What is the right thing to do when your dog damages someone else’s property, especially if you’re visiting a friend or family members house? While the answer may seem pretty obvious, the appropriate way of handling it goes beyond just pulling out your check book. Read on for a few tips on how to get back into your host’s good graces.
We often think of our pets as being perfect angels – well-behaved, sweet, just the greatest beings that have ever existed. To be honest, I’m still not convinced mine isn’t – but I might be biased. No matter how well-behaved your pup is at home, it always seems to be when you go out that they decide to leave their manners behind.
I had a wonderful hound mix pup who came with me to my parents’ house one day (of many) and slipped her leash. In less than 15 seconds, this wonderful puppy who was so very good around our cats – including a 2-3 week old kitten we rescued – had one of my father’s hens in her jaws and had carried the bird into the woods. I managed to free her from the jaws of my dog, and neither was any worse for the wear, but a few seconds slower on my part and the picture would have looked much different. She was sweet, and well-behaved, until she wasn’t.
My border-collie mix liked to prove at every obedience class that she didn’t have any idea what was being asked of her – regardless of showing us only moments before leaving the house that she could do it all perfectly. She is the first dog I’ve ever known to throw full-blown temper tantrums when she gets bored or frustrated – which are both hilarious and exasperating – but she doesn’t do it at home, only in front of people we’ve bragged about her to. So far, she hasn’t done any damage outside of our home, but I get the feeling it’s just a matter of time.
What to do when your dog damages another person’s property
When we take our dogs out, we are responsible for their behaviour. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily our fault – but by bringing them into an environment other than our home, we are essentially telling people that they are safe to be around, well-behaved, and at least somewhat predictable.
So what happens if you’re out with your dog – visiting family or friends, walking through a quiet neighborhood, or shopping through a pet-friendly store – and they decide to get some energy out by destroying something that isn’t yours? It happens, and it can be frustrating and embarrassing – especially if you had to fight to get to bring your dog in the first place (Awkward family gatherings, anybody? No? Just me?).
1– First of all, as cynical as it sounds, you should get a picture of the damage if you can – just in case the matter goes further later on. This is especially crucial if anyone has been injured (that’s a matter for a whole other discussion, but still worth mentioning at this point).
2– Second – and most importantly – apologize. You might be surprised how far this can take you. People understand that accidents happen, and your attitude can make or break the situation. Try not to blame the other person if possible (“Well if you didn’t have such expensive carpets…”, “Who plants flowers so close to the sidewalk?”) – even if you feel they are at least partly responsible – but – don’t be a doormat either. Some people don’t like dogs (I have no idea what’s wrong with them either…) and will look for a reason to complain about your precious pup. If your dog didn’t do anything wrong, stick to your position. If you know you always pick up after your dog and someone is yelling at you that they’ve been using their lawn as an over sized puppy pad – let them know you’re not to blame.
3– Third – if there really is damage, and your dog really did cause it – offer to make amends. If you have the skill, you could offer to fix damage yourself – or for things that aren’t easily mended, you could offer to pay to have it replaced or repaired. Depending on the person you’re dealing with, they may very well decide it’s unnecessary for you to reimburse them (I have heard many times “don’t worry, they’re only things” – from pet-lovers who understand that these things happen when pups are involved, no matter how hard we try) – but the fact that you offered lets them know that you are willing to take responsibility and that you aren’t making light of their feelings on the matter.
When it comes to our dogs, all we can do is our best. Training is such an important part of our life with them, and it makes it easier for them to become an integrated part of as much of our lives as possible. In addition, try to read their mood and body language – if they seem particularly restless on any given day, it might be better to take them for a solo walk rather than into a place full of temptations.
Our pups’ imperfections and quirks can lead to problems, but it’s part of what we love about them. Sometimes they can be frustrating, but look for the humor where you can – we’re not so perfect ourselves.