two “Littles” and they are my furry family members. Willow, Daisy, and Violet live in my home with me, we play in our yard and gardens, we do daily training, we go for drives in my truck, we go to dog classes and dog shows, and we go for almost-daily walks and hikes…they are a BIG part of my life.

When we are out and about, I feel it is very important to not only be a responsible dog owner, but also to be a polite human being. And I always hope that others feel (and act) the same way – when I see folks, I like to smile and say Hello, and then continue on with my fun dog walk!

When we are enjoying our walks and hikes and we see other people with their dog(s), I am always very appreciative when they keep their dogs with them and under their control (whether on-leash or off-leash), and do not let them come charging up to us without my permission.

Every dog is different – some dogs are very well-behaved and well-trained, are healthy and up-to-date on vaccines and parasite control, and are friendly and social and gentle…and some are not…

PLEASE do not assume I want your dogs running up to me and my dogs, because I probably don’t!

Not only do I not know the prior mentioned info about your dogs, but please remember that dogs are living, thinking, active (and re-active) creatures – they are not robots. Even when folks shout out to me “It’s OK, he’s friendly”, I bristle, because even a dog that is friendly to 99 dogs may NOT be friendly to the 100th dog he meets.

As a retired 30-year Animal Care and Control Officer, and also as a 45-year Dog Trainer, I cannot tell you how many times I have dealt with dog attack/dog bite incidents over the years where the dog owner says to me “Wow, he’s never done that before, I never thought he would do that!”

Also, I have two toy breeds- other dogs that have not been around small dogs much may think of them as prey and want to chase and jump on them like they would a cat or squirrel. Or, even if the dog is friendly, it could hurt my two 9-pound dogs, not meaning to.

And, I once had a loose toy breed dog attack my big dog Willow and actually bite her in her chest (as the dog owners stood by, laughing)- even though the injury was minor, it upset Willow (and me) and was not OK!

I am a fan of having our dogs on leashes out in public, as it is safer and more polite for everyone- people AND dogs! Dogs that are properly leash-trained are a pleasure to take places, whether walking or hiking out in public, or visiting a friend, or camping, or whatever you and your dogs enjoy doing. Some folks think that dogs are more aggressive on leash, however that is generally over-reactivity that can be addressed with obedience training and behavior modification- dogs can learn to have nice leash manners with the proper guidance, no matter their age!

If you want your dogs to run off leash and play with other dogs and people, that is fine- please go to a designated off-leash dog park, as there are nice ones around this area (Burien and SeaTac). That way everyone who is there is agreeing that their dogs can be off-leash and run and play and wrestle and have a good time! I know lots of dog owners who sometimes go to off-leash dog parks, and other times go for on-leash walks around town- that works out great for the dogs and their owners.

Please let’s all remember to be responsible dog owners and polite members of our communities, by having our dogs under our control when out and about. That way, everyone’s experience is safe and enjoyable, and we look forward to the next day when we can do it again!

If you need assistance with your dogs’ training and behavior, please reach out to me – we have ongoing obedience training classes, and I am happy to help, Thanks!

Jan Magnuson is a native of Burien/Normandy Park/Des Moines, and has been active in the animal industry since 1975. She is the owner/trainer of SUNSTAR All-Breed Dog Training. She has assisted thousands of people and dogs throughout the years by instructing Basic Obedience/Good Manners group classes and doing individual dog training evaluations/consultations, and she is also an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator. She raises, trains, and shows Best-In-Show and High-In-Trial Champion Weimaraners under the SUNSTAR kennel name.

She retired from the Des Moines, WA Police Department in June 2019 after 30 years of service as the Master Animal Care and Control Officer.

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