Are Your Dogs Out?

I walk most every morning in my neighborhood. It’s a great time for me to think, listen to music, pray, and make plans for my day. I’ve done this for years and have never had any problems with dogs.

But over the last couple of years, I’ve started having “encounters” with dogs in the neighborhood. More and more, dogs are coming at me snarling, barking, and threatening. I’ve even been bitten a couple of times with one of those “encounters” requiring a trip to the ER.

You might think I would have something against dogs, but I don’t. I had dogs growing up, and both my grown children have dogs of their own. But when I’m walking the streets of my own neighborhood and I’m getting threatened by someone’s dog, I start getting a little testy.

You may say, “Oh my dog wouldn’t bite you.” and that may be true. But I heard that declaration from the owners of the dogs that bit me, and I’ve got scars that make trusting such declaration a bit difficult. Besides, even if the dog wouldn’t bite me, it’s still chasing me, barking at me, and making it difficult to take a peaceful walk in my own neighborhood.

Now I know there are all kinds of dogs…

  • There are dogs that peacefully watch all that’s going on, but don’t react.
  • There are dogs that playfully and lovingly approach you.
  • There are dogs that growl, bark, and raise a ruckus…from a distance.
  • There are dogs that growl, snarl, and chase people…but stay just out of arms reach.
  • And there are dogs that not only growl, snarl, and chase people…they actually bite and hurt them.

So what’s the point of all of this talk about dogs?

The point is that everyone has dogs, even if they’re not a pet owner. The dogs I’m talking about are those negative reactions we have toward people that aren’t really doing anything to us. These reactions are usually driven by some experience(s) from our past. For instance, I never flinched at a barking dog before…that is until I was bit by a couple. Now my reactions to barking dogs are driven by my past experiences.

Some of our reactions (or “dogs”) can be pleasant, like the dog that’s happy to see you.  But some of our reactions (or “dogs”) can be problematic and make it difficult for those around us, like the dogs I’ve been encountering on my walks.

What about you? Are your “dogs” out? Do your reactions need to be more controlled? Do they need to be on a leash? To find out, consider the following questions…

  • Do you ever react to something that is seemingly innocent by being critical and complaining, yet keeping yourself very removed? If so, you’re like the dog that barks and makes a ruckus from a distance.
  • Do you ever react to something that is seemingly innocent by approaching in anger, but never getting close enough to really engage? If so, you’re like the dog that growls, snarls, and chases someone, but never gets close enough to make contact.
  • Do you ever react to something that is seemingly innocent by being hostile and hurtful and actually hurting someone emotionally…or maybe even physically? If so, you’re like the snarling, growling dog that charges and actually bites someone.

If you find yourself in one of the above categories, there are some things you can do to get your “dogs” on a leash…

  • Give the people you’re close to permission to point out when you’re reacting that way.
  • Take a 3 – 5 minute break before acting on your urges.
  • Pay attention to what prompted your reaction.
  • Identify what you were feeling that led to your reaction. Be specific.
  • Ask yourself, “When’s the first time I remember reacting that way, and how are the two instances similar?”
  • Remind yourself that you may not have all the information regarding what happened.
  • Ask yourself, “If someone felt this way toward me, how would I want them to react?”

There are probably other things you could do, but these will give you a start toward getting your “dogs” on a leash.

Don’t let your “dogs” scare off people from your “neighborhood.” If you do, your neighborhood will get lonely and people will be asking, “Who let the dogs out!”

Leave a comment and share other ways to get your reactions (or “dogs”) on a leash so they don’t scare or bite someone. 

Copyright © 2015 Bret Legg