my boss’s dog rampages through our work gatherings

A reader writes:

Over the past few months, my team has started doing occasional outdoor social gatherings. Several people on my team have dogs that they bring along, including my boss who is exceptionally irresponsible about her dog’s behavior. She takes her off leash immediately, regardless of the surroundings or posted signs. The dog then roams freely, approaching other groups who look around anxiously for her owner. She digs holes in pristine park lawns, eats our food, and runs through and over us, knocking over drinks. She chases any dog she sees and frequently the play turns into scuffles and loud, agressive fights.

Throughout all of this, my boss just watches and smiles at her, occasionally chuckling to herself about how “crazy” the dog is. She makes no move to restrain her or tell her no, even when the dog started barking at and charged a man. I was certain the dog was going to bite him but my boss did not even get up.

As someone who feels a lot of responsibility for how my behavior affects people in public, this is stressful and distracting. Not only do I have to steel myself for the dog to come crashing into me at any moment, I can’t stop myself from having one eye out for what she is going to do next, even though I know it’s not my responsibility. It’s hard to relax and chat with my coworkers when I can see her chasing after someone on the other side of the park.

I’m not concerned with making my boss a more responsible dog owner, I just don’t want the stress of having her dog running wild at work gatherings. Everyone on my team feels the same way but none of us have ever broached the issue with our boss directly. She has a history of reacting somewhat rashly when she perceives she is being attacked so I am apprehensive about addressing the issue head-on.

I should also mention that I am in academia, so while we technically have an HR department, in practice individual research groups are organizationally isolated (and my boss does not report to anyone). So there’s not a clear external person who can be brought in to handle it, anything I do needs to be done within the team itself.

Should I lie and say I’m uncomfortable with any dogs being at in-person events to avoid singling her out? Or is it simpler to just excuse myself from the gatherings (even though I do want to see my coworkers)?

I went a year without a letter about a dog! Is it a sign that things are inching back toward normal that one has appeared?

I will say, after a decade of letters about problems with dogs at work (all of them problems with the dogs’ owners, not the dogs themselves), I was relieved to see this dog is only causing mayhem outside of work and not in your office while you’re on a phone with a client or trying to lead a meeting.

But it’s still a problem! This is a work gathering, even if its purpose is a social one, and having a dog rampaging through the event, knocking things over and charging people — charging people!! — isn’t okay.

And it’s no surprise that the hands-off owner is your boss; there seems to be a correlation between power and willingness to let one’s dog/parrot/child/spouse disrupt other people. Maybe it’s just that without that power dynamic, other people will shut it down more quickly — but I do think power makes people more oblivious to the impact they’re having on others. (There’s at least one study showing it makes them ruder.)

In any case, I think you have four options:

1. The easiest option is indeed to simply not attend. That lets you completely sidestep it … but it’s not ideal if you’d like to be able to take part in these events.

2. Another pretty easy option would be to say something like, “Would y’all be up for a dog-free event now and then? I’ve been finding it distracting when they start running through us and trying to get our food.” You could talk discreetly to a few coworkers beforehand and see if they’d be willing to chime in and agree that they’d like a break from the dogs too.

3. You could also bring it up when it’s happening — “Jane, Petra is about to knock over that man.” … “Jane, Petra is eating the potato salad — can you stop him?” … “Jane, can you put Petra on her leash? She keeps running through and knocking drinks over.” … “Jane, can you keep an eye on Petra? He’s chasing that child.” This sounds exhausting though (and potentially not awesome for your relationship with your boss). You could agree beforehand to share the burden of all these reminders with your coworkers — to decide that each of you would take turns speaking up — but it still sounds exhausting. If you’re willing to do that, it would actually probably be better to just do #4 instead.

4. Are you and your coworkers willing to ask your boss point-blank, as a group, to either stop bringing her dog or keep him on a leash? Ideally the next time one of these gatherings is being planned, someone would speak up and say, “Jane, if we’re going to do another get-together in the park, you’ve got to either keep Petra on a leash or leave her home. She gets so energetic that it causes too much chaos — knocking over drinks, eating food, charging people. You’ve got to watch her more if you’re going to bring her.” And then ideally the rest of you would chime in and agree. There are managers where this would go fine and managers where it would not, so you’ve got to judge based on what you know of yours … but if the worst that will happen is that she’ll sulk for a while and then comply, I’d take it; don’t let potential sulking scare you off.

(I suppose there’s also a fifth option, which is you deciding not to care and just completely tuning out out the dog. But I suspect if that were feasible, you already would have tried it.)

{ 474 comments… read them below or add one }

      1. Joan Rivers*

        But there IS another option. Contact Animal Control and ask them for advice. Ask if they can patrol when one of these events are scheduled? They could ticket her. The poor dog is damaging the park and could injure another animal, or a person.

        Reply
        1. sofar*

          I volunteer for our city shelter, and, unfortunately, I don’t think animal control will get involved until AFTER this dog bites someone. Depends on the city, but, in mine, an owned dog that’s causing a ruckus at the park would be so low down the priority list that they’d never get to it (after all the calls about dogs being left in cars, being abused, actively biting children, etc.). Our city’s animal control would never proactively patrol a park.

          But I do wonder if this is a city park or private one? Are there park employees that could get involved? Is there a leash rule LW’s boss is ignoring (and could get cited for)? Maybe call the non-emergency line (311 in our city) in the moment and see if someone can get there? I think any law enforcement official could enforce a leash law, if there is one.

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          1. Lacey*

            Yeah, I was going to mention that if there’s a park patrol, they would be the ones to get involved. Ours is pretty proactive, but they’re not everywhere in the park so they might need to be alerted to the problem.

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            1. Rapa Chan*

              If the dog is running freely, you could make a call to animal control that there is a lose, aggressive dog running around the park. Just say you don’t know who it belongs and it appears to be unaccompanied.

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              1. Yorick*

                IMO this would be a weird thing to do instead of talking to the dog’s owner. I know she’s the boss and that makes it harder, but it might be necessary.

                Reply
              2. Lizzo*

                Honestly, depending on the dog’s breed and how the city handles its animal control functions, this could result in the dog being confiscated (and potentially euthanized). I’m just as annoyed as OP by how negligent of an owner her boss is, but I’m not sure that this is the best course of action for the dog.

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                1. Nervous New Grad*

                  +1. I have a very well behaved and friendly English Mastiff who people are very quick to judge because he looks big and scary and has a loud bark, and I’ve also previously owned a Rottweiler mix who was the sweetest thing on Earth but most kennels (and friends) wouldn’t let him board with them when we needed to travel simply because of his breed.
                  This is not the course of action I would jump to, and would strongly suggest taking Allison’s advice and asking the boss to take better steps to control her dog or leave him at home during work gatherings.

                2. Another British poster*

                  My mum had a rottie/black lab who was just the sweetest thing! Great breed.

        2. Shark Whisperer*

          If the park is in a jurisdiction that has park rangers, those might be the people to call. I know the park rangers are the ones that ticket people for off-leash dogs at the county-owned parks near me.

          Reply
          1. michelenyc*

            This happens at Washington Square Park in NYC. There are park rangers that will ticket you if your dog is off leash and they are not nice about it.

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        3. pancakes*

          Animal Control is not an advice hotline, and where I live they only respond to reports of dogs that appear to be lost, not merely badly behaved at picnics. I really dislike the idea of trying to use public services as a personal concierge.

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          1. Yorick*

            Exactly. You can’t use animal control, park services, or the police to avoid having a difficult conversation!

            Reply
          2. sofar*

            Agreed. I don’t know what kind of utopia-like cities the commentariat here lives in, but in my city, unless a dog is in a hot car or actually mauling a person, Animal Control isn’t getting there that day, let alone in the next few hours. They just have too much on their plates.

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            1. IEanon*

              Yes, I called the sheriff’s office a few years ago (well, animal control, but they transferred me) because the dog upstairs was being beaten and kept in a crate 18 hours/day. They said they’d come out in a week or so…

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          3. Lego Leia*

            Except that the off leash part is a bit beyond “badly behaved”. Off leash dogs in “leash” areas are(in many places) illegal and a hazard. This goes beyond “personal concierge” and into the realm of “public safety”.

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            1. pancakes*

              If the dog isn’t attacking someone, the call is not likely to draw an immediate response, even in a sleepy or chronically busybody-ish town. A potential issue of public safety and a present threat to public safety are two different things. Refusing to make any distinction between the two and/or trying to rely on the service to communicate something to a coworker is trying to use the service as a concierge.

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            2. Sweet Christmas*

              …not really. They may be illegal, and a nuisance, but they’re usually not a hazard – and again, unless they are actively menacing/injuring someone, Animal Control in most places are unlikely to show up.

              Also, writ large, the OP doesn’t seem worried that the dog will hurt others – mostly that he’s annoying. That does leave this in the ‘personal concierge’ realm.

              Reply
        4. esmerelda*

          This could work, but I hope people who are suggesting Animal Control as an option are suggesting that if talking to the boss directly at least once doesn’t work. What if the boss is more reasonable than she appears to be from the letter and would actually leash her dog/not bring the dog if asked? How terribly awkward if no one broached the topic with her at all and just called animal control on her! Eeek

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          1. LizM*

            Awkward is the best case scenario. In a lot of jurisdictions, park rangers and animal control officers who respond to these types of calls are members of the police department. One doesn’t need to watch the news for very long to see how a call to the police over a minor annoyance can go wrong, especially if any of the participants are people of color.

            Public services aren’t there to solve interpersonal conflicts and avoid a tough conversation.

            *If the dog is actually threatening public safety, that’s another issue, but with the possible exception of tussles turning into fights, I’m not sure I see that there.

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          2. CFrance*

            If this dog is as untrained as it sounds and is used to being let off leash at the park, putting it on a leash and expecting it to sit quietly is going to cause a whole new set of problems–barking while you’re trying to meet, knocking things over while tugging to get free, overtaking the owner, jumping up on the people in the meeting– generally disrupting everyone. The owner needs to be asked for the dog to stay home, or somehow the group could manage to move the meetings to a place where dogs are not allowed.

            Reply
    1. StripesAndPolkaDots*

      Not own pets in general. It’s wild to me, the number of people who buy a pet on a whim and never learn to properly take care of it (see every episode of My Cat From Hell, for example. Should be called My Owner From Hell).

      Reply
      1. desdemona*

        This!
        I’m a fish-owner. Do you know how many people, on finding out that I have a pet fish, regale me with the story of their pet betta or goldfish that died within a few months? And it’s generally very clear that they bought the pet on a whim and did no research beforehand.

        Reply
        1. RabbitRabbit*

          People do this to me, a rabbit owner. Rabbits are highly social, loving, intelligent animals and can live several years, a decade, or more. I get all kinds of stories about the terrible fates of many rabbits, told like an “oops” story.

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          1. desdemona*

            Ugh I’m sorry! I don’t know why people think we’ll enjoy hearing about their pets deaths, especially ones that could have been avoidable!

            Reply
        2. Pikachu*

          The number of people who are absolutely shocked that you cannot keep a betta in a fishbowl is tragic. The fact that they keep them in those little deli chicken salad containers at the pet store does not help.

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        3. Le Sigh*

          my college roommate had fish. i helped but she of course did the vast majority of the work. which only confirmed what i suspected — fish are actually a ton of work and you need to be willing and ready to take that on!

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        4. Nervous New Grad*

          Ugh, yep! My sister and her fiancé have been caring for a fish tank our neighbor recently rehomed to us, and they’ve been doing a ton of research and had to make lots of changes – rehoming aggressive fish that shouldn’t be kept together in certain numbers, redoing the substrait and fixing broken filters, actually CLEANING the tank and testing the water.

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        1. Clorinda*

          And the other 10% is “your cat needs more than one litterbox, and the boxes need to be kept clean.”

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      2. Retro*

        Oh my goodness! I remember watching an episode where the owner was complaining that his cat was scratching everything and how his childhood cat never scratched anything. Turns out he had no scratching posts for his current cat and his childhood cat was declawed. Of course a declawed cat could never scratch anything because it doesn’t have claws! Jackson instructed the owner to get scratching posts and the problem was solved super quick. Some owners man….

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    2. BA*

      Indeed, many dog owners who are too lazy to socialize their animals are utterly clueless as to the potentially ruinous risks they are running both financially and with the life of the dog.

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      1. fposte*

        To be fair, some of it is cluelessness and dated thinking about what dog ownership entails. A lot of people in my area grew up with farm dogs, where feeding the dog and keeping it away from livestock was pretty much the limit of your responsibility. The notion that you could train your dog create an environment so that a dog wouldn’t, for instance, want to bark constantly is to them like explaining that they could clean out their tire tread every night.

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        1. Calliope*

          Yeah, even in my urban area, general thoughts about pet ownership and responsibility have changed drastically over the course of my life, so it doesn’t surprise me that we’re seeing these conflicts arise now. My guess is in another 20 years, the transition will be more complete and we’ll see less of it.

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        2. Le Sigh*

          yeah, this was the case for my dad. he grew up with dogs in the country — i think they were a little more involved than what you describe, but it was still a far cry and very different mentality from how people view having dogs now. we had a dog growing up in the suburbs, and over time i realized my dad’s approach wasn’t really the right one for that environment or our very sweet troublemaker of a dog. if i ever get one, i will probably handle things a lot differently (but i’m also aware of the care and work required, so probably won’t until i feel ready for that!).

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        3. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

          Yeah, some mountain trails around my hometown can be dangerous, because they pass near farms and the farm dogs are left on their own 24/7 and are basically turning into wolves again.
          That said, there is definitely a subset of owners who seems to think that “dogs will be dogs” and “rude dogs are other people’s only, mine is just funny”.

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          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            This is kind of an insult to wolves–dogs have a viciousness/fearlessness not seen in wolves because they have little/no fear of people because they are dogs. Wolves are very human shy, very timid. When dogs ‘mob’/pack up, they can be very scary.

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            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Yeah, I’ve heard this is the reason why wolf-dog hybrids are so dangerous- the prey drive of wolves, combined with the lack of human shyness and aggression of dogs. Scary combination.

              Reply
        4. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I don’t cut people a lot of slack over this, it’s not that hard to think about caring for animals.

          My next-door neighbor and his girlfriend are gone most of the day for work, and stay out late on the weekends. Not a problem, that’s their lifestyle. They adopted a dog who barked almost all day and night. After months of trying not to be a jerk about it, I told him his dog barked most of the day and asked him to do something about it. Turns out the dog has anxiety and abandonment issues, or so he was told by whoever gave him the dog.

          My eyes must’ve bugged out of my head. He’s got a special needs dog and leaves her alone most of the time? I asked what he was going to do about my complaint, and he said she’d just have to learn to settle down – and I would, too.

          On Valentine’s Day weekend they were gone for 2 days. They had a notice from the village police department when they got back, I called to report animal neglect and cruelty. I saw them carry in a dog crate, which seemed to help. She still barks a lot, and the neighbors are still jerks.

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        5. Person from the Resume*

          Yes. I’m surprised by all the people who have a dog without a fenced in yard they can get to with a doggy door. But these people seem willing to walk their dog twice a day no matter what the weather and hire a dog walker or doggy day care even when they are not out town and pay for a dog park membership so they have entirely different standard of dog care than I do.

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          1. Hamish the Accountant*

            The opposite is also annoying: people in my neighborhood have a tendency to keep their dogs outside. All the time. Cold weather, hot weather, people around to play with them or not, the dogs are outside, usually barking.

            I get that it’s some vague “guard dog” idea but it’s extremely irritating and I worry about the dogs.

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            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              I find this can be a little cultural, too. My rural in-laws are a bit appalled by dogs living in the house; my family is a bit appalled by leaving a dog outdoors 24/7. My in-laws also thing it’s weird we don’t let our cats outdoors in suburbia.

              Dog doors are also not common here, unless you have one of those collars that locks/unlocks the pet door by proximity. Too many raccoons, foxes, and other wildlife that you don’t want coming IN the door.

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              1. Hamish the Accountant*

                I actually live in the inner city, but on this issue it comes to the same thing culturally!

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            2. LunaLena*

              I used to encounter that mentality a lot when long ago when I volunteered in shelters. People would come in and say “I want a dog that I can keep outside as a guard dog, it’s not going to be allowed inside.” Then you’d have to explain to them that no, that’s not how having a dog works, and if the dog doesn’t feel that it’s part of the family/pack it won’t be invested in protecting you or your stuff.

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              1. SeanT*

                And you have to train a dog to be any sort of “guard dog” most dogs reguardless of breeds are just big goofs who love people and pets. Our two doggos would do absolutely nothing to any intruder in the house when we were gone other than want pets.

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            3. Dust Bunny*

              It’s also pointless. If the whole neighborhood knows your dog barks all day anyway and you’re not going to see what’s going on, it’s not much of a deterrent.

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          2. Duckles*

            It’s so cultural! Coming from a large city where it’s your responsibility to walk your dog, just leaving a dog to his own devices with a doggy door seems sad. I travel a lot with my dog and definitely see in smaller towns it’s acceptable to have your dogs “fence running” in a way that wouldn’t be elsewhere. Even following leash laws varies hugely by city— some, I virtually never see dogs off leash and some it’s a free for all.

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        6. pancakes*

          It does explain some behaviors in some contexts, but I don’t think it would be quite fair for people who grew up on farms (or in any particular setting for that matter) to presume that everything they picked up in childhood will serve them well for the rest of their lives, regardless of where else they go or how the world changes around them.

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          1. fposte*

            It’s not wise for anybody to assume that what went down in one place is cool in another place. But it’s not automatically laziness to retain the practices of the prior place, either.

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            1. pancakes*

              I didn’t say anything about laziness. I don’t think it has anything to do with what you described.

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              1. fposte*

                Sure, but the person I was responding to did–that’s the whole reason I made the point that there are reasons other than laziness.

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    3. Crivens!*

      And far too many of them who do anyway.

      I will never advocate this for almost anything else because it brings up all kinds of class and other issues, but maybe people should pass a test before they get to own pets, and have a license that can be removed if they start being negligent.

      Reply
      1. Caroline Bowman*

        I think this is a very good idea. Some kind of very simple, clear test / written commitment and license number that must be presented any time an animal goes to a vet or at the time they are adopted.

        It need not be punitive or ”exclude” anyone, just an undertaking and firm commitment to the financial, social and legal obligations around pet ownership.

        Reply
        1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

          The frustrating thing is, there are licenses! In some countries at least… but they are only for “dangerous breeds”. I’m no dog expert, but I strongly suspect there are no “dangerous breeds”, just breeds that are strong/heavy enough to cause serious problems if mistreated. Which still does not mean that some breeds will always be innocuous! My dad is a lawyer and he had a case where a woman was severely injured by a *chihuahua*, because it bit her on her breast.
          Besides the fact that, duh, a dog is not a toy and you should realize you need to watch it way before it sends someone to the ER.
          I believe that even just the effort of the paperwork for the test would be enough to discourage the people who are just acting on a whim.

          Reply
          1. Pibble*

            I am a dog trainer, and you are absolutely correct that “dangerous breeds” are not a thing. They’re created by the media sensationalizing cases with dogs of the breed they currently hate (and not infrequently misidentifying other breeds as the breed they hate) and ignoring other cases. With a dash of any-popular-breed-will-be-overbred-by-people-who-only-care-about-profit-leading-to-health-and-behavior-problems thrown in.

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            1. Pennyworth*

              But there are definitely breeds that can cause more harm if things go wrong. I would never have pitbulls and similar dogs around my children, because those breeds were originally developed to grab and hold. I have seen first hand the damage they can inflict, though the majority I have known are delightful dogs. Its just not a risk I was prepared to take. My checklist for dogs I would own includes what is the maximum amount of harm they can do to to people or pets if everything goes seriously wrong.

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          2. Nervous New Grad*

            This this this! I am a firm believer in “There are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners.”
            I commented above about my English Mastiff, and how I used to own a Rottweiler mix. We’ve put in a ton of work to train our mastiff, making sure he’s well behaved and exercised, because we knew we had to if we were going to be able to responsibly own a 160+ lb dog. He coexists peacefully with my sister’s fiancé’s 10-pound Chihuahua mix puppy, but can’t go to the dog park because other dog owners get so nervous and upset about this giant behemoth playing with their smaller dogs (He has never played too rough or deliberately harmed or been aggressive to another dog. He’s actually a huge softie! The most harm he’s ever caused another dog was accidentally stepping on the little puppy a couple of times, and the puppy has been completely fine every time). I have literally seen large grown men flinch when he looks in their direction on walks. He looks big and scary, especially if he barks, but the most danger he’ll ever put you in is of getting a puddle drooled on you.
            On the flip side, my ex’s parents on a whim got some huskies because they were pretty dogs. They didn’t train them whatsoever, left them outside most of the time, didn’t even house train them, and then they escaped the yard and killed livestock and other pets and had to be put down. It was heartbreaking.

            Reply
            1. Freya*

              My husband and I have an 11 month old cane corso. He is so sweet, but he’s 75% of my mass and growing, and until he’s finished being a teenager that needs constant rules reinforcement, he stays on the leash when we’re in public and there’s anyone around (even in designated off leash areas). He just gets excited, like the puppy he is, and he’s not going to be given a second chance by authorities, because of his size. Fortunately, most people around here get that and don’t rush him!

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      2. JJ*

        In Berlin (maybe all of Germany, I’m not sure), your dog has to pass a 100Euro obedience test to be off-leash, they also have to pay a yearly dog tax. I think this is a great measure to prompt people to actually consider whether dog ownership is for them.

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      3. pancakes*

        Animals can be taken away for cruelty. In my city an investigation can be initiated with a 311 call. The stats say there were 387 animals removed last year and 47 arrests for cruelty. (I think one big reason for the discrepancy is that a lot of these calls involve hoarders). This wouldn’t be helpful to the letter writer, though – the boss’s behavior does not rise to the level of cruelty. So far it’s just really rude and annoying.

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      4. Well...*

        The one time racism and classism is cool: when it has to do with monitoring your neighbors pets.

        …. This whole thread is entirely too much.

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        1. Tirv*

          * sigh* Just how is monitoring your neighbors’ ill behaved pets anything to do with racism or classism???

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          1. Calliope*

            Requiring essentially driver’s licenses for pets is obviously going to disproportionately affect poor people and other marginalized people in terms of preventing them from having pets, come on.

            Reply
          2. Well...*

            From the original comment: “I will never advocate this for almost anything else because it brings up all kinds of class and other issues, ”

            I would say that if you don’t advocate for this in general because you are concerned about classism, don’t make pet ownership monitoring your exception.

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          3. Jennifer*

            Calling the police on someone because their dog is misbehaving, which has been suggested many times here, instead of having a conversation with them is definitely racially insensitive.

            “Ill-behaved” has many different definitions. Some people train their dog at home. Others pay for expensive training classes. That’s a class issue. In my book, as long as a dog is loved, well-cared for, and isn’t a danger to others, they aren’t ill-behaved. Some seem to think the standard should go way beyond that, which is fine if that’s what they want to do for their dog, but not an option for anyone. I’d rather a dog out of a shelter and in a loving home.

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            1. Crivens!*

              To clarify, I would never call the police on someone unless they were actively murdering me. And I wouldn’t call animal control unless an animal was being abused.

              My suggestion was more along the lines of an initial test rating basic understanding of animal care and training, and perhaps this test can be renewed, for free, the same way you do a driver’s license. This could easily be done online. So for example if some yahoo thinks you don’t have to train small dogs because they’re small, they don’t get to own a dog.

              But this would never work in our current government because it is fundamentally racist and classist. This is my ideal world, not the real one.

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        2. Crivens!*

          You’re right, I clarified a bit below! Thanks for calling me out! I really do appreciate it.

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      5. JustaTech*

        When my parents adopted their last dog (she passed away a couple of years ago at the ripe old age of 15) they joked that they had filled out less paperwork when we adopted my brother.

        Some animal shelters have the resources to be really picky about new dog owners. Some breeders too: I have two sets of friends who got their dogs from breeders and in both cases they had to have letters of recommendation to even get on the waiting list, had to prove their homes would be safe, had to follow a whole ton of rules about what food the dog could have, how old they would be when they were spayed/neutered, and that if they couldn’t keep the dog that it would be returned to the breeder.

        But all of that assumes that the person giving the dog has the resources to be picky about the owners.

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    4. pretzelgirl*

      My BFF whom I love dearly, had a horribly behaved dog. Would bark incessantly, steal food from everywhere. Hop up on tables, get food off counters. She refused to get him trained, I never understood why. I love dogs, and did not like that one. As a result she rarely took him places and also brought him to doggie daycare when we came over. She cared for him and gave him a good home, but never trained him properly. I never understood it. Some people just don’t get it. ::shrugs::

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      1. Rach*

        I’m a year into training my dog and he still has all those behaviors. Some dogs are more difficult than others and you just don’t know until you get them home.

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        1. Sarah*

          Yes. My dog (less than a year old) knows commands, rings a bell when he needs to go out to potty, plays great with other dogs, is crate-trained, etc. but he also definitely loves a good counter-surf and will absolutely steal food if given the opportunity. Every time it happens he gets a stern “no!” and a brief time-out in his pen, but the temptation of unguarded food is greater than that consequence. (Obviously we make every effort to not leave anything edible out within his reach, but he still pops up just to check for snacks.)

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          1. Rach*

            Yes! Countersurfing and barking are life to him, god love him. We are starting our 4th training course and we have had 4 1:1 training sessions. He’s making progress but there’s only so much you can expect from a 14 month old dog!

            Reply
        2. triceratops*

          Rach, thank you for your comment! my partner and I adopted a five-year-old pup from a shelter a few months ago and he’s terribly anxious and dog reactive… therefore, he behaves terribly in public because it’s nearly impossible to take him out even just to relieve himself without seeing something that makes him growl/bark/pull the leash.

          we’ve been doing (hella expensive) training since we got him, purchased so many different enrichment toys, treats, etc, and gotten him on anxiety medication… and it s all helped but he still has these behaviors. it’s not something you can snap and make go away. i understand and sympatize with OP’s situation, but the number of comments here that are generalizing about bad dog owners and dangerous dog breeds are disappointing…

          Reply
      2. IWishIHadAFancyUserName*

        I have to laugh at some of these comments about “getting the dog trained”. Every dog trainer in every canine obedience class I have ever participated in has started the class by saying something along the lines of “owners *think* training is for the dog, but it’s really for the owners.”

        Reply
      3. Le Sigh*

        this sounds a bit like our dog growing up. she was incredibly sweet and we loved her to pieces (she was so, so good with kids). but she often got into trouble doing the kinds of things you mentioned (and we didn’t take her to parks or other people’s homes). she never got formal training (just what we did at home) and i think a lot of that had to do with the fact that my parents grew up in a place and time with very different attitudes about training. as an adult i realize that and would definitely do things differently if i ever get a dog.

        Reply
        1. Dust Bunny*

          Dogs don’t need professional training. It’s absolutely possible to train a dog at home. But the owner doing the training has to know what they’re doing. I’ve known plenty of people who trained their dogs incessantly but also inconsistently and using all sorts of weird and confusing methods and ended up years down the road with dogs that weren’t any better behaved. I don’t think it was because that many dogs are slow learners.

          Reply
      4. JJ*

        I think some people think training/disciplining a dog is “mean.” I feel it’s the opposite, if you train them, they know what they’re supposed to do and everyone is happier.

        Reply
        1. Nervous New Grad*

          Disciplining also doesn’t have to be the only way to go! It’s not like your only option is to punish or scold wrong behaviors – we trained our mastiff largely on positive reinforcement, repeatedly rewarding and reinforcing good behaviors, but also rewarding him for ceasing a bad behavior or redirecting. It was extremely effective, he’s a very happy and friendly dog and listens to us really well!

          Reply
        2. Properlike*

          Same with kids. In fact, just today, I was wondering at a neighbor’s pandemic dog who spends a good twenty minutes every dang morning in a high-pitched, outdoor yapfest. Why does she allow that? And then I remembered that this is the same person we had to counsel that it was OKAY to take away her child’s cell phone when he was using it irresponsibly. Boundaries = safety and security.

          Reply
      5. Jennifer*

        I don’t think that sounds all that bad, minus the barking. Isn’t that dog better off in a loving home than in a shelter? I don’t get that point of view.

        My dog has gotten a lot better but occasionally steals food. I never leave unattended food around the house just in case and would never take her to a picnic where it was plentiful.

        Reply
        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Getting on tables and stealing food off counters is over the top for me. If I walk away and leave a plate of chicken pasta on the coffee table for over an hour and the dog gets it, that’s on me. The dog goes up on the kitchen counter to grab the raw chicken the second my back is turned–that’s a different story.

          Reply
      6. Liz*

        I had friends with a similarly bad behaved dog. He was a lab, and sweet as pie, but annoying af. He was never trained, and so would wander around, jumping on people, barking, etc. never settling down. I get dogs get excited when someone comes in the house, but most usually settle down, or if told to, will do so. THis one? not so much. he’d bug you until you walked out the door. it got old fast.

        Reply
        1. No Dogs for Me*

          I have relatives who have a lab who is touthy to the extreme. Normally I would say mouthy, but it leads with teeth. And leaps and won’t leave you alone.

          The owners solution? They keep bandages by the door for the visitors that bleed.

          When we are at family gatherings where the dogs are invited, I spend most of my time hip-checking the dog away from my 81-year old mother. And yes, she had gotten hurt by the dog. I have not, since I don’t attempt to pet the dog.

          Did I mention that one of the owners is home with the dog all the time? And that they take the dogs on vacation, so no kenneling. I mentioned to my mother that you would think that the dog would be better trained due to the owners being around it so much, but time does not equal training.

          Reply
      7. Sweet Christmas*

        Dog training is expensive and time consuming. If she’s never taking him places and he’s not bothering anyone else…

        Reply
    5. Jack Straw*

      Yes. I have cats and volunteer at an animal rescue to get my dog fox. People always assume I’m “not a dog person” because I have cats–no, it’s the opposite. I freaking LOVE DOGS. I love them so dang much that I don’t have one right now.

      We’re gone with kids activities, work trips (pre-COVD anyway), and don’t have a fence that will support the dog living with us. Am I sad *on the regular* that we don’t have a dog? Yup. Am I happy that a dog doesn’t have to sit in our house without companionship or potty breaks for hours at a time? Also yup.

      Reply
        1. Bagpuss*

          I believe dog foxes have a highly distinctive smell, which is only foxy in a good way to vixens :)

          Reply
      1. Caroline Bowman*

        It’s the sign of a loving, dedicated pet owner (or parent indeed!) who takes very seriously and holds themselves to a high standard of care for any living creature in their purview. Some creatures are less ”work” than others, some are suited to different living environments and / or more adaptable than others.

        A lonely animal, especially a mammal is a terrible, terrible thing. I wouldn’t leave a child alone and bored and anxious for hours and hours, however safe / fed they might be in anything but the most extreme, emergency circumstances either.

        Reply
      2. Mockingjay*

        Totally agree with you. We adopted 2 rescues last year. We waited a long time to adopt, because I refused to have a dog until I was certain our pace of life was slow enough to devote to the dog’s needs.

        Reply
      3. Liz*

        are you me? Prior to the pandemic, i didn’t have one as I wasn’t home enough. Now that I’ve been home for the last year? I still don’t, because I met someone, and usually spend weekends at his house. he has a cat, so that’s a no go. So even though I have more free time for a dog, it still doesn’t fit my lifestyle. I’m the queen of dog sitting among friends and co-workers so i get my fix that way .

        Reply
      4. KoiFeeder*

        Yeah, Sir Fusspot was my first and probably last dog because I just can’t properly take care of the sort of dog that I’d mesh well with.

        Reply
    6. Richard Hershberger*

      I am one of those. I did not grow up with dogs, as my older brother had severe allergies. I never acquired the skill set, nor the desire. When my kids were younger they raised the idea. I pointed out that both my wife and I work outside the house, and leaving a dog alone all day is cruel. So really we would have to get two dogs. But more to the point is the eternal question of who is responsible for feeding and cleaning? I suggested we start small, perhaps a hamster or two. If the kids were responsible about that, I would consider working up to larger animals. The prospect turned out not to be so alluring after all. So that is that.

      Reply
      1. Anon for this*

        My father keeps telling mom he wants a dog, and he’s tired of just having cats. Mom’s response is that she’s happy to clean up after the cats, but that with him working every day *she* would be the one who has to walk and train any dog, and she doesn’t have the energy for that.

        Reply
        1. turquoisecow*

          This is me. My husband wants a dog, but he’s never owned one and doesn’t know that they’re a lot more work than our two cats. Plus the fact that we have a small baby? Nope.

          Reply
        2. lailaaaaah*

          A family friend’s husband and kids talked her into getting a dog during lockdown, because the husband had been moved to permanent WFH and all the kids were doing home schooling- the friend was the only one who left the house for work each day. Yet somehow, she *still* ended up being the one who walk, train and let the dog out to go poop whenever she gets back, to the point where the dog simply will not listen to anyone else in the house. Which is a problem, since she’s a teacher and often works late into the evening for school events etc.

          Reply
      2. ThatGirl*

        Some dogs are highly social and do well with a companion, but not all of them – our dog is perfectly happy alone during the day. I don’t think it’s cruel. (We try very hard to be good, responsible dog owners; the irresponsible ones bother us too.)

        Reply
        1. Dog and cat fosterer*

          A young puppy alone all day isn’t nice. This can be resolved by two dogs (although not litter-mates as that can also be a problem), going home once or twice a day to walk them (pups sleep a lot – I worked from home this past year and can see that the pups sleep most of the day), or getting an older more independent dog (I foster a lot of them, they exist). But it’s like most things in life, there is a lot of variety in personality and preference.

          I can also understand how RH doesn’t want a dog and is finding reasons not to have them.

          Reply
      3. SarahKay*

        This, this, this! As small children we had gerbils, and were supposed to feed them daily (our parents also checked they were fed). One day I ran through the house to Mum and told her “The gerbils are missing!”. “Yes” replied Mum calmly. “I gave them away a month ago”.
        It was another five years before we were allowed any more pets because both my parents worked and they didn’t want to be stuck with either caring for the pets, or spending the time making us do our agreed ‘job’ and care for them.

        Reply
    7. Story of my Life*

      This is my life now. I live in a rapidly gentrifying area, during COVID. So lots of transplants who don’t know the norms of dog ownership in a crowded city and don’t have much investment in the neighborhood. Then they all got bored and lonely working from home, so they bought dogs for entertainment.

      There is vanishingly little green space here. I have to walk a mile in one of two directions to find a tiny pocket park with a patch of grass. Except now, neither park has any grass at all. Both are now urine-soaked mud wallows full of dog feces and off-leash designer breeds that charge at little kids and old people. The rare owner who bothers to look up from their phone will just casually shout “don’t worry he’s friendly.”

      Keeping a dog in 500 sf is very difficult to do in a way that is fair to the dog – it can be done, but it takes serious commitment. And keeping a dog in an extremely dense city means you have to be super duper considerate about others. You have to train your dog, leash them, socialize them, and curb them.

      I would seriously love to have a dog. I really like them. But I understand that sometimes you can’t have everything you want, just because you want it. Some people never learn that lesson. They feel like getting a dog, so they get one. They don’t feel like picking up poo, so they leave it on the sidewalk. They don’t feel like curbing the dog, so they let it pee on the flowers. They don’t feel like training the dog, so they just let them lunge and snap. And in a few years, they will feel like the dog is too much trouble, and off to the pound the dog will go. It makes me mad.

      Reply
      1. Caroline Bowman*

        Going to Italy was a real eye-opener for me. I was in exclusively urban areas and lots and lots of people have dogs. Not once, not ever, did I see any dog mess anywhere. All the dogs were leashed, in glowing good health, happy, sociable, with their owners on what was clearly just daily rounds, in other words, not just left in a small flat for hours. They are in restaurants, even very high-end ones, sitting under the table, quietly, petted and included, but not remotely bothering anyone.

        One day I was in a very nice, white-tablecloth establishment and after an hour or so, out from under the next table came the most beautiful Pyrenean Mountain dog, perfectly groomed, happy and on his harness, to go off with his owner, having sat quietly for a long lunch, it was like a rabbit suddenly materialised out of a hat! It all depends on how seriously pet ownership is taken, I was absolutely astonished.

        Reply
        1. Wry*

          Gosh, where in Italy were you? When I studied abroad in Rome a few years ago, the sidewalks were notoriously covered in dog feces. By the end of the semester I had trained myself to look down when I walked to avoid stepping in it. I wonder if there’s been a cultural shift since then or if it varies by city. (I don’t think I remember seeing as much poop in Florence when I visited there.)

          Reply
          1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

            It does depend on the city, and Rome is, uh, famous for being dirty. It is true, though, that dogs are often (definitely not always) allowed in restaurants, and if they are well-behaved I don’t mind. But I’ve seen some eating from their owner’s plate, with the owner blessing, and I think that’s a bit too much.

            Reply
            1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              I think allowing dogs in restaurants is standard thing in a lot of European countries. When I took German in college (in the US), the instructor (who was Austrian) did some good-natured grumbling one day about not being able to take his dogs to restaurants with him like he did back home in Vienna. Like I said, he was good-natured about it. He understood that different places have different rules, and he obeyed the rules. But he definitely thought that not allowing dogs in restaurants was a rather silly rule. ;-)

              Reply
        2. pancakes*

          I have a neighbor like this. There’s a French restaurant around the corner with tables outside, and on nice days he’s often seated at one with his very polite French bulldog seated across from him. I know some people are really unhappy with dogs being anywhere near restaurants or bars but so long as they’re well-behaved I think it’s fine. It’s kind of a thing here – I have been to more than one dog birthday party at dog-friendly bars.

          Reply
        3. JM in DC*

          Interesting. I lived in Rome, for three years and had the opposite experience about dog mess – it was everywhere, like they can’t be bothered – it was someone else’s problem to clean it up? And it wasn’t just me, my colleagues, we all noticed it and talked about it, one even started putting pieces of paper, like post-it note size, on the mess with little sayings in Italian about the owners and how irresponsible they are.
          Always look down when walking in large cities in Italy, particularly in the residential areas.

          Reply
          1. Wry*

            Thank you for verifying my own memory of Italy! I made the same comment above. Dog mess in Rome was worse than anywhere I have ever been.

            Reply
      2. Shan*

        Yes, I love dogs. LOVE them. But I also know that I’m not in a good place to own one, because I’m single, own a 550 sqft condo with no backyard, live in a place where there’s the potential for winter conditions more than 6 months of the year, am gone for work between 10-12 hours a day, and don’t currently make enough to comfortably pay for doggie day care on a regular basis. It all adds up to making it very, very difficult to give a dog everything it needs. So I don’t own a dog! But so many people act like I should just get one and “make it work.” Uh, no? It’s not like trying to find room for a slightly oversized new couch.

        Reply
        1. Liz*

          YES! i totally get everything you say. In my case too, as I’m in an apt, a huge non-refundable fee, plus a monthly “pet rent”. And I’ve had people tell me i could make it work. No, no i couldnt. nor do I want to. as much as i love dogs, its just not a good fit for me.

          Reply
    8. No Dogs for Me*

      One of my friends had an incident just two days ago when a neighbor (who is not 150 pounds) was dragged across the street by her 150 pound wolfhound so that the wolfhound could attack another neighbor’s 35 pound labradoodle. The labradoodle’s owner is a police officer, so he was able to lift the wolfhound off the labradoodle.

      Everyone except the wolfhound ended up injured. The wolfhound’s owner was scratched up by falling and being dragged on the road. The labradoodle ended up bitten and scratched. And the labradoodle’s owner ended up scratched by the wolfhound.

      And while this was occurring, the wolfhound’s owner reaction was to scream for the labradoodle’s owner to stop strangling her dog.

      Later, she offered to pay for all of the treatments if he did not report it. Presumably, this had happened before.

      People need to figure out what they can handle, both size and breed of dog. Some people should only watch dog videos. I am not home enough to have a dog, so prefer chickens. They can be alone all day…and poop breakfast.

      Reply
      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        What a horrible person. How do you mess up with a wolfhound? They are – in my experience – such a mellow, easy-to-train, loving breed. (The only tricky part is that some of them want to chase any and all squirrels all the way to Guam.)

        I feel like there is this darned unfortunate overlap between “people who want a big, impressive dog breed like a Great Dane or a Rottweiler so people will look at them” and “people who can’t be bothered to do the absolute bare minimum of training and socialization.”

        Reply
        1. pancakes*

          I don’t know about Rottweilers at all, but Great Danes are often recommended for city people because they need relatively little exercise compared to other breeds. They also don’t live very long on account of heart issues.

          There are a couple in our neighborhood, and my relatively little dog (RIP) would always sit down to watch them pass by like he was watching a parade.

          Reply
          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            I don’t know any Great Danes. Makes sense that they are mellow. That’s a lot of doge to be moving around :)

            A well-trained, well-socialized Rottie is such a wonderful dog – an unflappable, empathic, steadfast, loyal sweetheart. The problem comes in when they are not well-socialized and trained. They are massive, extremely strong, stubborn, and have a very high pain threshold. The downstream consequences of a badly trained Rottweiler are so much worse than the consequences for a badly-trained Chihuahua. (And don’t get me started on the people who get breeds because they look “tough” and encourage their dogs to be aggressive. That’s how innocent people get killed and dogs wind up euthanized.)

            Reply
        2. Clorinda*

          Anyone who has a vicious sighthound was either incredibly unlucky in their dog’s temperament or is doing practically everything wrong.

          Reply
          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            When I win the lotto, I’m getting a couple of Scottish deerhounds and enough room for them to run around.

            Reply
          2. Pescadero*

            As a former greyhound owner – this is 100% accurate.

            Sight hounds that go after other dogs other than anything out of fear (usually leash reactivity) are really unusual.

            Reply
          3. No Dogs for Me*

            I checked with my friend further and she believes that the owner did everything wrong.

            The wolfhound lacks socialization. My friend has two dogs that are fenced and when they are out and the wolfhound is being walked, the wolfhound has been interested in them. However, the wolfhound’s owner would not let the wolfhound near the other dogs. Maybe because it has had a bad reaction before?

            Reading socialization for wolfhound sites, it appears that they have to be socialized as puppies when the owner has a size advantage and training gets progressively harder as that window closes.

            This owner has no control or recall on her wolfhound, which might lead to tragedy when next she walks the dog. The neighborhood is dog central, with most houses having dogs, thus there are normally dogs being walked or targets as the wolfhound sees them.

            Reply
        3. Black Horse Dancing*

          Irish Wolfhounds (which I think is who is being referred to) are incredible gentle dogs. I would love to know the background of this. Often smaller dog people don’t see dog problems and allow their dogs to run wild/behave badly until the bigger animal has had it and responds.

          Reply
      2. Momma Bear*

        We once had our dog attacked by the neighbor’s dog. Thankfully everyone survived, but it was harrowing.

        In the case with the boss, I’d also be worried about liability. This is a work function, yes? So is the company on the hook if her dog eats a child? Knocks over an employee? Causes property damage? If a direct request by the team to this manager to rein in her dog doesn’t get results, can HR be a resource? It only takes one person to ruin something good for everyone. It shouldn’t have to come to damage control to get her to control her dog. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

        Reply
      3. English, not American*

        This is why I wanted a dog small enough that I could pick it up, so there was absolutely no chance I could be dragged about. I was thinking in the region of 20lbs, ended up with a 5lb ball of fluff that’s been attacked enough times by larger dogs that he now reacts with pre-emptive aggression, especially when he sees certain breeds. He has pretty great impulse control in every other scenario, but treats don’t work when another dog is approaching. I don’t know why I’m posting this comment, probably just despair at trying to be a good dog owner but never meeting the internet’s bar.

        Reply
        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          Hey, you’re trying and paying attention. That’s plenty. Do you just let the puppy off leash to attack those dogs and ignore when it happens? Sounds like no. So don’t worry, I don’t think you’re the kind of owner we’re talking about.

          Reply
    9. Chickaletta*

      100%. And the older I get, the more I realize that the majority of dog owners should not have a dog. So many dogs behave poorly, most of them by far – if you’re a dog owner reading this it is very likely your dog. Meeting a well-behaved dog is a novelty anymore. I think most people (at least Americans) just expect their dog to bark at everything they see, jump on people, push into people, lick people, and run wherever they want. They think this is normal dog behavior. It is not! I have met dogs who do not do these things, and they are lovely, wonderful, happy creatures. What’s more, they are not born this way. It takes constant work from their owners. Many owners don’t realize or feel it’s their responsibility to train their dog. Hence why most people should not own dogs.

      Reply
  1. Certaintroublemaker*

    Alternately, at the next event is it possible to drop an anonymous call to police/park police that an unleashed dog is accosting people and get her ticketed?

    Reply
    1. Sarah*

      This is totally what I would do, honestly. Not that it’s the *best* options per se… but something about that third-party enforcement and avoidance of direct conflict is appealing.

      Reply
      1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

        As someone afraid of dogs and wont pet stranger/unknown dogs as a rule, and when Im babysitting the kids arent allowed either.

        Leash laws are there for a reason and I hope this lady gets written a huge fine one day. Better a fine before a lawsuit. EVERY owner says their dog doesnt bite before it bites. And clearly she has a lot to be desired in the dogmom/doggytraining dept regardless, which is even more a reason to come down harder on her. This obliviousness can get someone killed (um, yea, dogs do that, in seconds,let’s be real.)

        If this is a company sponsored event there may be legal liability, for allowing their employees to put wrecklessly put the public at risk by offleashing a dog (repeatedly) that seriously bites or injures someone. Imagine if the dog knocked over an old frail person, or worse! the optics are baaaaad.

        Moms a nurse, Ive seen a fam member get bitten by a “chill” dog. I absolutely have called tipline/non er line or texted (we have that here). (By law, I usually start with “I Wish To Remain Anonymous.” and then give the location and dog and owner description.

        Please dont shame people for calling the police on a loose dog. Its best its called in so that there is a paper trail for a lost dog, and a loose dog is a bite risk and a safety risk to the public (by aggression/spooked/scared/dehydrated/confused Whatever. I worked at an animal sheltehaving the paper trail of when it went missing and sightings helps return dog to owner and prevent dog from being roadkill by having cops look out for it. It gives a general area the dog could be trapped, on private or public land, and if there are any reports of a spooked dog spooking people it’s easier to trace. A dog on the loose regardless of temperment is a bite risk, due to injury or whatever. Here they put out a tweet and it goes on Nextdoor too.

        I def understand not wanting dogs shot by police, but dogs can get spooked for any reason and then attack. Folks in the park deserve to feel safe. Im not safe with an unknown dog offleash in a leash law area, which is most places in cities.

        I had a guy get aggressive because I was a nanny at he time, beach day w 3 kids, dudes dog rolls up and I step in front of the dog to stop it and say “CALL IT BACK.” This was a nondog beach. He had a problem and came back to chew me out without the dog for “calling his dog an ‘It’ and he didnt appreciate it. I didnt apprecoate the harrassment after telling him to go away. The cops appreciated the tickets they wrote him. No regrets.

        OP is there conceal carry in your state? Because an obvious risk is the dog getting shot by a CIVILIAN in the park after it wanders up Unleashed to an armed person or family and acts rude/aggressive/eats crackers and is shot in fear.

        Doesnt sound like that logic would get through to her regardless.

        Reply
        1. Sweet Christmas*

          As a black woman, I will absolutely shame people who call the police on a simple loose dog, especially when they do it to avoid an awkward conversation with someone. It’s one thing if a person legitimately feels threatened, but just for a loose dog – especially if you KNOW who the owner is and that they are nearby? That’s not what the police are for. Animal Control, perhaps. People who look like me legitimately die in these kinds of circumstances.

          Reply
        2. pancakes*

          “dogs can get spooked for any reason and then attack” – You need to make the distinction between can and will. Of course it’s a possibility, but it’s not common. Feeling afraid does not give you license to do anything or everything you want to do to feel more calm. You say you’re “not safe with an unknown dog off leash in a leash law area,” but feeling unsafe does not mean that you are in fact in imminent danger, or will be. Calling the police on someone who got their dog under control for being rude to you about it is similarly self-regarding, and has nothing to do with safety.

          Reply
      1. twocents*

        This. I’m not a fan of hiding behind police for something that could be addressed by using your words. “Can you leash your dog please? Thank you.”

        Reply
        1. Amaranth*

          Its a bit tough with some bosses though, without fearing retribution or just a bad relationship. Maybe LW can tip off Parks maintenance to wander by or talk to another manager.

          Frankly, around here you aren’t getting the police or dogcatcher out for a dog that hasn’t bitten anyone. They are too understaffed to even show up at car wrecks if nobody is hurt.

          Reply
      2. StlBlues*

        Yes. This was my immediate thought. Calling the police about an “aggressive dog” is a great way to watch a dog get shot to death. For a dog that is just not being trained and managed correctly, that feels like an AWFUL fate for the dog.

        **And yes, I know that sometimes animal control will handle it responsibly and without violence. But you need to factor in what you’d feel if they did shoot the dog.

        Reply
      3. Jack Be Nimble*

        Seconding (thirding?). This is not a situation that warrants escalation to law enforcement.

        Reply
      4. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        That’s why you call animal control or the park enforcement, not just the police.

        Reply
        1. Observer*

          This is why you call animal control and NOT the police AT ALL.

          The police simply don’t belong here. Boss is WRONG and the dog is most definitely a problem. But the likely outcomes of calling the police, even alongside animal control are mostly not good.

          Reply
      5. Save the Hellbender*

        yep, police are for when you’re in real physical danger, not as a passive-aggressive way of not confronting an issue

        Reply
      6. Yorick*

        Yes. And even if it all goes well and no dogs get shot or anything, you’ve wasted the officer’s time when she could be doing more important things.

        The first step is to talk to the dog’s owner. Yes, that’ll be awkward and hard. But until you’ve tried it, you absolutely cannot pass the buck to the police, animal control, park services, or whatever.

        Reply
    2. Forgot My Last Username*

      Frankly, I’d be tempted to make a preemptive call to Animal Control, so they can read the riot act to your boss. Your boss creates a menace anytime she takes the dog out, not just with you. It would be a blessing to your community, if you could do this in a way that guarantees anonymity for you.

      Reply
      1. Caliente*

        I mean, can they just be like Would you please leash your dog?
        For grown ass people to be trying to figure out all these workarounds, including wasting the time of the police(!) because they’re scared to make a simple statement/request is madness. In my humble opinion. There are probably leash laws involved too, point to those! Also maybe go to HR and ask them to tell her without telling her who snitched?

        Reply
        1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

          I concur. Put ownership of the problem back on the owner. “Your dog is knocking over drinks, please control him” “Your dog is chasing little Timmy” “Your dog just got mud on my clothes, I’ll send you the dry cleaning bill” All said with that matter of fact of course you will comply tone. I’ve had bosses that did not take well to being told things they needed to here but I went ahead and said it anyway. We teach people how they are allowed to behave. If you let boss allow her dog to cause problems then boss will allow her dog to cause problems. If you keep telling her to go control dog she will either A) decide it’s easier to leave dog at home than listen to the complaints or b) realize dog needs some training to make dog at the park more enjoyable. I say this as someone who owned several german shepherd mixes that were over zealously friendly balls of ADHD who wanted to see/greet/do everything/everyone. It was my job to keep them short leashed or worn out enough to appear to be behaving.

          Reply
        2. Renee*

          The problem is, there isn’t really an HR, we are an academic group and therefore basically an independent entity with my boss at the top. I agree direct is probably best, but not always as easy as it sounds when there is a power imbalance and my boss has a history of reacting rashly to any perceived criticism.

          Reply
          1. Yorick*

            If you can’t directly talk to her, you could passively-aggressively bring up the problems that “the dogs” are causing, and either ask everybody to keep them leashed and stuff or ask for dog-free hangouts.

            Please don’t listen to people who are telling you to call the police. And how much worse would it be if she figured out that you called the police on her, compared to just talking to her about it? I’d guess waaaay worse.

            Reply
            1. Ex-academic*

              Good god, yes. OP, I totally get the power imbalance and how much a petty PI can make your life hell. But I don’t think the people recommending escalation get that at all! “High-strung professor gets the cops/animal control called on her at lab get-together” sounds like the kind of thing that could kick off literal decades worth of drama and retaliation, even if no one gets hurt.

              People keep talking about calling the authorities like it’s a more discreet or indirect option, which is hot nonsense. All it does is dramatically expand the universe of uncomfortable and career-risking conversations OP could potentially have with Jane. Throwing a bomb is not an indirect approach, even if you wear a mask while doing it.

              Reply
        3. BA*

          There are clearly complications here, one being a power differential between the writer and the dog owner. The dog owner also clearly sees what’s going on and has done nothing, I find it wild that you feel saying something to the boss is a cost free/ low cost proposition. I can absolutely understand why somebody would want to take an indirect route.

          Reply
        4. BA*

          Also, it’s not wasting the time of the civil authority to bring to their attention what are obviously violations of laws/ ordinances.

          Reply
          1. pancakes*

            It certainly can be. Seeing an ordinance not being followed isn’t a cue to put context, history, etc., out of mind. Even in an ordinance enforcement robot that would be bad programming.

            Reply
      2. sofar*

        Animal Control isn’t going to have the time to educate here. They have too much on their plates. Honestly, sometimes calling animal control can backfire. A friend of mine called them several times about a dog that was being left on the patio and barking 12 hours a day. Animal Control took months to come out (after multiple reports), investigated, found that the dog was being fed and watered (and given shelter) and wasn’t being chained up. And did nothing, which totally empowered the “owner” to think he was in the right.

        IF animal control shows up to the park in time, there’s a good chance that (if there’s no leash rule at the park, or no local leash law), they’ll be able to do nothing, and LW’s boss will have a hilarious story about how someone “overreacted” to her dog, and animal control said everything was “fine.”

        I agree with commenters below about LW trying their best to give the boss some kind of social consequences that make her realize it’s easier to just leave the dog at home. Boss seems lazy, so this has a chance of working.

        Reply
    3. DataGirl*

      This was my first thought as well. If you are in a place with leash laws, can you discreetly step away to make a call to the non-emergency line police line about a dangerous animal running loose (even if the dog hasn’t bit anyone yet, it sounds like it’s only a matter of time).

      Reply
    4. Cat Tree*

      That seems like the nuclear option. I would recommend at least trying some of Alison’s suggestions first.

      Reply
    5. Tuckerman*

      I wonder if there’s a way to feign concern instead of getting law enforcement involved. “It looks like leashes are required here, and while it’s fun to let dogs off leash sometimes, I worry about getting called out for breaking the law, since we’re representing our University.”

      Reply
        1. Momma Bear*

          I agree to remind her that she’s on the clock. She’s treating it like a backyard barbecue but this is a work function.

          Reply
          1. pancakes*

            It isn’t clear from the letter than they are in fact on the clock. Even if they are, I don’t think it’s a great idea for people with jobs in academia to treat one another as if they have far less autonomy than they actually do rather than have a conversation about why the boss’s behavior is a problem. This is not a butts-in-seats scenario and really doesn’t need to be treated like one.

            Reply
          2. Yorick*

            I think it’s possibly good to mention that you’re representing the university. But y’all probably aren’t on the clock at these and it would be weird to pretend you are.

            Reply
            1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

              future potential news headline: “Compamy get-together off the clock in public park ends when employee’s unleashed dog attacks a child; child’s family claims Company employees knew of activities but looked the other way and allowed wrecklessness of the law during these casual public get togethers.”

              Optics are still bad whether on the clock or not, and it is absolutely possible the law WILL hold the company responsible if something like this were to happen.

              Reply
      1. AGirlFromIpanema*

        This is a great angle to take- particularly since the boss seems to not take gentle criticism well (per OP). I’m sure they’d find a way to brush it off still, as people this wanton about the experiences of others tend to do, it at least keeps it from being an interpersonal issue. If it continues, a discreet call to the park rangers or security when it’s happening would be an understandable next step that would take it out of your hands and into the boss’s directly.

        Reply
    6. Calliope*

      This would never be responded to where I live – I know there are some cities where maybe it would be, but even a non-emergency line wouldn’t get a response on this one where I am.

      Reply
    7. fposte*

      In addition to what people say, it may also be that the outdoors in question is university property, so the boss’s status at the school may factor into security response.

      Reply
    8. Essess*

      This was my first reaction too. The boss is in a position of power over all of you and is letting the dog loose deliberately even when it’s not allowed. The boss needs to hear it from someone with authority that they need to stop. The boss has been refusing to take responsibility for the dog’s actions so it is a safety issue that the boss should receive a ticket to understand the consequences because I’m sure this is happening more than just at these gatherings when OP is present.

      Reply
        1. pancakes*

          I wouldn’t say it’s categorically off the table as a possibility. Georgia Tech campus police shot and killed a student.

          Reply
    9. EventPlannerGal*

      That seems a bit excessive to me, and has the potential to go very badly wrong. What happens if the OP is overheard? Is conflict avoidance really worth the possibility of going down in department history as the person who got caught calling the police on their boss’s dog at the department picnic?

      Reply
    10. StlBlues*

      Don’t do this. She could get ticketed or (depending on the city and the type of response) the dog could get shot to death and/or taken away and euthanized.

      Use your words. Don’t hide behind the police.

      Reply
      1. Sondheim Geek*

        I mean, she SHOULD be ticketed if she’s letting her dog off the leash in an area where that isn’t allowed., but I agree the dog could end up paying the price here.

        Reply
      2. Observer*

        She could get ticketed

        That is a GOOD outcome. In fact, if I thought that this would be the beginning and end of it, I might be ok with calling the police. (I would never recommend it though, for other reasons.)

        the dog could get shot to death and/or taken away and euthanized.

        That’s a much different issue and one that should be a concern.

        Reply
        1. StlBlues*

          To be clear, I agree ticketing would be a good outcome. A good outcome could happen, but it’s possible a much more terrible outcome could happen by calling police. I’ll rephrase my comment to:

          “She could get ticketed AS APPROPRIATE or IF THINGS ESCALATE POORLY (depending on the city and the type of response) the dog could get shot to death and/or taken away and euthanized.

          (forgive the all caps. whenever I try to bold, it all goes crazy)

          Reply
      3. BA*

        Her being ticketed such that the costs she’s externalizing to others are placed back on her, would be ideal. Indeed, if it caused her to take more care, it’d be best for her and the dog. This is actually very close to being tragic. As a consequence of my employment I’m familiar with many such situations, even a few bites ( especially to the face) can cause massive medical expenses with the result being that the poor animal is put down and the owner is forced to face serious financial consequences ( more and more homeowners insurance policies exclude dog bites).

        Reply
    11. Sarah*

      Obviously, based on some of the replies here, the perception of whether this is a useful option depends on your local authorities. Where I am (major very liberal dog-loving city) the owner would be cited but I have not heard of harm coming to the animal unless there was an active attack witnessed. There are signs in our parks clearly stating leash laws and listing how to report violators. In the larger parks there are bicycle officers patrolling for exactly this reason.

      Reply
      1. curiousLemur*

        A neighbor’s German Shepherd got out once where I live. Someone called the police, who came and apparently they just opened the gate, and the dog went right back into its yard. Sometimes things work out OK for the dog. However, this dog (although a large GSD with a deep bark) is also a sweet, friendly dog, and I’m guessing the officers could tell she wasn’t going to attack.

        Reply
        1. IndustriousLabRat*

          My Boxer-Pit mix got out onto the porch roof a few years back. He wasn’t barking or anything; just wanted to sunbathe, I guess… The mail carrier (who loves him) found him first, was worried, and called Animal Control, who subsequently called the fire department. My housemate at the time got home to discover all of them standing there, lights flashing, discussing what to do… She got out of the car and was like, “Yogurt! GET IN THE HOUSE!!!” and he just hopped right back through the window like the good boy he is… Just really, really confused.

          I truly think that dogs in general WANT to be good, and it’s up to humans to show them HOW to be good! Reinforcing ‘good’ really isn’t that difficult, and OP’s boss really has dropped the ball. Poor dog is probably completely confused as to what is expected of him.

          In Op’s shoes, I’d be giving Boss pointed suggestions for good local obedience classes, and encouraging others to do the same. It would be great for Boss to hear an actual dog training professional delineate appropriate/inappropriate dog (and owner) behaviors. As well as OP in the moment asking her to leash the pup, at minimum; using language like, “Hey Boss, that family that just showed up over at the next picnic table has a toddler, you know how terrified some kids are of dogs, I’m sure they’d appreciate if you leashed him” etc.

          Reply
    12. Beth*

      This would be my approach — speaking as a survivor of a dog mauling who still suffers from a phobia. The boss in this letter is one of my worst nightmares.

      Reply
    13. I'm just here for the cats!*

      That can be tricky as the police have more important things than an unleashed dog that you know belongs to someone (plus everything else these days)

      I know that the LW says the boss doesn’t have someone above her, but she kind of does, the provost or the chancellor or president (whatever terminology your university uses for the person in charge of the school). Wouldnt it be awesome to invite this person and the dog bounces over and knock them down???

      Reply
      1. Self Employed*

        I like this the best because the LW’s department chair isn’t going to shoot the dog or arrest some BIPOC bystander aggressively for no reason.

        Reply
    14. Lyra Silvertongue*

      I never understand why people want to call the cops when having a conversation would probably suffice. We can just… not seek to criminalize people for relatively mundane things!

      Reply
    15. DataSci*

      Absolutely not. Involving the cops is an enormous overreaction. You don’t call them unless someone is in real and immediate danger, and not just of having their hamburger eaten.

      Reply
    16. NJAnonymous*

      I was hoping someone would suggest this. This is totally what I would recommend! I don’t have experience in academia but from everything I read second hand, it doesn’t sound like many of Alison’s (otherwise on point) answers would have much of an effect…

      Reply
    17. Observer*

      Please do NOT call the police. Animal control, if it’s available, yes. But the police is a REALLY bad idea.

      Either the police won’t show up, or things will probably not go well.

      Maybe it’s because I’m not especially a dog lover (I like them but no more than that), but my first concern was not the safety of the dog, and of other dogs, but of the people in the area. I doubt that police are trained all that well to deal with rambunctious dogs who are not being well handled by their owners. If a police officer draws a gun to shoot at a dog, there is a good chance that a human will get hurt because we’re talking moving targets in a filed that’s not clear to start with. So, I would expect that just for that reason alone, the dogs would be relatively safe. But even if shooting never starts the possibility of the police encounter going badly is high.

      This is not a slam at police. The reality is this is NOT something the police should be involved in. Which is another reason not to call the police. Please leave the police to deal with the things they SHOULD be dealing with like actually violent crime, emergencies, etc.

      Reply
      1. Jack Be Nimble*

        I can’t second this enough. Calling the police is an escalation on a massive scale. I don’t think anyone is saying “talking to your boss is an easy solution!” or “talking to your boss is definitely-consequence free!” but it’s the next step.

        Calling armed law-enforcement in this situation would only be appropriate in this situation if the dog was already biting/attacking. Police involvement could very easily escalate this situation to a dead dog, or worse, dead people. Right now, this is a social dispute with a few people (and no weapons) involved. Calling the police, by its very nature, turns this into a legal dispute with a lot more people and a non-zero number of weapons involved.

        Reply
    18. Hamish the Accountant*

      I would really like it if we could stop calling the police over relatively minor issues as the first resort, instead of even trying to talk to people.

      Reply
    19. JSPA*

      If one’s relationship with the boss is so damaged that you’d rather see her fined, and her dog possibly impounded, than have a word with her, you should probably not be working together.

      I know we’re supposed to believe the OP, but the OP is reporting both fact and interpretation, and OP specifically mentions being someone who particularly “feels a lot of responsibility for how my behavior affects people in public.”

      If the dog indeed “charged” a stranger, that person would be the appropriate person to make the call–if they in fact felt “charged.” (As someone with allergies, if someone’s dog comes “charging” up to me, even with the best “goofy good boy” dog intentions of face-licking, hand-licking and crotch-sniffing, I am VERY quick to explain that this isn’t OK!). Conversely, if none of the people at the park have had words with the boss–after all, nothing’s stopping them!–then maybe OP is misreading the interaction.

      Similarly, if people are looking around for the owner, they may be anxious in case the dog is a run-away, and needs help, not because the dog is bothering them–and if the dog is bothering them, they could use their feet, their voices, and their free will to give the boss a piece of their mind, or call the dog in.

      My suggestion would be that if OP likes dogs, or can hide their dislike, OP can bring along a leash (they’re cheap!) and ask whether they can take the dog for a (leashed!) run as part of an exercise regimen, or whether the dog can sit by them, as they’re considering getting one, or considering sitting a friend’s dog, and they need more dog practice.

      If OP wants “no dogs,” OP needs to spend the capital to ask for “no dogs.” There’s no magic world where you 100% outsource your desires by telepathy. And there is a word where calling the authorities on people backfires on people (and animals) quite spectacularly.

      (Also, on a purely practical level, I’d be quite suspicious of the idea that anonymous calls automatically remain anonymous.)

      Reply
      1. Self Employed*

        I have made “anonymous reports” and my landlord has always been smart enough to figure that the person who complained that the desk clerk wears her mask on her chin and never her nose is probably the one who escalated to County Public Health after being told that it’s none of my business whether their staff follow the COVID protocol posted on the front door.

        Reply
  2. Clorinda*

    This is dog who is headed for a sticky end. I’m sad for it and for the people who will get bitten. Does the institution have some kind of legal counsel whom you could consult? But otherwise, you’ll probably just have to wait until the inevitable happens (dog bites someone or runs into traffic).

    Reply
    1. merp*

      I know this situation is awkward and it sounds like the boss will be a pain about it, but this is the thing that would get me to act. It’s not the dog’s fault – speaking up (if there is a good way to do so without something drastic like endangering your job) is doing the dog a favor. It’s obviously not on the coworkers to manage the dog or how the boss takes care of the dog (and I’m glad the LW recognizes this!), but I just know if it were me, this would be the motivator.

      Reply
      1. merp*

        Also, side note – I personally am scared of dogs who get a bit wild. Wondering if maybe that route is an option for asking about keeping the dog on a leash? For me, leashed dogs and dogs who are clearly under control by their owners/well-behaved are not an issue, but I would be absolutely terrified if an unleashed dog with no clear owner watching charged at me.

        Reply
        1. SchuylerSeestra*

          Same. When I was a kid my neighbors Rottweiler had a tendency to get loose, and chased my sister and I as we were walking home from school. This happened more than once. It was terrifying. Since then I’ve had a phobia of large off leash dogs. I’m ok with my friends dogs, but not strangers. So yeah, a rando dog coming at me would send me into a panic.

          Reply
          1. curiousLemur*

            I love dogs and grew up with friendly big dogs, but a dog I don’t know running up to me tends to make me nervous. Not all dogs are friendly.

            Reply
            1. Momma Bear*

              When I was a kid, someone’s evil Pomeranian liked to chase kids on their bikes and bite their legs. It’s one reason I don’t like small dogs much.

              Reply
            2. The Rural Juror*

              I was injured in a dog park once (it was an off-leash area) because someone brought their Kamikaze dog and let them roam free. The dog intentionally ran through my legs from behind me! I fell down and my knee went the wrong way. I was barely able to get my dog back and put her on the leash so I could hobble to the car. The dog owner was nowhere to be found! Someone came over and asked me if they could help me to my car. Turns out they had witnessed the same dog run through someone else’s legs the week before, but luckily that person wasn’t injured. They had been trying to figure out who the dog belonged to, but hadn’t had any luck.

              Even if the dog doesn’t bite anyone, it could still seriously injure someone by knocking them over!

              Reply
        2. ElleKay*

          Yes, this is a good option but it sounds like this has been going on for some time. It’s going to be hard for the LW to “suddenly” be afraid of dogs when they’ve been fine in the past

          Reply
          1. Observer*

            Except that the OP has NOT been “fine with it.” They have been stressing out over this, and it’s perfectly reasonable to say “this really scares me and I’m just at the end of my ability to deal with it.”

            Reply
            1. EventPlannerGal*

              But whether the OP actually is fine or not – and she doesn’t mentioned being scared of the dog herself, just stressed – nobody has raised this issue with the boss at all so far so the boss most likely believes that she is fine. If this has been going on for some time and the OP has not at any point mentioned a fear of dogs, and then after X number of meetups she suddenly says “oh by the way I’m afraid of dogs”, it’s going to look a bit weird. To me it makes more sense to start with the immediate actual problems (it’s disruptive, it’s messy, it’s freaking out other people in the park, it’s fighting with other dogs) than to claim that’s she’s had a secret fear of the dog the entire time. It just seems like adding an extra complication into a fairly straightforward situation.

              Reply
    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Does the institution have some kind of legal counsel whom you could consult?

      Hmm, that could be interesting. “Hello, Legal Counsel, just wondering, if we’re on a university-sanctioned outing, and Boss’s unleashed dog bites someone, could the university be held liable?”

      Reply
      1. Clorinda*

        IANAL but if I were bitten by this dog I would at least ask a lawyer if I could sue the university.

        Reply
      2. PersephoneUnderground*

        Not the worst thing to ask- legal counsel is paid to be extremely cautious about liability after all, even if it’s not particularly likely to come back on them.

        Reply
    3. Self Employed*

      I like the “university legal office” idea. Nobody gets shot and Boss gets to hear exactly what would happen if someone connected the University to the off-leash rampaging dog.

      Reply
  3. Velawciraptor*

    Ok, so HR isn’t an option. But does your institution have an ombudsperson you and your colleagues could go to?

    Reply
    1. PT*

      My husband’s U has an anonymous reporting hotline for this sort of stuff.

      The hotline came out of an ENORMOUS scandal, and I’m really not sure how many resources they’d allocate to a misbehaving dog, but on the other hand, they have to investigate every tip and ENORMOUS scandals don’t happen that often.

      Reply
      1. Amaranth*

        I would imagine even if they found it ridiculous, someone would send a note to the Boss saying that people are complaining about her dog rampaging through staff picnics so she needs to follow leash laws at staff events.

        Reply
    2. SD*

      I was thinking the legal dept. If Wild Dog bites or otherwise injures someone (knocks down a Little Old Person thereby breaking an arm or hip), you can bet the university would be on the receiving end of a lawsuit, not just the owner – deep pockets. They would probably like to avoid that predictable scenario.

      Reply
    3. Junior Assistant Peon*

      It’s academia. If your boss is a famous bigshot who brings in a lot of funding, he could pretty much get naked and dance on a table with no consequences.

      Reply
      1. Eleanor*

        100%. The second the OP mentioned they were in academia, my thought was, “If your supervisor is oblivious enough to let this happen in the first place, nothing you can do will change their behaviour.” Maybe I’m just jaded, but it’s hard to see how you can push back against this without jeopardizing your academic career…

        Reply
        1. Paulina*

          Same. Heads of research groups can be laws unto themselves unless there’s something actually illegal going on, and “academic freedom”, especially combined with the vulnerability of grad students and research assistants, can be used to excuse hiring practices and work assignments that even break that. It’s at-will employment at its worst, even in non at-will places.

          Reply
    4. Rock Prof*

      This is a good idea. I have colleagues who have been able to deal with issues through an ombudsperson.

      I initially read the OP’s letter picturing someone going to my dean (in theory the boss of program directors and chairs at my school), and it would go over so poorly.

      Reply
    5. Well...*

      Ombudsmen in my experience are super useless. They are more likely to be a source of gossip about confidential info than solve any problem.

      Reply
  4. Sarah*

    Oof, this gave me secondhand anxiety just reading about this. I fully relate to OP’s tendency to feel especially responsible for how my behavior affects others in public, and this would absolutely bring my anxiety and blood pressure to a peak. How can other people be so unencumbered by the implicit expectations of living in a society?
    Alison’s suggestions are good; I hope OP doesn’t have to resort to option 1, assuming they enjoy these events otherwise. :-(

    Reply
    1. Jack Straw*

      Also experienced the secondhand anxiety, especially for a work outing where it would not be unheard of for people to realize the group with the wild, unleashed dog was from Teapot University or Widget School District. As I tell the students I coach: “One of you represents ALL of you.” Every person in that space now thinks that people from TU or WSD are horrible, irresponsible people.

      Reply
      1. Sarah*

        YES, exactly this. Now that I think about it, my reaction is probably a mix of my tendency toward anxiety and having been a Girl Scout and in band; that philosophy of representing the group was definitely reinforced through those activities. :-D

        Reply
  5. A Poster Has No Name*

    Is there any chance the institution could be liable if someone got hurt because of the dog? Do the gatherings in any way show who you are (so, could the institution get complaints about the dog from the public about the dog)?

    It may be possible to get others involved from a legal or public relations standpoint if there’s any chance the public could be hurt by it and either sue them or see local news headlines about “University dog runs amok and injures three” or whatever.

    Reply
    1. Smithy*

      In my reading of the letter, these get togethers were more so a social outing with coworkers akin to a happy hour as opposed to Local University’s Llama Grooming Research Symposium in the Park with Dogs. I’m sure anyone sufficiently minded might be able to bring a case against the university, but it would be more akin to an employee getting into a fight in a bar during an unofficial after hours happy hour – and then suing the company.

      Presumably it could be tried, but it doesn’t seem like a super obvious one to one link that would make a university’s more diffuse structure adequately motivated to intervene. And if they did, the result would still probably be something far more broad – such as “no after hours work events can include dogs”. Which is a move the OP could still try to do within their own department first in a much less confrontational way.

      Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Although it could still be an ugly news story. “University Bigwig lets dog run wild during Teapot Department social event, child is bitten!”

        Reply
        1. Smithy*

          I think it’d be heavily dependent on the local news context, but “dog bites child” would have to be at a pretty extreme level to warrant even local news coverage.

          Ultimately, I still think the OP would have to expend a lot of capital and likely expect HR to expend a lot of capital to step in regarding a poorly trained dog. In particular where it’s a poorly trained dog who’s not bitten anyone yet.

          If the OP were to try to ask for dog free events and the boss pushed back, then I think that there’s a lot more context to go with. But it just seems really hard to make the case to HR around liability or PR with the information we have now.

          Reply
          1. Self Employed*

            If there’s already “town vs. gown” hostility, a small university town newspaper and social media would be all over the “University group let unruly dog run wild and bite child” story. Even if it’s the free paper with the concert listings, movie reviews, and classified escort ads. (Speaking as an alumna of a medium-sized rural university in a town with a population 2x enrollement.)

            Reply
  6. The Original K.*

    This sounds so stressful and not at all enjoyable. Options 1, 2, and 4 sound like the least stressful, probably in that order – if Jane would balk at being singled out, I’d opt for option 2.

    Reply
    1. The New Wanderer*

      I would either be turning down these events or talking to my team about get-togethers that don’t involve the boss. I can’t deal with unruly dogs and checked-out owners like that. It wasn’t clear from the letter whether the boss was arranging these or just invited, but if people otherwise enjoy the gatherings why not have them without the boss?

      NB: this was the norm with my grad school colleagues. Maybe once a year there were faculty-led picnics, but generally the students hung out socially on their own. I don’t know if this is as reasonable for staff.

      Reply
      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        Yeah, this is a good suggestion I haven’t seen above! Just have these without the boss if she isn’t fun to have there. It’s perfectly normal for coworker get togethers to leave out supervisors because they can put a damper on things just by their presence.

        Reply
  7. Carolyn Peterson*

    How about pointing out the legal ramifications, not just for her but possibly her employer. If that dog knocked over someone, bit someone or ruined landscaping, she, and her bosses might be open to some nasty legal matters. My son, at the age of 8 was bitten on his face on by a “friendly” neighbor dog and netted $60,000 after legal fees. The legal system will eagerly take on these cases as the awards can be very high most of the time due to the owners lack of oversight. It was found that the dog that bit my son had bitten 4 other children, which they hid. My son, now an adult is doing very well but it was very tough on him as a child. A smart attorney would go after her employer as well.

    Reply
  8. Free Meerkats*

    I recommend a 6th option; while the dog is creating mayhem, call the police non-emergency number or the parks department, or animal control (whoever would handle it in your area.) And if the dog is aggressively chasing a person, call 911.

    Reply
    1. FrivYeti*

      I would not recommend calling the police unless you want the dog to be shot, especially the 911 call. Dogs get shot by the police all the time.

      Parks department is a good idea, though.

      Reply
      1. NJAnonymous*

        Additionally, some local ASPCA-type organizations may have a hotline/capability to answer these kinds of calls and provide citations.

        Reply
        1. Save the Hellbender*

          Wait, no. Even if “most cops” don’t act violently on imperfect information, which I personally don’t believe, 1) enough do that it’s still not right to risk it and 2) interactions with the justice system, even if they don’t result in death, are damaging enough that good citizens and coworkers who know each other shouldn’t call the cops (at all but especially) when they haven’t addressed anything yet! I think FrivYeti is being incredibly “reasonable.”

          Reply
    2. Save the Hellbender*

      Why would you call the police – who have guns and use them! – instead of asking the boss to leash the dog????? I don’t think it’s a fair assumption in 2021 that a call to law enforcement will result in just a stern talking to or a ticket. Who else (including humans) would that put in danger just to avoid an awkward conversation?

      Reply
      1. Well...*

        I’ve gotta say this whole thread is really opening my eyes to the amount people are willing to prioritize in order 1) dog manners 2) dog well-being 3) human life.

        “This person is not a fully informed pet owner meeting my personal standards CALL THE COPS” I am so mad right now.

        Reply
        1. Jennifer*

          And what do you want to bet they’ve tweeted #BLM in the past year? I’m super pissed right now.

          Reply
          1. Hamish the Accountant*

            That’s what gets me. This commentariat leans so lefty when talking about workplace discrimination, and then…

            Reply
        2. Jackalope*

          I totally agree that calling the cops is not the best response here, *but* I don’t think people are prioritizing things like Well…. is saying. The dog in question has specifically acted aggressive towards multiple other dogs (“frequently the play turns into scuffles and loud aggressive fights”), and is also showing signs of aggressiveness towards humans (“She makes no move to restrain her or tell her no, even when the dog started barking at and charged a man. I was certain the dog was going to bite him but my boss did not even get up.” You could also argue that the dog running “through and over us” might be aggressive, although it could also just be playful). Again, I’m not arguing that the police are the best option here, but when a dog is already showing regular signs of aggression, including towards humans, then calling the police is not putting dog manners above human life, it’s saying that human life may be at risk either way but maybe the police can help. I will admit that I am biased in this area since I’ve been attacked and bitten by dogs whose humans said they were fine, so I would be super concerned if I were there. But it’s not like they’re wanting to call the cops because the boss isn’t scooping poop or something.

          Reply
        3. Lyra Silvertongue*

          Right?! An incredibly mild inconvenience and it’s like no no, we must get the cops involved. I do wonder what some people took away from the past year…

          Reply
    3. Lyra Silvertongue*

      The number of people on this thread who would rather call the cops over having a mildly difficult conversation with someone you know! Wild.

      Reply
    4. Elsajeni*

      Besides the other issues people have noted about involving the police, it’s baffling to me that this is being presented as if it’s a less confrontational option than saying “Jane, could you please leash your dog” — like, the OP is actively on a picnic with her at the time they’d be making this call. What are they going to do, put their hand over the mouthpiece mid-call and mouth “not YOUR dog, some OTHER wild unleashed dog” at her? Even if they’re able to excuse themselves to far enough away that no one can overhear the call, I find it hard to believe that Jane would take great offense at someone politely asking her if she’d mind putting her dog on a leash, but would not be upset enough to try to figure out who called the police on her dog.

      Reply
    5. Catherine*

      Even in a hypothetical world where calling 911 when a dog is chasing a person wasn’t a dramatic escalation, I think this idea truly underestimates how fast a dog can be. 911 is not going to get to the scene of a dog attack before it is over unless they’re practically already on-site.

      Reply
      1. pancakes*

        That too. There’s an odd imbalance in many of these comments – the thinking seems to be “I’m in immediate danger” and simultaneously “it’s best to wait for someone in uniform to arrive and handle this conflict for me.”

        Reply
  9. AnonEMoose*

    Argh…irresponsible dog owners like this really frustrate me. I would be itching to put a leash on the poor dog and teach him some manners, for his own sake. But I like the advice to mention the behavior to her in the moment…it seems like it might have a shot at working, at least? Best of luck, OP.

    Reply
  10. Accounting Otaku*

    There are two other options here:

    1) Start correcting the dog yourself. Not ideal, and could possibly start drama, but an option. I have corrected other people’s animals in public and most of them respond. At the very least, it teaches the animal to avoid you because you enforce boundaries. It can either impress or embarrass your boss.

    2) These sound like public places where leash laws are normally enforced. Next time it happens, discretely call animal control or other authorities about a lost dog. Then let the authorities shame your boss.

    Reply
    1. Nea*

      I’m seriously surprised that other dog owners haven’t already done this, if the loose dog is attacking theirs.

      Reply
      1. Accounting Otaku*

        I’m also the person who would just ask for the dog’s leash and contain it myself. I had to do this at the dog park the other day when an owner just would not stop his dog from obsessively humping another dog. Owner finally got the hint when I pull the dog off myself.
        Other dog owners need to ask this boss if they plan on paying the vet bills from the next fight.

        Reply
        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          Yeah, I was just thinking this. Leash the dog and hold onto it, if you’re willing. Just have it sit beside you. If the boss comes by and is indignant, say it was fighting another dog, and OF COURSE that needs to be stopped.

          Obviously this is on top of one of Alison’s tips for coming forward, and similarly, something you might not want to be the only one doing.

          Reply
          1. Eat My Squirrel*

            I would take it a step farther and show up at the gatherings with a clicker and a pouch of dog treats, and start training the dog to do a long down stay. If boss notices their pooch is happily lying next to me all afternoon, “I guess I just have a way with dogs!”

            Of course, this option requires that you have the skills to accomplish it. Also that boss isn’t so bats**t crazy that they get mad at you for trying to teach their dog. Or giving it treats (when eating everyone’s food is ok… I could 100% see them getting mad about tiny dog treats while laughing at the dog eating a whole tin of lasagna.)

            Reply
            1. pancakes*

              I don’t have the sense that the letter writer wants to spend the entirety of these events dealing with the dog.

              Reply
              1. Eat My Squirrel*

                Oh I wasn’t suggesting that for the LW. Just suggesting that’s what I would do. Because I would. In case anyone else with the skills and inclination is in a similar situation.

                Reply
          2. DW*

            “Leash the dog and hold onto it”

            Problem is, that keeps you close to a dog that’s known to act aggressively with other dogs and humans. And leashes enforce a maximum distance from you, not a minimum distance. Being close to a dog that’s out of control is often the least-safe option.

            Reply
            1. Yorick*

              It kinda sounds like this dog would be ok if it were kept on a leash. It would still probably be a bit annoying, but it would be pretty ok to be around.

              Reply
            2. Accounting Otaku*

              To be perfectly clear, this was not something I advise doing. I said I would be the person to do that mainly because I have experience training dogs.

              Reply
            3. Lizzo*

              My interpretation of this dog’s behavior: dog is high energy and isn’t getting the physical or mental stimulation he needs at home, so he goes to these events and GOES WILD. That’s not aggression.

              Reply
              1. Observer*

                It doesn’t matter if it’s aggression in this case. Because it IS a poorly behaved dog that’s apparently not amenable to sitting still. So, it’s anyone’s guess how well things are going to go if anyone but her owner is going to try to leash that dog.

                Reply
    2. Firecat*

      Eh. I don’t recommend this. My FIL is a terrible dog owner. His dogs mess in the house and jump all over you. I put up boundaries with the dogs, and yeah they eventually (after several visits in an intimate environment) got it but to this day it causes friction. I would not want to risk it with a boss.

      Reply
    3. Observer*

      Start correcting the dog yourself. Not ideal, and could possibly start drama, but an option.

      Not if the OP has concerns with their boss. And considering that the OP says: “She has a history of reacting somewhat rashly when she perceives she is being attacked” it’s clear that the OP is worried about more than mild drama.

      Reply
    4. Snuck*

      I agree Accounting Otaku…

      Option six could be “Bring a lead yourself, and with the dog gets out of hand put it on a lead with a smile and say “Oh gosh, Fido is stomping the picnic, let’s just hold on a minute there Fido”…. and when Fido gets released… re trap Fido again the next instant … And if your boss says “let him roam” you can say “oh, but you’ll get fined, and I’d hate for Fido to run into traffic/bite that child, he’s such a gooood dooooogie” – she will see you as supportive of animals, a little bit annoying (but not as annoying as saying something and doing nothing) and ultimately hopefully realise she should ‘parent’ her dog.

      And yes on Option Seven… call the Ranger discretely. I’d rather do number six first… it’s pretty ‘blatent’ to show up with a lead to manage your dog’s boss… if that fails then call the ranger and get the owner fined. Do it discretely.

      Reply
  11. PeanutButter*

    One of the reasons I’m so reluctant to leave my current gig, even though there’s limited growth opportunities, is the fact that the USDA would shut us down if anyone brought a non-research animal on campus. (Not withstanding the fact that I am extremely allergic to dog saliva, the number of times I had a chemistry lab interrupted by an ESA charging through while on a teaching campus was…more than 0. Those times I was more concerned for the dog’s safety than my own!)

    Reply
  12. Little Pig*

    I think there’s another option, to pretend that you had a bad experience with an unleashed dog as a child, and being around energetic dogs makes you nervous. I think you can approach in a way that is not conflict-y – you are uncomfortable and going to her for help. Set up the conversation so she feels motivated to reassure you (I’m embarrassed that this is bothering me so much, I’ve really tried to play it cool, I just get so nervous with Leo running around that it’s hard to enjoy the party. Do you have any advice? Can you help me?). Any reasonable person would take this as a strong hint to leash Leo or leave him home! Even if you ask for dog-free events, I think beginning with this kind of build-up will soften the message and be less likely to trigger a defensive reaction.

    You know Jane better than we do – would this work, or would she just blithely have Leo jump all over someone to “prove” to you that he’s no threat?

    Reply
    1. Anonosaurus*

      I get the point you are making but the majority of people (especially oblivious and entitled people like Boss) will simply say “Ohhh I’m so sorry that happened but ikkle Leo is so sweet, he wouldn’t hurt a fly, he’s just a big soft silly” (then laugh hysterically as Leo knocks someone to the ground and worries them for 20 minutes). Can’t tell you the number of times I’ve flinched away from some rampaging though well meaning hound in public and the owner has said “Oh but he won’t hurt you!” – I agree he probably won’t, but I just don’t like dogs and I don’t want to interact with yours!

      Reply
      1. GS*

        AMEN TO THIS. The number of rude dog owners in this world is mind baffling. If I am crying, flinching and terrified as your dog is following me down the road barking – weakly calling him back, him ignoring you and saying he wouldn’t hurt anyone is just ridiculous.

        And yes, the above has happened multiple times with different dog owners.

        Reply
        1. Double A*

          Ugh the number of people who screech, “He’s friendly!” while their unleashed dog charges for you and your toddler is just… ARGH. Then when you look terrified, or pick up your child, they give you a dirty look.

          We had an old dog who was NOT friendly and she tended to react to strange dog in a way that pissed them off and made them want to attack her. I always kept her leashed, but that doesn’t help if the other dog is unleashed. Lots of people would let their dogs run up to her crying, “She’s friendly!” and the only thing I know how to say is, “Okay, well my dog isn’t!” and then again they give you dirty looks and act offended. Like, sorry, we adopted a weird old dog who was used as a breeder for a decade and she has terrible social skills as well as dementia. We’re just trying to provide her comfortable twilight years; there’s no way we can train her to be “friendly,” but we can keep her leashed and away from other dogs…unless you won’t let us.

          And then the poop… SO much dog poop because of unleashed dogs.

          Reply
          1. Reba*

            I have a similar situation with my lovely-but-neurotic-about-this dog! I’ve taken to loudly announcing, in an upbeat tone, “my dog is not friendly!” when I see another dog/owner looking our way — or perhaps more often, not looking our way because the owner is on their phone.

            Reply
          2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            Yes, I can’t fathom it. I sometimes walk a dog who is sweet, and even does really well in a doggy day care, but when he is walking he is really aggressive. I don’t know if he would attack another dog, but he lunges and barks as soon as he sees them. So I would never let it get to that point, and if dogs are walking near us I get him away. We’ve never encountered an unleashed dog but I would be telling the owner that this dog is NOT FRIENDLY. Unless your dog is so highly trained that they walk at heel without a leash, they need to be on a leash for their own safety (and even then, for the same reason you still need to wear a mask if you’re vaccinated, among others).

            Reply
          3. Mockingjay*

            We have medium/large rescue dogs who are often labeled as a “dangerous” breed. We’ve worked very hard to teach them to heel and walk politely, reduce aggressive behavior, and all the other things a properly trained dog should know, to keep them healthy, happy, and safe. And what happens when we walk in the neighborhood, properly leashed with vocal commands guiding them? The neighbors let out their yappy little dogs who have never been trained AT ALL, only spoiled, who rush out of the yard directly at our dogs, barking madly. Our dogs’ first reaction is to actually pull away. But Little Yapper keeps coming, so ours finally respond with deep chesty growls that scare the bejesus out of everyone. Then oursget labeled as ‘aggressive.’

            Dogs need training. All dogs. Scratch that. Owners need training. All owners.

            Reply
          4. Mallory Janis Ian*

            My husband used to pick up my then-kindergarten aged son from school on his bicycle, with a little trailer bike in tow for my son to ride. They happened to pass by this one lady’s house while she was unloading groceries and had her dog loose in the yard. The dog charged toward my son, and she just stood there and called out , “Don’t worry! He won’t hurt you; he’s friendly!” And the dog took a big chomp out of my sons calf!

            Reply
          5. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

            I had a cattle dog mix who had not been socialized before I owned it (it was already a year or two old by that point) She either was ok with another dog or she REALLY WAS NOT. She did not like other dogs rushing up at her. She was always on a short leash if I saw another dog coming. I don’t know how many times I heard “he’s friendly” and yelled back “Mine isn’t”. Once I was walking 3 dogs on leashes. Unfriendly, Very Friendly, And Usually Friendly Unless the Other Dog Starts It. Ran into 3 off leash boxer mixes about a block ahead of a gaggle of small kids who’s parents where a block behind them. There younger dog wanted to play but was too over excited (and the kids started screaming because they were afraid of a dog fight) I already had Unfriendly pulled up short. Their dog jumped Very Friendly who just tried to keep moving out of the way. I had to pull Usually Friendly out of the way so she wouldn’t join in. (Usually Friendly went for broke when she decided to fight) I had enough time trying to seperate dogs to explain to the kids that they needed to calm down because their screaming was causing younger no clue how to social boxer mix to fight before the parents finally caught up and grabbed the 3 dogs and put them on leashes. Very Friendly was unhurt luckily. However IF UnFriendly or Usually Friendly or the other 2 dogs had got involved we could of had dead dogs and mauled kids. Keep your animals on a leash unless it has a perfect recall and is Very Friendly and well behaved. Very Friendly is the best behaved dog I have ever owned. But I always keep him leashed and tell other owners “he’s social if your’s would like to greet” instead of letting him just charge over.

            Reply
      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yep. My younger child was (inexplicably) terrified of dogs for several years when they were younger. Even when they started shaking, crying, and trying to run away/hide, dog owners would insist their dog was “friendly” or blame my child for inciting the dog’s behavior (“he thinks you’re playing with him!”). And people get VERY offended when you tell them your child is frightened of dogs in general and ask that they put their animal back on leash and hold onto it (because the leash laws don’t apply to their “friendly” darling).

        I can’t tell if a large dog running at me and jumping is trying to lick me or bite me, and I don’t care to find out the hard way.

        Reply
        1. Anononon*

          Ugh. I have a leash-reactive dog, so I never allow him to interact with other dogs – when I’m walking him and we pass near another dog walker, we cross the street, and my dog stays at my hip on the far side of the other dog. The number of other dog owners who see me take these precautions and go “Oh, he [their dog]’s friendly!” That’s nice, but maybe my dog isn’t!!

          Reply
          1. lizw*

            Right there with you! One leash reactive, the other car-reactive. Fun when I’ve got a strange dog on one side of the road and a car coming.
            My dogs are great but one day they may not be or they come up on the wrong dog and things go sideways. I always prepare for that day.

            Reply
          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            My aunt used to do the same thing. She had a small dog who was not particularly other-dog-friendly, and she spent so much time trying to explain that to her neighbors (who not only refuse to use leashes but also let their dogs out the front door rather than in their fenced backyards) and that she was crossing the street to avoid a situation not because she was antisocial. Hers needed the leash and needed to be out or range of other dogs, and people had such a hard time accepting that. (Ultimately, one her neighbors free-ranging dogs attacked hers, too. The neighbor dog was much larger and caused serious injuries to her dog.)

            Reply
        2. Anon for this*

          I had a roommate who moved in with me knowing I was terrified of dogs, then proceeded to (the sequence of events lasted about a year, I only was able to piece it together in the aftermath because apparently different mutual friends were told different parts of the whole):
          1. Place an order with a breeder for a purebred puppy
          2. Stop taking her anxiety meds
          3. Not apply for any jobs while she was telling me she was actively looking but her anxiety was so bad, she needed to find a therapist to renew her prescription but they were all full on patients
          4. Ask me if she could get a dog and if so I could get a cat (no)
          5. Verbally browbeat me and tell me I need to get over my fear someday (funny how she didn’t need to “get over” her anxiety but mine was trivial)
          6. Tell me she found a therapist online to write her a prescription for an emotional support animal for treating her anxiety so therefore she was getting it whether I signed off on it or not.
          7. Announce that she was getting a puppy when the puppy she ordered a year previously was born.

          Then I kicked her out of the apartment for not helping pay rent and stealing my car.

          People who mock people who are scared of dogs are not nice :/

          Reply
        3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          I am good at reading dog body language, but I still get alarmed by a dog running right at me. Even if the dog is not attacking, they can still knock me down or get so excited that they start nipping. And if they are running straight at me, I don’t have a lot of time to read the situation.

          We had neighbors when I was a kid who had a bull mastiff that they would let out in the front yard off leash. The dog would charge at people walking past on the street. He was a big, stupid, stupid, friendly boy (God, that dog was dumb as rocks) – but do you know how huge a bull mastiff is? Joggers would scream in sheer, unthinking, animal terror. It’s unreal how some dog owners behave. And yes, that dog died after getting hit by a car. Completely predictably.

          Reply
        4. Rusty Shackelford*

          I can’t tell if a large dog running at me and jumping is trying to lick me or bite me, and I don’t care to find out the hard way.

          And as much as I like dogs, I probably don’t want your large dog to jump on me and lick me in a friendly way, either.

          Reply
        5. Rock Prof*

          This happens with my son, too. He gets super nervous around big, excitable dogs (he’s 4, so anything large lab or bigger), so I apparently have the developed the habit of always putting myself between him and dog. I love big goofy dogs and have zero self-preservation around them when I’m by myself, but luckily my parental instincts easily override my “must pet puppy” instincts.
          We have a neighbor who takes his very excitable and friendly dogs for unleashed walks, and they’ve run into our garage while we’re getting in the car to say hello, but I can understand that it’s super scary when 2 dogs as big as you are running straight at you. Last time that happened, my 4 year old started screaming (they really startled him because he turned around and BOOM dog!), and I haven’t seen the dogs off leash since.

          Reply
      3. singularity*

        Agreed, my child (4 years old) has never even had a negative experience with a dog and yet when one larger than he is appears and comes at him too fast, he screams and breaks into loud crying. Most people in this situation insist that their dog, ‘isn’t mean’ and ‘he’s just being friendly!’ They don’t try to get the dog away from him and act like something is wrong with my child for not wanting a dog up in his face. I have to pick him up and haul him away while he’s screaming and inconsolable while they keep *insisting* their dog is harmless.

        Reply
        1. Just a Thought*

          When I see a kid – or anyone – is frightened by my dog, my response is “I won’t let him near you. I’ve got him.” I go out into the street or pulled us to the side to let them pass. He is a hound-y mix and does not have a bad bone in his body but why not just lower the temperature for everyone!

          Reply
          1. Rock Prof*

            This is the response I love to see. I was walking with my 4 year old, and there was someone walking their big goofy dog who stopped, had the dog sit on the grass strip next to the sidewalk, and announced, “is it okay if he sits here while you pass? he’s friendly but excitable.”

            Reply
          2. Malarkey01*

            SAME. We have a dog that we lovingly refer to as our “big dumb happy dog”. He’s afraid of other dogs, has aggressively barked less than 10 times in his life and all were actually warranted, and is gentle enough that he let our toddler roughhouse with him while he looked at us with an expression that clearly said what is this tiny person doing and I must stay statue still until she is done.
            STILL if we’re walking and I see a kid, or any adult, that looks the slightest bit uncomfortable we go into the street, make him sit while I closely hold the collar, and tell them don’t worry I’m holding on and he won’t approach you. I love my dog but am afraid of other big dogs so I 100% get it and why scare anyone?

            Reply
        2. Reba*

          I mean, to your child, a dog is like the size of a young hippo to an adult. With lots of teeth! It totally makes sense to me that they would be scared!

          Reply
        3. Observer*

          my child (4 years old) has never even had a negative experience with a dog and yet when one larger than he is appears and comes at him too fast, he screams and breaks into loud crying.

          If a kid did NOT get scared in that situation, that’s when I would worry. Because fear is actually a very reasonable reaction here – the kid is being charged by a creature that could easily hurt him, and despite the owner’s reassurances, that kid can’t know that.

          Most people in this situation insist that their dog, ‘isn’t mean’ and ‘he’s just being friendly!’

          Does owning a dog make people stupid? Sure, your dog may only be trying to be friendly, but it can STILL hurt the kid! And even if the kid were being unreasonable (they’re NOT), when someone is scared you take that into account.

          Manners 101, people!

          Reply
      4. limotruck*

        Yep. I have a high-drive young dog that has been known to charge out of the front yard at people walking/walking their dogs, and I had a hell of a time convincing my partner that this is unacceptable whether or not he thinks our dog would actually hurt someone. In the moment, with a sixty pound dog bellowing as he charges you, the owner yelling out “he won’t hurt you” isn’t reassuring.

        Not everyone likes dogs and that’s okay, some people are scared of dogs and that’s okay. It’s not their responsibility to pretend to like my rude teenager of a dog. Owning a big dog is a responsibility; it’s my job to make sure either he doesn’t harass others or he doesn’t have the opportunity to harass others (if I haven’t been able to train him not to).

        Reply
        1. curiousLemur*

          Thank you for doing this! I love dogs, and I usually get along well with them, but I don’t want a dog I don’t know to come charging at me.

          Reply
      5. Bagpuss*

        I really wish this would work, but unfortunately there are a lot of dog -owners of the irresponsible kind whose reaction would be “Oh, but Leo’s a softy, you’ll love him”

        I’m not generally scared of dogs, but having had a couple of bad experiences I am cautious of dogs I don’t know, and even i your dog is lovely and friendly, I mostly don’t want it jumping up or slobbering on me.
        I was walking a while back when a couple with a large and bouncy dog approached me – they failed to leash or control their dog which bounded up and jumped up at me, which since the path was muddy and slippery an the dog large and fat, knocked me down. I wasn’t seriously hurt, but I was 2 miles from home, on a chilly, windy day and now wearing soaking wet jeans from being knocked on my backside onto long, wet grass, and covered in wet mud from muddy paws. When I got home I found I also had several large bruises, and pulled threads in my jeans from the dogs claws.

        The dog’s owners didn’t apologise, they just set “Oh, he’s young and excitable” and then looked hugely offended when I said that since they knew that, it would be sensible for them to make sure that he was on a lead and under their control in public.

        I get wanting to let you dog run about, but surely that’s what those long, retractable leads are for, so you can keep a degree of control over your dog until you’ve taught it to stop of come when told to do so.

        I think in OP’s case, a direct request is going to be needed – maybe talk to the more responsible owners ahed of time and see whether they are willing to make the request or back you up – they’re maybe less likley to be accused of being anti0-dogor not understanding.

        I also think that bringing it explicitly to her attention every single time the dog needs attention may work, too – make it clear it’s a problem and make it her problem. This will work best if you get a bunch of co workers to join in, so that she is repeatedly being told “Can you get hold of Leo, he’s knocking over drinks” “can you grab Leo, I’m not comfortable with him jumping up” “can you keep Leo under control, he’s in the food again” , ” you need to get Leo, he’s chasing that child” –

        Reply
    2. Rae*

      I have an extreme dislike of cats due to a fun incident that culminated with my getting a rabies shot on Christmas Eve in an ER 1500 miles away from my home. You have no idea how many times I’ve heard “but my cat isn’t like that”. I’m glad for you, that’s great. Rabies shots suck. But just keep it away from me.

      Reply
    3. Observer*

      Any reasonable person would take this as a strong hint to leash Leo or leave him home!

      Except that the OP’s is manifestly NOT a reasonable person. The OP describes MULTIPLE situations that would cause a reasonable person to put the dog on a leash, and she has not chosen to do so. What makes you think that this will be any different.

      Reply
  13. Threeve*

    Is it lying time? “My brother just got attacked by a dog, and I’m really nervous around dogs off-leash now.” (Make up a family member who doesn’t exist if you’re superstitious like me).

    Reply
    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Irresponsible dog owners like OP’s boss don’t care. My mom was bitten by a German Shepard (on her arm, inches from infant me’s head), and she was wary of them for a long, long time. People like OP’s boss just insist that *their* dog is totally different and that you’re the irrational one for being wary. (A family friend had the sweetest GS you’d ever want to see, and my mom got on well with him, but large dogs she doesn’t know well still make her twitchy.)

      Reply
      1. Bagpuss*

        Sometimes they don’t care even when it was their dog.

        I was at a family event years ago when (After having been repeatedly asked to keep their dogs under control because they were snapping at people, including small children) one distant relations dog did bite someone.
        The person who was bitten was, understandably, furious. He wasn’t badly hurt, but as he pointed out, being an fault, he got bitten on the upper leg, and it was relatively minor as he was wearing trousers made of fairly thick, fairly loose fabric, so most of the damage was to his clothes. The bite was about face-level for his daughter, and the reason he got bitten and she didn’t was because he grabbed her a lifter her up out of reach.
        The dogs owners still felt everyone who had asked them to control their dogs, and those who now demanded that the remove the dogs, were being unreasonable and over-reacting. And repeatedly demanded that the host let them bring their dogs back to the event.

        (They lived next door to where the party was taking place. There was no reason at all they couldn’t have taken the dogs back to their own home to let them chill out somewhere they felt safe and comfortable. )

        Reply
    2. Observer*

      OP: Is it lying time? “My brother just got attacked by a dog, and I’m really nervous around dogs off-leash now.”

      Boss: Oh, but muppit is just such a lovable lunatic! She’s crazy in the BEST way! Don’t be nervous, enjoy her!

      Reply
  14. Sarah*

    Unfortunatly, depending on the law in the OP’s area, it might well be the dog who pays the ultimate price. Where I live a dog who bites someone and gets reported are often put down. It’s not fair to the dog to have such an uncaring and inattentive owner, and to the public who has to deal with the ramifications of her inactions.

    Reply
    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I wonder if this would be an effective scare tactic. “Aren’t you concerned Buffy will accidentally knock someone over? I know she’s just being friendly, but I’ve heard so many stories about dogs who had to be put down because they accidentally hurt someone in public.”

      Reply
  15. Anonosaurus*

    In my experience, dog owners become immediately defensive if you dare to suggest their beloved pooch is anything less than adored by all who set eyes on him/her, so if you are going to talk to your boss, you might want to use language that heads this off at the pass (if you can – I’m not sure I have a script for it).

    If it were me writing in, I would be focused on the dog’s behavior towards you and your coworkers (I cannot imagine eating food that is also being eaten by a dog or even has been licked/sniffed by the dog, nor would I want to have to dodge Fido while balancing a plate of salad, a glass of wine, and my purse) rather than how the dog behaves to people in the public space generally. However, it sounds like your concerns are more driven by anxiety about the impact of the dog on everyone present, rather than the unpleasantness of dealing with the dog within your group, which is fair enough. I wonder if it is worth distinguishing these two areas of concern when speaking to coworkers, though? Some of them might be more on board with speaking up if they were focusing on how the dog affects your specific gathering, rather than how the whole park has to deal with the fact your boss refuses to train or discipline the poor pooch.

    If it helps, I also would not want to attend an event where someone’s dog was allowed to behave like this.

    Reply
    1. Sarah*

      What I don’t understand is, is there no shame in owning a badly behaved dog anymore? I have an almost year old lab puppy who still acts like a loony puppy sometimes, even though we’ve done his beginner and intermediate training already and obey all leash laws. I’d be embarrassed as hell if my dog was behaving like the dog in the letter! If it’s not a situation where I can easily control my boy, I just wouldn’t bring him. Just because I love dogs and take care of mine doesn’t mean I get to force other to interact with them. This doesn’t sound like events that I would even consider bringing an animal to. Does the boss not understand how terribly her choice to bring her crazy untrained animal reflect on her??

      I know my dog really well and he’s always been friendly and sweet up until now, but he’s still an animal and that behavior could change for any reason at any time which is why I always have him on leash for his safety and everyone else’s. I’d be devastated if my animal hurt someone. Off leash dog parks are a thing, if the boss wants her dog to roam free she should either find a designated park or keep the dog in her own yard.

      Reply
    2. Nanani*

      Only BAD dog owners do this.
      Good owners understand that training is important for the dog’s own safety as well as that of humans around it.

      Dog training is mostly about training the owner, as they say.

      Reply
  16. Smithy*

    I think the easiest replies are to not attend or to ask for some “dog free” events. Making a request for your boss to be a better dog owner seems overly fraught and not where I’d personally want to expend capital at work with a sensitive boss.

    That being said, another idea might be to propose spaces that are enclosed – perhaps even your boss’ backyard? It probably would take a lot more research and effort than it’s worth, but it something leaps to mind where at least the dog is more contained, that might help a little.

    Reply
  17. Chilipepper*

    Tell her, “you love your dog so much, I am really surprised you are willing to let him be euthanized.”
    When she is surprised, say, “well, clearly, his behavior is one step from biting and then the authorities stepping in and I just assumed …”

    Reply
      1. Chilipepper*

        I was trying to be harsh and (fake) clueless to shock boss into taking some action.
        And really, I’m not wrong. That is where this boss is headed.
        As others said, the problem is owners, not dogs.

        Reply
        1. Calliope*

          It’s not going to come off as clueless, it’s just going to come off as aggressive. You’re better off just being direct.

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth Bennet*

            Yes, very passive aggressive. I’ve never seen passive aggressive maneuvers work in the way intended. The recipient is usually upset and defensive.

            Reply
          2. Chilipepper*

            I’ll make one more attempt at my point.
            I was going for a joke about the movie Clueless since someone quoted it. I can see why everyone says this is a passive aggressive thing to say but for me, its a pretty direct and honest one.

            I have had some success with an appeal to the animal’s welfare with someone who is feeding feral cats at our workplace parking lot next to an undeveloped area. She is doing TNR but is doing the feeding pretty badly and attracting raccoons and the raccoons have been aggressive with people in our parking lot. I told the woman doing the feeding that she is putting the cats at risk, which she is. There has been talk of euthanizing the cats.

            I honestly think the woman is putting her dog at risk. And as others said, I think she will deflect any direct comments. So I’d put the focus on the potential harm to the dog.

            Reply
    1. Beth*

      Yes. Sooner or later, one of the bystanders who’s being rushed is going to call 911 — or, given our ever more heavily armed society, they might simply shoot the dog themselves. And then go on to sue the boss and the university.

      Reply
      1. Observer*

        I hope not! I don’t care how good a shot someone is – these are NOT scenarios where a responsible person should be pulling a gin. WAAAAYY too much chance that someone gets hurt or killed.

        Reply
  18. BA*

    Another comment, I’m always baffled by dog owners who simply think that their regard for their dog is everyone’s regard for their dog. It’s wild that they don’t consider that people might not like dogs or perhaps that they might not like their dog in particular.

    Reply
    1. Rachel*

      I feel like in recent years there has developed more and more of a consensus that, if an event is outdoors, it is completely appropriate to bring dogs in every case. Sometimes that is OK, but even when they are on a leash, I don’t feel it is a good idea to bring dogs to things like crowded outdoor festivals or carnivals. I think a work event with food and drinks is another example of a bad environment for dogs. I know I will get some pushback on this, but when did it become OK to bring dogs everywhere? This is not something I ever saw in years past.

      Reply
      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This drives me nuts. People bring their dogs to my child’s outdoor sporting events and stand right next to one of the many signs stating “NO PETS ALLOWED”. The ones who walked over to do drop-off/pick-up and are merely stopping to get their kid don’t bother me. The ones who bring their dog into the stands or stay for an hour-long game/practice with their dog burn me up. What is it about them and their dog that makes them special enough to disregard the posted regulations?

        Reply
        1. I edit everything*

          We sometimes take our dog to my son’s baseball games (less often recently), but never to a field where we don’t know the dog rules or where dogs are explicitly not allowed. She’s mostly happy to lie by our chairs and watch the game, but if she gets restless, we walk her away from the field so she won’t disrupt things. She likes to be outside, and the kids know to ask if they can pet her (they can), and it’s good for her socialization to have interactions with other people. But if there’s no good place to walk, or if dogs aren’t allowed, or we don’t know the field, she doesn’t come.

          Reply
      2. Bagpuss*

        I suspect some of it is that people haven’t trained their dogs so they can’t leave them at home without the dog wrecking the place, and /or they anthropomorphize them and therefore treat them as one of the family and feel it’s not fair to leave them behind.

        Reply
      3. Jennifer*

        +1 It’s not really a good idea to have a dog at an event with open food and drinks. That just seems weird to me. A lot of dogs sneak food.

        Reply
    2. Right*

      ^This

      My dog is fairly friendly but she doesn’t want to “be friends” with your dog. She’ll sniff at another dog on the street and then move on. But any dog that barrels up to her at full speed is likely to get snapped at so “Oh, he’s friendly!” doesn’t do you any good when you don’t know if my dog is!

      (And mine is old, settled down, and well-trained so I can keep her from actually biting your dog!)

      Reply
  19. JillianNicola*

    Ugh, there’s apparently been a rash of this kind of thing, where people got dogs over this past year for companionship/comfort but then didn’t have enough spoons or resources to actually train the dog in any meaningful way. My in-laws, who we live with, included – and for whatever reason they got a puppy, when what they really want is a dog who just lays around all day and never gets the zoomies. Thankfully she minds me and my partner for the most part but they just put her out in the backyard when she gets too wild and she just barks at everything at all hours, she has horrible separation anxiety issues, and she’s not at all socialized with other dogs/people so when someone new comes along she loses her mind. It’s exhausting!

    Reply
    1. singularity*

      And now some of these people are going to be returning back to work in their offices, rather than working from home, and the dogs are going to be left to fend for themselves all day, especially if they don’t bother to train the dogs or put them in some kind of doggie day care.

      Reply
    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      This is one of the things that I always tried to emphasize for prospective dog owners, when I volunteered at a rescue; training and socializing a dog is not a small task even if you know what you’re doing – for first time dog owners, or anyone who didn’t grow up with good models of the task (and most people didn’t, even if they owned dogs, because they were usually too young to be involved in the process meaningfully), puppies and high energy dogs are a really bad idea. Even relatively sedate dogs will usually have enough energy/stamina to keep up with you on a casual walk, and an older rescue is often a better choice for most people and families.

      Reply
      1. F.M.*

        When I finally got a house with a fenced yard and decided to go to the city shelter to adopt a dog, I fell in love with a year-old Australian shepherd mix. Beautiful, sweet, friendly dog. Made an appointment with the staff to talk about adopting her, and laid out what I could offer: fenced back yard with doggy door from the house, two walks and a game of fetch every day, hang out on the couch with us in the evenings.

        And I was told, no, this is not the dog for you; she’s high-energy and high-intelligence, and needs an owner who can put her into agility training, because if she’s not given a job she will eat that couch, and possibly the fence.

        Ended up with a three-year-old mutt who was perfectly satisfied with two walks, a fenced back yard where she could bark at squirrels, and a game of fetch every day. I’m so glad that staffer knew enough to tell me my lifestyle wasn’t the right one for that dog. Because the two or three dogs my family had when I was growing up were very much in the “housetrain, teach them to sit on command if you want to get fancy, there, the job is done” style of dog ownership, and I am definitely not high-energy enough to handle a dog that wants regular runs, not just walks.

        Reply
  20. Migrating Coconuts*

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the legal angle Alison. Even though this is a ‘social’ gathering, it’s still work related. In this litigious world, someone will sue the company and I’m betting the court/jury will find the company at least partially responsible. A word to HR about the legal problems they could face should be enough for them to consult lawyers and take action.

    Reply
    1. hbc*

      Yeah, I get why OP thinks HR is off the table, but this isn’t like going to complain that your boss was being mean to you or you don’t like the contents of your review. An employee is putting the university at legal risk during a sanctioned outing–they’ll find someone in their group to address it, even if there’s no person dedicated for the issues of this one group.

      Reply
  21. Audrey Puffins*

    Do you have a renowned dog-lover among your co-workers who you could get onside? As the number one dog fan in both my current and previous places of employment, people would know that if *I* was suggesting that a dog be left at home then it must be serious. And it is serious, honestly. Keeping a dog under control is for the benefit of people, sure, but it’s EVEN MORE for the benefit of the dog. It’s just not fair to the *dog* to let it run riot without enforcing boundaries.

    Reply
    1. TiffIf*

      THIS! If this were my company my friend/co-worker–who loves dogs and is part of a foster dog rescue–would have stepped in long ago. She generally has between 6 and 8 dogs in her home (usually all tiny dogs). And she is BIG on training and properly controlling your dog. This manager’s behavior and dog’s behavior would absolutely INFURIATE her. And she would be vocal about it to the boss.

      Reply
    2. CircleBack*

      I’m shocked the other dog-owners in the group are going along with this! If another dog was running wild trying to play with/chase my leashed dog, I’d be livid. A loose, poorly-trained dog can bring out the worst in my otherwise well-behaved dog, and I’d be totally on board with a “no dogs at these work togethers” rule, since it wouldn’t be safe to bring my dog around the boss’s anyway.

      Reply
      1. Observer*

        From what the OP says, the other dog owners are NOT on board, but are reluctant to speak up for the same reason that OP is reluctant.

        Reply
  22. Nea*

    Since Boss obviously doesn’t care about anyone (or relishes the ability to throw everything into disarray), then an appeal to consider anyone else’s opinions is likely doomed to fail or trigger feelings of attack. It’s been my experience that a lot of people feel attacked when they’re simply reminded that they live with other people who have rights and feelings too.

    So maybe reframing this as “Boss, I’m worried about you or the dog might get through.

    “Our department budget can cover the liability insurance/damage deposit, right?” (If Cujo is picking fights, I’m half surprised Boss hasn’t been sued by another dog owner already.)

    “My goodness, that other dog owner looks mean! I hope he doesn’t try to sue you for little Cujo just playing.”

    “Oh my god, I hope that man doesn’t kick Cujo! You hear so often about violence aimed at people’s pets. We sure wouldn’t want anything to hurt Cujo!” (If necessary, substitute “hit”… or even “shoot.”)

    Reply
  23. PT*

    You’d think Boss would get tired of cleaning up all the poop and throwup from Precious Doggo eating things she shouldn’t at these parties.

    Reply
    1. Double A*

      Oh, I would bet you a thousand dollars she doesn’t clean up after her dog. Our local hiking trails are covered in dog poop because people let their dogs off leash (not allowed), which then they think absolves them from cleaning up after their dog (I mean, they have no idea where the dog is or what they’re doing, so why would they know or care when the dog poops?).

      Reply
      1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

        I don’t know who’s worse: people who leave dog poop in parks/trails, or people who bag up the poop, and then just LEAVE THE BAG THERE. Like, how is that helpful??? Now you just left poop AND plastic in the park. Argh!!

        Reply
    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think PT means what the dog does at home, after eating the participants’ food at the parties.

      Reply
  24. TimeForALeash*

    Maybe suggest that all dogs that attend must be kept on a leash? Mentioning the trouble that dogs have caused in the past, but not specifically metioning the specific dog that is really causing the trouble? Or making up a list of rules that all dogs must abide by, and when then transgress, the leash must be used?

    Reply
  25. HailRobonia*

    You mention you work in academia, which leads me to suspect your boss is a professor. I also work in academia, and basically the school’s attitude is faculty can do no wrong.

    Reply
    1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      BINGO. At a college where I worked, they had open grassy areas that became unofficial dog parks even though the campus (and the city it was in) had leash laws. Nothing was ever enforced, so anyone and everyone within walking distance took that to mean dogs were allowed every-f***ing-where. I intervened when some faculty member’s huge off-leash dogs attacked a poor senior lady and her leashed senior dog, chasing them into some bushes and trying to bite the small dog. I called campus police – they couldn’t have given less of a s**t.

      Reply
  26. cactus lady*

    Large dog owner here! My pup is voice command, hand signal, and e collar trained and whenever he is off leash he is always within my control (i.e. someone with treats or who wants to play would not distract him from listening to me). I can’t stand people like this, and actually we don’t go to the dog park anymore because of them. Training my dog has been a ton of work and I don’t want him learning bad habits. Anyway, is there another dog owner (ideally your boss’s peer, or at least someone with a well behaved dog) you can enlist to tell them to leash the dog/get it under control? I have found that people tend to listen to me when I have my dog with me – and often apologize for their dog not being well trained – but when he is not with me they just brush me off. A well timed, “good lord, put that dog on a leash! What is wrong with you?” goes a long way. Important note here – focus on the OWNER’S behavior, not the dog’s. Whatever the dog is doing is a byproduct of how the owner has structured (or not structured) its life.

    Training a dog isn’t rocket science, but it is a lot of work and consistency. If you’re not willing to do that then a dog isn’t for you.

    Reply
      1. cactus lady*

        It shouldn’t be! I get why leash laws are a thing, but I definitely think it should be allowable for dogs to be off-leash in public places as long as they are under the command of their owner (i.e. not going up and saying hi to everyone, running amock, etc). For the safety of both the dog and the rest of the population. It only takes ONE out of place jump on the wrong person to get a dog put down. No thank you.

        Reply
    1. JustEm*

      Not all dogs are as trainable as others. Despite YEARS of working with him, our large lovable rescue is most certainly not under voice control nor well behaved when he gets excited. I have experience training large dogs successfully … It is not lack of desire/knowledge on my part. But because of that, my dog is never ever off leash in public and we are careful about what situations we bring him into, knowing the potential for chaos.

      Reply
  27. Az*

    This dog is poorly trained and it sounds like the owner lets it get away with a lot. However, I disagree that this necessarily means that the dog is *dangerous*. Does OP spend much time around dogs in general? It’s likely that the dog is rambunctious and playful but not aggressive.

    That said, I do think that the dog should be kept on a leash unless it’s an off-leash dog park, and that suggesting to your boss that it could reflect badly on the university to have dogs running around off-leash or asking for dog-free gatherings are probably the best options.

    If the dog is large, or is one of those stocky, square-headed breeds, please don’t call the police. Police shoot dogs.

    Reply
    1. thethatcher*

      An unleashed dog is dangerous. They are unpredictable, and even without biting, or scratching can cause serious issues for those who are allergic. I’m so sick of dog owner’s saying ‘it’s okay, he’s friendly!’ when I don’t want the dog near my son because he won’t be able to breath after interacting with the dog.

      Reply
      1. PeanutButter*

        Same here. I get full body hives and angioedema from some dogs (I’m allergic to a protein found in dog saliva, but it is expressed only in some dogs but I don’t know which ones until I’m in the ER. While I used to be able to be around dogs with only mild symptoms they’ve really ramped up in the last few years.) “He’s friendly” doesn’t help me. Then people act like I must hate dogs – my dream a child was to be veterinarian! Sometimes life turns out that way. I’m constantly low-key worried about ending up as some “Karen” on a viral video where I’m having to yell and kick at an off-leash dog to get it away from me at the local park where I run.

        Reply
        1. thethatcher*

          I can’t tell you how often we get the ‘you hate dogs’ look of shame! I don’t hate dogs, but honestly, I have come to hate their owners a fair bit. We chose to move out of our last neighborhood because so many ignored the dog leash laws, and HOA leash rules, and had branded us as bad people who hate dogs when we would cross the street and shield our kid from a ‘friendly’ dog. Though some neighbors understood completely the vast majority viewed their dog’s ability to run free more important than my son’s ability to breath.

          Reply
    2. Pikachu*

      It doesn’t necessarily mean the dog is dangerous, but the only way to find out is the hard way. By then it’s too late.

      Reply
    3. knitcrazybooknut*

      Getting knocked over by a dog is no joke, especially for those of us with balance/vertigo issues, thinning bones, and no peripheral vision. I can probably stand my ground if I know it’s coming, but this situation doesn’t sound like that would be possible.

      Reply
    4. animaniac*

      If an off-leash dog jumps on me and licks me enthusiastically and sheds dander all over me… I may not have any puncture wounds but I’m still going to be headed to the hospital. Because as somebody with an allergy to dogs – that much contact is TOO MUCH CONTACT and I should be able to walk around without having to worry that somebody’s pet is going to want to enthusiastically make friends with me and trigger an asthma attack.

      Reply
      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        If I’m bowled over by a dog or even a hyperactive kid I’m going to end up in hospital too. It’s not fun having a spine that’s held together with spit and wire 99% of the time.

        Reply
    5. Double A*

      I disagree with this. Any dog can be dangerous. As someone mentioned, there’s allergies, so you have no idea who might have an allergic reaction to the friendliest of dogs.

      Second, dogs may be perfectly predictable in familiar settings with familiar people, but when they are worked up because they don’t know the setting or the rules, they are likely to behave in much more unpredictable ways. We had an old dog who was terrible with other dogs because she’d been a breeder for a decade before we got her and was never socialized or trained. She made other dogs really mad with her cringing, cowering, defensive body language (she was always leashed, but you can’t get away from an unleashed dog). I would sometimes pick her up when unleashed dogs charged her, because I could tell she was triggering aggressive responses in other dogs. The owners would look super offended, but it’s better to prevent a dog fight than to try to break one up.

      Toddlers are especially at risk from dogs. They are also unpredictable and are prey-sized.

      Reply
    6. No Tribble At All*

      Nope, as a random person in the park, the dog is dangerous. Any unknown animal with large teeth and claws that can knock me over is dangerous.

      Reply
    7. Kammy6707*

      Agreeing with others that unleashed dogs are dangerous. My husband was walking our 15-pound terrier on a leash at a park by our house. This park has baseballs fields and someone happened to be playing fetch with their large dog. While my husband was passing by, the other owner threw the ball and rather than chasing it, the dog ran straight toward my dog and bit him. My husband hardly had time to react. And what did the owner say? “He’s never done this before, he’s so friendly.” My dog was bleeding, had to be rushed to the vet and needed stitches. My husband was panicking and not thinking straight, and the guy clearly wasn’t going to offer up any of his information. It was a $500 vet bill and we had no idea who the guy was, so we couldn’t even report it.

      We did call animal control, the police, and the park service because dogs were constantly off-leash at that park (illegal) and they basically said they didn’t have the resources to patrol the area. It will take someone getting seriously hurt for it to be taken seriously, so now we rarely go to the park, which is sad because we used to enjoy it, including our dog. We will occasionally go together so that at least there is two of us if something happens.

      So yeah, now when I get the “my dog is friendly” shout when I cross the street to avoid a dog, I get to respond “that’s what the owner of the dog who attacked our dog said too.” And that usually shuts them up.

      Reply
      1. Kammy6707*

        Following up to say that our vet said they see this all the time and lots of their clients have taken to bringing some sort of large stick/baton on walks with them as defense. It’s ridiculous and irresponsible dog owners are frustrating.

        Reply
    8. MCL*

      From the letter: “She chases any dog she sees and frequently the play turns into scuffles and loud, agressive fights.”

      That’s dangerous behavior for the other dogs she is harassing, and potentially will escalate to an human getting injured when they try to intervene in a fight. Even if she is just play-fighting, the other dog might be fighting for real, and then things can get hairy really fast. I would definitely be really worried about being around this dog, and I really like dogs of all sizes and have been around them all my life.

      Reply
    9. Observer*

      It’s likely that the dog is rambunctious and playful but not aggressive.

      That does not mean that it’s not dangerous. It may not be aggressive, but the OP’s description says that this dog actually does pose a danger to people. The OP says:

      she runs through and over us, knocking over drinks. She chases any dog she sees and frequently the play turns into scuffles and loud, agressive fights.
      ~~~Snip~~~
      the dog started barking at and charged a man. I was certain the dog was going to bite him but my boss did not even get up.

      This dog is quite likely to hurt someone – most likely a child.

      Police shoot dogs.

      There are a lot of good reasons to not call the police. This doesn’t even reach the top 10. It’s not that I think it would be great for the dog to be shot. But, really, that’s just not the most serious possible consequence of this irresponsible owner’s behavior.

      Reply
  28. thethatcher*

    If a dog comes charging at me, or my son who has a severe dog allergy I will take actions to protect us from said dog. so far this has just been putting myself between the dog and my son and shooing it away. however some owners seem to think they are doing me a favor by allowing their dog to ‘play’ with my son. If a dog is aggressive, or forceful in trying to get to my family I will physically restrain, or defend us against the dog.
    The LW’s boss is extremely irresponsible, and it could lead to the injury of another person, or to the dog itself.

    Reply
  29. Pikachu*

    I like Option 3. Just call Jane out on the dog’s behavior every time it’s happening. It’s objective, true, and necessary.

    Maybe everyone at these outdoor gatherings should stop bringing or buying food/drink and make sure Jane knows it is because nobody wants to share with a dog.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth Bennet*

      Same. Repeat as necessary. Hopefully it’ll act like Pavlovian conditioning, where she starts to hear the requests to correct her dog’s behavior when she sees it without anyone having to ask, and she does it. Or maybe the constant requests will drive her to leave her dog at home. Make it uncomfortable for her too.

      Reply
    2. Mental Lentil*

      I keep thinking about those parents who paid their kids a dollar every time they saw someone without a mask on and called them out loudly on it.

      Maybe everyone throws in a dollar and they keep calling her out on this and whenever she leashes the dog, the last person who called her out gets the money? Let’s make it fun while we’re teaching her how to be a responsible adult.

      Reply
  30. Former call centre worker*

    Another option – ask the boss if future events can have a rule that *all* dogs must be kept on a lead, due to unspecified past incidents where unspecified dogs (cough cough hers cough) were badly behaved. That way she might get less defensive because you’re not directly pointing the finger at her dog.

    Reply
  31. Llama Llama*

    Something kind of similar happened to me. I worked with someone who was basically senior to me but not in my chain of command who would bring his dogs on our orgs events (hiking trips). His dog would race up and down the trail, worrying our (mostly older) attendees that they would get knocked down. Co-worker knew dogs were supposed to be leashed on the trail (they’re our trails, we made those rules) but I guess he was special because he was an employee? I was the trip leader and eventually had to ask that he leash his dog, which he did. Later, after the event, I had to email him (and his boss) that there would be no dogs off leash at events, period. I know it’s a different situation because my coworker was not my boss but I think the strategy of saying it’s making others uncomfortable can work for the OP. Whether it’s “It looks like Leo is making a lot of people uncomfortable” or ” other’s have told me that they are getting uncomfortable with Leo being off leash” or whatever I think you can shift some of the blame off yourself on to a nebulous “other people”.

    Also – just talk to your boss. If they are the type of boss who will retaliate against you for pointing out that her dog behaves badly and she should do something about it then you have a boss/job problem, not a dog problem.

    Reply
  32. not that kind of Doctor*

    Even if the OP doesn’t report it, SOMEONE is going to eventually; the owner will be fined and the dog could be destroyed. Especially if it bites someone. The OP would be doing the boss a favor to point this out.

    Not that the boss will see it that way. :-/

    I think I would approach the boss discreetly (so she isn’t embarrassed in front of others) and express concern for the dog’s safety in the event that there’s a dog hater loose in the park?

    Reply
  33. Twisted Lion*

    Maybe someone can say they are allergic. I dunno. I think either way someone will need to address it

    Reply
    1. thethatcher*

      I would not recommend lying about being allergic. It makes it that much harder for real allergies to be taken seriously.

      Reply
  34. irene adler*

    If the boss doesn’t take the hint that she needs to control her dog, then maybe some of the dog’s victims need to lodge complaints. Boss is not on the receiving end of the complaints against her dog’s behavior. So she probably doesn’t grasp the potential gravity of the situation.

    Maybe the next time that dog chases or charges someone, I would see to it that the dog’s owner is pointed out to that someone. And let them know where to find them later on, should they be too shaken up to confront the boss at that time.

    I’ve walked through city parks where dogs are supposed to be leashed at all times. And, yes, I’ve been chased -and nearly attacked – by multiple dogs -while the owner was right there watching (holding leashes). As I kicked at them to get them away from me, all I got was a dirty look. I even cried out for help as I tried to get away from them. Owner didn’t lift a finger to call his dogs off.
    (I got the heck out of there! Wish I’d reported it to someone.)

    Reply
  35. Dasein9*

    There is a very simple maxim I wish folks would get on board with:
    Don’t expect strangers to be closer to your dog than you are.

    It can be for the dog’s benefit as much as any human’s; people can be jerks.
    Frightened people behave unpredictably, even when they’re not generally jerks.

    Reply
  36. knitcrazybooknut*

    OP, there is an option of actually “letting” yourself get knocked over by her dog in front of her, and exaggerating any injury that might happen because of it. I’m thinking of the football/soccer player version of this behavior. Also, please do not actually hurt yourself.

    Reply
  37. This is not a pipe*

    Anonymous note! You have got to use an anonymous note. It would be perfect. Solve all your problems.

    Reply
    1. pancakes*

      I doubt that very much. There’s no reason to believe a person who is happy to be “exceptionally irresponsible” about the way their dog behaves with their coworkers is going to have much, much higher esteem for the approval of an unknown person. It would also be very apparent that the note most likely came from someone in the group.

      Reply
      1. The Original K.*

        And the note would say what? “Your dog acts a fool?” She knows and doesn’t care – that’s the whole problem.

        Reply
      2. This is not a pipe*

        I’m so sorry, I thought it was really clear that this was sarcasm. There have been five or six letters about people with dogs getting anonymous notes specifically, and more about them being used for other things. They’re always a terrible idea to get out of an awkward conversation. I thought it would be an amusing suggestion, considering some of the lengths commenters are suggesting OP go to (calling the police!) to avoid said awkward conversation.

        Reply
        1. pancakes*

          I’m sorry too, lol! I have seen people earnestly recommend anonymous letters for all sorts of situations and they really do think they’re being clever.

          Reply
  38. animaniac*

    EvilMe™ says: “Jane, I’ve noticed that some of the dogs are having problems getting along in such a big group when we’re all together. What do you think about hiring a dog trainer for the next couple of get togethers and making that part of the gathering for the dogowners?”

    And then let the trainer tell her that she’s not handling her dog right. Just make really really sure that nobody sees you tip him off about her dog. And be really enthusiastic about putting anything he recommends into practice with your own dog. Make a point of trying it out, etc.

    Reply
    1. Marillenbaum*

      That seems really smart–it makes it easier for people who bring their dogs to fully participate in the gathering, people who are uncomfortable around dogs know that a professional is keeping an eye on things, and as someone who isn’t in the Terrible Owner’s chain of command, that person is better positioned to set them straight about Doggo’s behavior.

      Reply
  39. DKMA*

    So I’m on team “going to the boss will be useless” here. I think the best options are to sidestep the issue by planning on events that dogs are clearly not welcome at. This may need to wait until later in the pandemic when you can do things inside.

    I’m assuming the boss doesn’t plan the events, but

    If you get a few months of dog free events in the books, I think you can try some of the other strategies (especially having a peer with a dog try to enforce leashing rules or event organizer setting a “leash only rule” and drafting other dog owners as conspirators) and it will be more natural. Frankly if you do that now I think the dog owner will act like he’s being attacked and refuse to comply and it will be worse. But if you can introduce a bit of distance so it feels like a new thing, rather than a change to an old thing, it may work.

    Reply
  40. Black Horse Dancing*

    I adore dogs, all animals really. I really feel for this dog. I may be totally wrong but I got the sense he/she is a medium sized dog or smaller. Many people with smaller dogs see their wildness as cute just like parents with aggressive toddlers. Stuff acceptable with a smaller dog would be never accepted with big dogs. (I’ve have had Irish Wolfhounds. No way could they get away with this stuff!)
    Even so, Leo is sooner or later meet a dog that puts his/her paw down. I have a huge Siberian Husky that adores people and always seems willing to play with another dog. He won’t–he’s an assertive, rough and tumble dog and most dogs don’t appreciate having another dog jump on their head. Perhaps appealing to Jane by saying “Leo is really getting wild. I’m afraid he’ll get hurt be picking a fight.” I agree a dog owning peer would be best to talk to her. As other people also bring their dogs, maybe one of them as well.

    Reply
    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      The trainer I went to with my dog always said to not let them do things as puppies that you won’t want them doing as adult dogs. She called it “start the way you plan to finish” — it might be cute when they’re little, but if you don’t think it will be cute when your adult dog is doing it, you have to stop them when they’re little or they’ll keep doing it.

      Reply
      1. Jesse*

        I like how universal this advice is! I give it when I talk about raising baby Burmese pythons, since the “cute” enthusiastic feeding response is going to be less “cute” and more “potentially life-threatening hazard” when she’s 20 feet long.

        Reply
  41. SomebodyElse*

    Realistically the LW cannot really do most things suggested here except for 1,2, and 5 from Alison’s response.

    Calling the police, telling the boss her dog is going to be euthanized, and many other suggestions fall under the category of fun to say, but terrible advice.

    I think the best option is either #1 or #5. If it’s an occasional outside event, then I lean towards suck it up, go, and leave early when/if you get fed up. There is something freeing about deciding to not care… I say this as a dog lover who would also find this annoying and once had to reprimand my puppy for stealing a brat out of someone’s hand at a cookout (well I reprimanded her and made her walk with me to the garbage to throw it away all while my friends were laughing hysterically!)

    Reply
  42. Tex*

    Is the park within the college/school setting? If so, the maintenance and landscaping head might make a phone call to your boss. They spend a lot of money on making the school look nice.

    Reply
  43. drpuma*

    Since these are social get-togethers in a park, I wonder if folks ever bring a significant other or friend. Maybe you or a coworker could bring a new person (who’s been tipped off in advance and doesn’t mind) to be the Extremely Reasonable New Person and do suggestion #3. “Oh no, your dog just knocked over that table!” “Holy crap, did your dog really knock over that small child?” You all have been ignoring the dog for some time, it’s often easier for a new voice to speak up about strange things. And even if the new person is not listened to in the moment, that someone is speaking out at all could seed the ground for a #4 where you all talk to your boss together.

    Reply
    1. Mrs. Hawiggins*

      I was just going to post something similar – rent a friend for a day out and have them sit nearby pretending they don’t know anyone, and complain loudly to the boss “hey your dog just ate my birthday cake!!!” And I hope that’s all it does. Nobody’s challenging the dog, or the boss and someone’s going to get in trouble for it. Preferably not the dog since he has a brainless owner.

      Reply
  44. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Please note that I have changed the dog’s name from Leo to Petra in the answer, after someone pointed out that she is a she! (Explaining this because otherwise the many comments referring to her as Leo will be confusing.)

    Reply
      1. Mental Lentil*

        I just assumed Leo was short for Leonardo and Leonarda. (I’ve always waited for a female equivalent to the TMNT. I mean, they did this with the PowerPuff Girls.)

        Reply
    1. Canadian in Scotland*

      Think it’s kind of half-Leo, half-Petra at the moment — may be mid-update though. In the example sentences near the end.

      Reply
  45. anonintheuk*

    I have an acquaintance whose dog recently had to be put down because it got into someone else’s picnic and ate (among other things) a packet of chocolate raisins. I understand both chocolate and raisins are toxic to dogs.

    So much physical suffering for the dog and mental suffering for the owner, plus considerable stress for the picnickers, could have been avoided with the use of a damn lead.

    Reply
  46. I edit everything*

    LW, I think you should try to get the other dog-bringers on your side. I’m guessing they’re as annoyed with this wild dog as you are, and a “Could we have an all-dogs-leashed rule?” request would come better from one of them. “I’m trying to teach Rover to behave well in social situations, and having other dogs racing around is impeding those efforts.”

    Reply
  47. sofar*

    This may be going out on a limb. But could LW get a friend/family member (someone unknown to LW’s boss) to go to the park on the day they’re hanging out and then confront the boss on the dog being off leash? Repeatedly if necessary. Like get really disruptive, go full-Karen and interrupt the hangout. I know that I would relish the opportunity to do this for a friend.

    And then LW and coworkers bring up the dog’s behavior near them so that it completely monopolizes the conversation and ensures your boss will be interrupted constantly (“Fido just knocked over my drink,” “FIDO NO. Fido NO. Fido Stop. Fido NO,” “Hey can you call Fido over to you? I’m unable to eat my sandwich,” “Hey Fido just knocked my lunch to the ground, so I’m going to head out and eat elsewhere,” “I’m allergic to dogs, can you call Fido over, he’s rubbing up against my arm.” “Hey, sorry to interrupt, but Fido is back over by me. Can you call him to you?” “OK Fido clearly wants my hotdog, so I’m going to go eat in my car.” “Hey, Fido is jumping on Steve again, can you handle?”).

    The boss may be so oblivious that none of this works. But there’s also a chance Fido will get left at home if your boss finds it harder to bring him to the park than it is to leave him home.

    Reply
    1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

      I like you. Im that blunt coworker that has no problem being the unleashed dog enforcer, Loudly.

      Reply
  48. AngryOwl*

    This may be unnecessary, but just in case: OP please *do not* call the police. Introducing cops and their guns isn’t going to make anyone safer in this situation.

    I like the idea of pointing out what’s happening as it happens, largely because I don’t think I’d be able to stop myself. I’d be worried for the dog (and the other dogs/people). Other than that, I hope your coworkers are willing to meet with the boss with you. This sounds so stressful, and you shouldn’t have to miss events because of it.

    Unrelated, I’m not academia, so this is a sincere question: how can the boss just report to no one? Who signs her checks? Handles her time off/benefits/whatever? Not even a board of some kind?

    Reply
    1. Eleanor*

      Academia is weird. Your income is (typically) funded by grants you apply for and are awarded… if anything, YOU bring money to the institution, rather than the other way around. It’s a bit more complicated than that… sure, there are department chairs and faculty deans and whatnot, but you don’t “report” to them in the same way you’re report to a manager. Profs have their labs/research groups and research programs, and they’re fully in charge of the work that’s done, the students and staff they bring in, sometimes how much those people are page, and almost always how those people are treated.

      Plus, tenure makes this a whole lot messier. I’ve seen people in academia fail to be penalized for behaviour much, much worse than an out-of-control dog outdoors.

      Reply
      1. ThisCouldBeMyPI*

        My thought was the advice given is completely reasonable advice except it won’t actually work in academia. The power dynamic between a PI and grad students or postdoc means that addressing this directly could go very badly… sigh…

        Reply
      2. No Tribble At All*

        A friend’s advisor literally didn’t reply to him for a month, and there was nothing anyone could do. He had to delay his graduation because his advisor didn’t sign a form.

        Every standard you have for normal professional behavior and boss/employee relationships? Throw it out the window. If Bosslady is the boss of the lab, making her angry could ruin OP’s chances in the lab itself and with other members of the community. Academia is very small and has little oversight.

        Reply
    2. Observer*

      This may be unnecessary, but just in case: OP please *do not* call the police. Introducing cops and their guns isn’t going to make anyone safer in this situation.

      This. Completely.

      Reply
    3. An academic*

      I’m faculty. This past year, everyone (including remote workers) were supposed to fill out these online forms every day that asked about COVID symptoms. They’re supposed to go to your supervisor so your supervisor knows whether you are available to work. Faculty were told to put themselves as their own supervisors.

      Reply
  49. Jennifer*

    I chuckled a little bit at this. The dog mom is clueless but the dog sounds rambunctious and in need of training but funny. Are people really suggesting calling animal control over a dog misbehaving at a park? We have really lost our way.

    I do understand the concern and probably wouldn’t bring my dog to this because she gets skittish and nervous around a lot of other dogs. Some people just don’t know their own animals. I think the best suggestion would be to make it an animal free event. If they can get everyone to agree, maybe blame it on someone’s allergy or made up fear of dogs. That way the boss isn’t singled out.

    Reply
    1. Shenandoah*

      I completely agree with you that involving the state is inappropriate, but the dog is starting fights! I think that’s the part where it crosses the “funny” line. It is sad that the dog is not receiving the training needed, and going animal free is probably the best bet given that the owner is unlikely to train.

      Reply
    2. No Tribble At All*

      The dog isn’t just misbehaving— she’s a danger to those around her, human and animal. If the dog has a strong prey instinct, she could very easily see a toddler/small dog as a fun chew toy.

      Reply
      1. tinybutfierce*

        This. Even if the dog was perfectly friendly and wasn’t starting fights as mentioned in the letter, what happens when it runs up to dog who ISN’T?

        My dog is friendly and playful to most every dog he meets in a safely off-leash situation, but he’s leash-reactive thanks to being repeatedly attacked by a previous neighbor’s dog. We’ve done a lot of training and made a lot of progress since then, but I still still give any other dogs a wide berth while we’re out walking, because it’s simply safer and easier; any strange dog approaching him while he’s leashed immediately puts him on edge and sends my anxiety WAY UP, because being trapped in the middle of a dog fight is Not Fun.

        Reply
  50. YarnOwl*

    As someone whose dog was just attacked and injured by a giant, “nice”, off-leash dog, this makes me so mad! It’s so dangerous and irresponsible! My advice below is coming from someone who 1) has volunteered with dogs for many years and witnessed the horrible things that irresponsible ownership can lead to and 2) regularly has to ask people to put their dogs on a leash or get them under control when I am volunteering walking dogs or walking with my own dog.

    One question: are other people letting their dogs off leash? If so, they should all start keeping them on-leash regardless of how well behaved or calm they are. If she sees other people keeping their dogs off leash she’s going to think there’s no reason she can’t let hers off-leash.

    If I were in your position I would talk to my coworkers about it and make a plan to speak up when she gets to the park and moves to take her dog off leash. Whoever is comfortable speaking up can just say, “Hey, can you keep your dog on her leash? Last time she knocked over that kid/ran through that picnic/attacked that other dog/ate food off my plate/knocked over that bottle of soda.” If you can just get her to keep the dog on leash and realize how much of a hassle it is to keep her under control, maybe she will stop bringing it in the future.

    She seems like the kind of person who will say, “Oh she’s fine,” or something incredibly careless like that, so if whoever speaks up is prepared to push, or if someone else can pipe in and say, “It’s actually really not fun for us when she is running around and bothering other people and dogs. I’d appreciate if you would keep her on-leash,” all the better. Sometimes a little public shaming goes a long way when someone thinks their careless and obnoxious behavior is totally acceptable.

    This is truly a recipe for disaster. Best case scenario, someone at the park gets mad enough that they flip out and yell at her (which is what I would do). Worst case scenario, her dog gets seriously injured or killed by an aggressive dog that it decided it wants to play with (which I have witnessed happen). It is absolutely not you or your coworkers’ faults that this is happening, and I know it’s awkward to say something to your boss, but this is serious enough that I would either make a plan to speak up or stop attending altogether because I would not want to be involved in that. It’s a crappy situation to be in for sure.

    Reply
  51. Axel*

    OP, I feel for you so hard. I too have a lot of awareness and anxiety around how my behavior and choices affect others, especially in public. And on top of that, I have an extremely serious, ‘will legitimately have a panic attack on the spot if approached by a strange dog’ phobia of dogs. I was attacked several times as a small child, and have no desire to be anywhere near a dog as an adult. They are dangerous and unpredictable and I don’t want anything to do with them.

    Navigating the world in this way brings me to one caution: some dog owners can get EXTREMELY sensitive about the implication that their dog is anything less than a welcome joy and delight to anyone who ever encounters them. (Responsible, reasonable dog owners: this is not directed at you, this is directed at the other sort, which is unfortunately the kind I’ve mostly had cause to run into.) They can get very defensive and combative when confronted with the reality that their dog could be a problem, or that people are less than overjoyed by their presence. Be prepared for an unexpectedly personal reaction from your boss if you confront her directly.

    Reply
  52. foolofgrace*

    If enough people stop coming because of the dog, the boss might eventually get the clue; someone might “let it slip” that the dog is the problem.

    Reply
  53. Jesse*

    In my opinion, #5 is the best option here. Anything else seems like unnecessary risk for your career and/or the dog’s safety. Very much a “not my circus, not my clowns” situation.

    The risk the dog is posing is pretty minimal to you as an individual, and learning to not feel responsible for other people’s (and animals’) behavior is a skill that will help you every day.

    Where I started when learning to overcome this was thinking “If I were raised the same way and had the same life experiences, *I* would be the one letting my dog run wild. I’m so grateful that I’m more responsible than that.”

    Reply
    1. Save the Hellbender*

      Yeah I fully agree – if this is a fully social gathering at a public park, I would find it helpful to just think “thank god my dog is better than that” and focus on something else, like I would if someone’s kid constantly threw tantrums. I know poorly behaved dogs can legitimately scare people, but this is a social event in a park – is it really worth the OP’s capital to complain?

      Reply
    2. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

      An unleashed dog is a huge bite risk and is an unnecessary risk for me to be in a park with an unleashed dog. A dog that is an animal that can get spooked at anytime and bite or attack or cause a car accident by running in the road.

      Reply
      1. Jesse*

        Yes, that is true. But bites, attacks, and car accidents are unlikely to happen to the OP specifically, just from the dog:person ratio in a public park. But OP is the only person who is taking a risk if they speak up about the dog to the boss. OP is not responsible for what other people’s dogs do, or for anyone’s safety but their own.

        Reply
      1. JillianNicola*

        +1000, don’t punish the poor doggo who is acting on instinct rather than training. It’s an owner problem. And besides, being an aggressor towards an animal with little to no training is a good way to get yourself hurt, because it will defend itself!

        Reply
  54. M2*

    If you can’t train a dog or refuse to train your dog you should not have a dog. My spouse had a dog before we met. He trained her and she was the best dog. Everyone commented on it! My SIL had a dog didn’t train it and it ran wild. Her second dog she sent to a place to be trained for 6 weeks and the dog was better. Dogs need boundaries. They do better with it.
    Also please curb your dogs (off peoples lawns). I say this because we have a tree on our property dying because people let their dogs pee on it instead of having them pee on the curb side of the sidewalk that has grass. Ugh!

    Reply
    1. M2*

      And for those who don’t know your dogs pee will kill plants, trees, and flowers so please oh please curb it! My arborist said this happens frequently in my area.

      Reply
  55. Spearmint*

    I’m someone who likes dogs that are a little rambunctious and don’t have all the personality trained out of them (a dog sitting quietly at attention 24/7 is boring). You don’t need a perfectly trained little soldier dog to be a good dog owner, like some commenters are saying. That said, even I think your boss’ dog’s behavior is way beyond that and out of control.

    While I disagree with other commenters who say the dog may bite people, that’s unlikely, this behavior is over-the-top. Knocking people over? Rushing up to people who are potential afraid of dogs? Pulling food from tables and digging random holes? That’s excessive. If that’s how your dog behaves, then you shouldn’t have your dog unleased in public.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer*

      +1
      I like dogs that are funny and have a little bit of personality. I agree this dog’s behavior is over the top and potentially dangerous, but the little toy soldiers make me sad. Another area where we seem to have over-corrected.

      Reply
    2. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

      You do not know that is unlikely. An unleashed dog is more likely to bite than a leashed dog.

      Reply
  56. pajamamommas*

    Another option: Could LW mention a fictitious friend who recently got a big ticket for having their dog off leash in this park? Then they are speaking up to “protect” the boss, without having to talk about their opinion of the dog’s behavior.

    Reply
    1. esmerelda*

      Yes, I’d second this. Although, if the boss is already as out to lunch as she appears to be, she may just brush off the worry of a ticket or fine… But I hope it works.

      Reply
  57. Not a Pet Person*

    Can we please stop allowing pet owners to rule all social gatherings forever and always amen?

    Reply
  58. JaneLoe*

    I am kind of disappointed more people didn’t agree with the 5th option… this doesn’t need to be your battle. If I had to guess, your hyperfocus on the animal is making the situation seem worse than it is. Either find a polite way to request the dog be leashed or learn to let it go!

    Reply
  59. esmerelda*

    OP, I wonder if your boss is my neighbor. ;) They seem to have identical ways of handling (er, not handling) their dog’s behavior.

    Reply
  60. Rick T*

    Then next time Petra is off-leash call Animal Control on their direct line (not 911) so a specialist officer can come out and read your boss the Riot Act along writing a citation.

    Your boss is irresponsible and Petra is at risk, if she bites another dog or heaven-forbid a person while she is off-leash she could be taken to the pound and euthanized. Plus your boss will be held liable for all damages.

    Reply
  61. BettyBoop*

    Not really a solution but are there other options for the owner to restrain the dog? Like one of those long lines you stake in the ground or maybe a leash you can put around a tree? It’s not going to help the wild behavior or the annoying boss but maybe the owner would be more into that kind of restrain so the dog could run “free” and they wouldn’t have to hold the leash the whole time?

    Reply
    1. Sarah*

      If the boss doesn’t want to hold on to the dog, the only acceptable option is not to bring it.

      Reply
  62. sofar*

    For the dogs I foster, I find them homes as best as I can (with a reasonable amount of vetting). We’re in a horrible situation where, yes, 95% of people shouldn’t have dogs, but there are so many dogs needing homes. Aggressive spay/neuter, making breeding illegal, and cultural change are the only real solutions here … sadly, a lot of folks consider our shelter’s (very reasonable) vetting process to be too “vigorous” so they get dogs from breeders. So yeah … the vast majority of people should not have dogs, but find ways to get them.

    Reply
  63. Jennifer*

    Honestly, I think everyone should just start declining. There’s no law saying you can’t get together with coworkers on your own or go to the park with friends and take your well-behaved pets with you.

    Reply
  64. TPS reporter*

    Who is the bravest/most senior/most untouchable person on the team? I would ask them to send this post to the boss- say ooh I read this and I think it’s about you. Or just have them talk to her. Someone has to say something! People like this never get confronted and that’s why they keep doing what they do. The confrontation also doesn’t have to be confrontational. Someone can respectfully advance the opinion of the group that the dog is disruptive and reduces their enjoyment in what should be a distraction free time to bond with co-workers.

    Reply
  65. Emi*

    I am open to the possibility that this makes me a huge jerk, but I would call 911 on the dog attacking other dogs (!).

    Reply
    1. Save the Hellbender*

      Is that the best use of emergency resources? This sounds like tussling, not like active biting, and if police show up guns blazing, people and animals will get hurt.

      Reply
    2. Rick T*

      You are not a jerk, a dog fight is a dangerous situation for the dogs and for any humans that try and separate them.

      Reply
    3. Jennifer*

      It’s tussling, not an attack. No one has been attacked. STOP CALLING 911 ABOUT ANY AND EVERYTHING!! What the hell is wrong with some of you?

      Reply
      1. Observer*

        911 is the wrong response to this. But “what is wrong” with people is responses like yours that minimize the very real problem. This dog is not PLAYING with other dogs – it’s FIGHTING with them. As well as all of the other misbehavior that IS actually dangerous.

        Reply
        1. Save the Hellbender*

          I definitely think the Boss is in the wrong, and I know irresponsible dog ownership is dangerous and dogs snapping at each other is scary. I’m personally more worried that people relying on police departments when they are not in immediate physical danger is part of why so many people in this country are losing their lives to police brutality. From my impression of the letter, no one is in the level of danger that would require an armed police officer, even though OP’s concerns are completely reasonable and the dog owner is acting selfishly and irresponsibly. I can’t speak for other commenters, but I think for me the feelings of the past year (okay, decade/century) so far override the (real! valid!) concerns of this post that the repeated advice to call 911 is really really jarring, and that might be why my reaction is so strong. FWIW, I just did a google check of how many people cops and dogs each kill a year in the US – and it’s not close.

          Reply
          1. Observer*

            I agree that calling the police is the wrong response here, and I’ve said so here and in other spots in this whole discussion. But, when someone frames it as minor “misbehavior” from a “rambunctious” dog, it certainly makes their indignation a lot less credible.

            The poster I was responding to has made at least one comment minimizing the problem. And the comment I was responding to was also minimizing the problem. You can’t do that and then expect people to treat a real problem as inconsequential.

            Reply
            1. Save the Hellbender*

              It’s late in the day, and I feel bad for all the work this post has created for Alison. I understand where you’re coming from, and I see from your previous comments that you agree this is not a reason to call the police. I just firmly believe that a dog that isn’t biting anyone, while it’s not a minimal problem in its own right, *is* minimal compared to the threat from police, and that’s why so many commenters are exasperated (and possibly minimalizing the issue, although again, the dog’s behavior in the letter isn’t clearly and definitely violent).

              Reply
        2. Jennifer*

          A lot of situations are potentially dangerous. The smart thing to do would be to leave or not attend at all instead of going, staying, and calling the police. So many situations could be avoided if people just removed themselves from situations instead of escalating them. Ultimately, the only thing in life you can control is your own behavior.

          Reply
  66. Butterfly Counter*

    I don’t know if this has been said before, but if you hear your boss talk about how “crazy” her dog is, it might be a good time to bring up local dog trainers. A lot of them have flexible hours and some even will come to your residence to help (you can look up some in the area before you have the conversation). If nothing else, you might plant a bug in her ear that the dog’s behavior is unacceptable as well as changeable.

    Reply
  67. pancakes*

    You may not like hearing about it but it’s not nonsense. From a 2020 Slate article:

    “. . . as our analysis of the data on officer-involved shootings reveals, between 2010 and 2016, Los Angeles Police Department officers were involved in 417 shootings, with dogs being shot in more than a quarter of cases. For the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, whose officers were involved in 406 incidents between 2010 and 2017, dogs were shot 45.6 percent of the time. More alarming than the number of dogs being shot by police is where dogs are being killed by police, as we discuss in a recent study.”

    That’s one city alone. The article links to numerous resources and studies, including a 2017 peer-reviewed study finding that “when officers in small to midsize police departments received excess military equipment and training through the 1033 Program, the rate of dog killings increased in their respective jurisdictions.”

    Reply
  68. Nonke John*

    If your boss resists criticism, you and your team members don’t want to miss out on the gatherings, and the dog’s misbehavior isn’t the kind you can ignore…are there one or two dog-friendly people on the team who might be up for watching her? They may be able to extract the leash from your boss if they say they’d like to keep the dog with them for a while because she’s so pretty and friendly they can’t resist spending time with her. It’s not uncommon for even very rambunctious dogs to simmer down when on a leash with a calm but commanding dog person, even if it’s a relative stranger. May be worth a try.

    No, that shouldn’t be necessary, and yes, your boss is asking for trouble. Some common foods are dangerous for dogs, lots of parks have rat poison put down, and people often react skittishly to a fast-approaching dog in a way that may startle it. I’d be galled at having to be a free sitter, but as a dog owner, I think I’d enjoy the party much more if I knew the dog was under my control and not endangering herself and others.

    Reply
  69. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’m taken aback by the number of people advocating calling the police instead of having a mildly awkward conversation. That is utterly contrary to any message I have hoped anyone would take away from this site.

    All comments on this post are now being moderated so there will be a delay before they show up. I will not allow through further comments advocating calling the police in place of a conversation with a colleague.

    Reply
    1. Snuck*

      Yep… I don’t know if you have Rangers in America – in Australia they are a council employee who handles things like dog complaints (and cats, fences, parking infringements etc) – they apply non criminal codes and laws and generally will come collect lost dogs and take them to the pound etc. This is who I would call if a dog was running rampant in public.

      Aren’t police for public safety and criminal management? A dog jumping around isn’t either of those.

      Reply
      1. NerdyKris*

        In America the situations the police handle is absurdly broad. As most Abolish the Police activists point out, the same people who respond to violent crimes in progress shouldn’t also be handling traffic tickets, and we should be splitting those up into different departments. The issue is that there is no real national police standard in the US. It’s all up to the local towns. So while a large city might have separate parking enforcement, in most it’s armed police. There might be an animal control officer, but in general they handle things like hoarding or neglect. It’s far more likely that an officer will respond and only have a gun to handle the situation with. They even respond to medical calls a lot of times.

        And that’s on top of one of the most used training courses focusing on militarizing the police and training them to view every person as a potential enemy combatant.

        Reply
  70. ambivalent*

    I think part of the problem here is the OP’s wording: “She digs holes in pristine park lawns, eats our food, and runs through and over us, knocking over drinks. She chases any dog she sees and frequently the play turns into scuffles and loud, agressive [sic] fights.”. So the first part sounds like naughty-puppy territory. It’s the “Aggressive fights” that is leading to very different interpretations by the commentators. If this is just the yelping and snarling that little dogs make when tussling, I can understand why the owner is being so oblivious (not that it’s ok, but it’s more normal). But if this dog is relatively large and is drawing blood, stronger reactions are understandable. If not the OP, the owner of the other dog may call animal services or similar. Judging from the tone of the letter, I’m guessing it’s just a naughty, rather than dangerous dog. But not everyone here is reading it this way.

    Reply
    1. TiffIf*

      “Just naughty” is still disruptive in a way that should not be happening in a public park or with colleagues.

      Reply
    2. Snuck*

      “Just naughty” often turns into “dangerous” over time.

      And the danger might be to the boss’ dog – a playful dog that doesn’t take ‘back off’ from another dog earns a good bite sometimes (not in human justice, but in dog justice). If there’s lots of loud arguments happening, that are beyond playful puppy mock fights, if there’s intense staring, growling, hackles up stuff happening… then the ‘just a bit naughty’ dog is actually fundamentally rude and some dog, somewhere, is going to teach it a lesson.

      Reply
  71. EventPlannerGal*

    It is extremely dangerous and irresponsible to use the police as your own personal conflict avoidance service. The OP and their colleagues haven’t even tried raising this issue with their boss, at all, even back in the office when the dog is not currently running around causing trouble. Calling the police should only be done if someone was actually in danger – and I do mean danger, not “the dog is digging holes in the flowerbed” or “the dog knocked over my plate”. For that stuff, OP needs to use their words and ask their boss to leash the dog.

    Reply
  72. Observer*

    OP, you fundamentally have a Boss problem exacerbated by the dysfunction of academia. I’m sure you realize that, which is why you wrote to an workplace blog, not a doggie blog. So use what you know about your workplace to get creative about solutions.

    Is there anyone in the hierarchy that might be worried about potential legal or PR issues if this dog hurts someone who is not from your school? That might be a useful approach.

    If not, I’m going to have to agree with the people who said “option 5”. I realize that it’s far easier said that done. But really, when you can’t change a circumstance all you can do is change your response. In fact, I would say that it would be a good idea to start working on changing your response regardless of what else you manage to do. Because this really is NOT about *your* impact or the impact of *your* behavior on others. And there is no good reason YOU should be paying ANY price for your boss being an idiot (to be kinder than she deserves.) You can’t control how others perceive it, but you do have a shot at refusing to accept the blame, even in your own head.

    Reply
  73. Dr. Doll*

    If you’re in academia and there’s a research team surrounding this Dr. Bad Dog Owner, the team does have pull. She can’t just replace you magically – or do her work without your good will. If the team is willing to come together on this, you can get Dr. BDO to deal with the dog. She may resent you mightily, but she’ll get over it because she can’t publish without you.

    Also, university presidents are extremely sensitive to bad press. I expect that one or two non-university people emailing the president’s office to complain would get a response. But it probably does have to be an off-campus complaint.

    Reply
    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I’m liking this. “Dear Provost, I was at McCall Park yesterday and my picnic was ruined by a dog owned by one of your professors. It got into our food and picked a fight with our dog. I’m told this was a work event; is this how members of your university represent themselves?”

      Reply
  74. Safely Retired*

    No mention was made of whether anyone higher up than the boss attends these, but if they do… keep track of all the dog’s transgressions for an hour or two. Then, with the higher up able to hear, “Gee Boss, do you think you could at least try to control your dog? So far Fido has knocked over one kid, chased nother, eaten two people’s food, left footprints on half your staff, and barked for twenty minutes straight.”

    Of course that could be an expensive approach.

    Reply
  75. Quiet Riot*

    This is my MIL. She thinks it’s cute to have an ill-behaved dog a la Marley and Me. She “trains” the dog and then doesn’t consistently monitor/reward good behavior. She thinks because her 90+lb. dog isn’t aggressive that everyone would love to have her all up in their business and tells other people who are walking around (with or without dogs) not to worry because “she’s friendly.” Ugh. It makes my blood boil.

    Reply
  76. Wool Princess*

    If the boss has an admin-type person who they have a good/long relationship with, see if they are comfortable addressing the dog issue.

    Reply
  77. An academic*

    If this person is a grad student or postdoc, their two options might honestly be: 1) not annoy their professor even a little bit or 2) leave academia- and thus, possibly years of work- because if a professor wants to, it’s trivial for them to destroy a person’s academic career. It’s not mentioned in the letter as being the letter writer’s concern, but we’ve all heard of stories where professors have that power and use it. I wouldn’t advise calling 911 on a dog- that’s truly reckless- but I would advise this person that if they are the least bit concerned about their advisor’s temperament, they should think whether addressing the dog’s behavior is worth their letter and their career.

    Reply
  78. Green Pea*

    There is actually an option 6: speak to all coworkers except your boss and move meet ups to an area that don’t allow dogs – a dog free park where you can play cricket/baseball etc while less keen people picnic, at the beach if you are lucky enough to be close etc. Present the decision as united front – we have decided to meet up here instead. We are over the dog park and want to try something new. The dogs get in the way of games etc. After a month or two and only if you think your coworkers can be discreet, have the occasional dog park visit without inviting your boss (this is a judgement call). I believe the boss/employee power dynamic does not make you mean for doing activities without your boss occasionally.

    I also suspect if you confront her as a group about your dog, you can all expect to be cornered individually while she tries to interrogate who instigated the unfair ban on her dog and coerce you into agreeing that you love her dog but were forced to say otherwise. I have friends who are otherwise lovely but are completely irrational when other people get upset about being bailed up by their dog or don’t think it is cute how it picks fights with other dogs at dog friendly restaurants. We value the friendship (as you value peace at work) and elect to meet at dog free places when we socialise or are sadly “busy”.

    Reply
  79. MCMonkeybean*

    I think personally I would go with asking if people would want to do some dog-free hangouts. I like dogs, but I still wouldn’t want them at *every* gathering, even without one causing so much chaos.

    Reply
  80. Nicole*

    Since it sounds like these are family gatherings, can you all get together and collectively bribe your children to harass your boss whenever the dog is acting up? Children can be awfully persistent!

    Reply
  81. VotingForHonestConversations*

    I sense a good holiday/anniversary gift for the boss – a gift certificate for dog behavioral training. It sounds like many would be willing to participate. Please don’t call police or other public offices to deal with the uncomfortable situation.

    Reply

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