Advice about stranger taking a photo of me and my dog
March 16, 2017 4:37 AM   Subscribe

My dog pissed off a stranger this morning. She didn't handle it well.

I was walking my dog this morning. He was off leash in the park and went over a rise where I couldn't see him. A woman was there with two little kids who were sliding down the hill. When I got over the rise my dog was chasing one of the kids, who was very upset. My dog is absolutely harmless (or I wouldn't have had him off the leash), but I can understand how he would intimidate a little kid. I called him, he came to me and I put him back on the leash. I walked toward the woman to apologize but she rushed off with the kids without looking back.
A few minutes later a car stopped near me on the street. I didn't make the connection until I realized it was her and she was pointing her phone at me. She took several photos of me and/or my dog then sped off.
This is very upsetting to me. She made no attempt to communicate with me. I was going to apologize and allow her kids to see that my dog was just excited and not dangerous at all.
I was in the wrong for having him off the leash, but she didn't deal with this very well. My question is, what could / would this woman do with these photos?
As far as I know she has no way to identify me or my dog. I have her license plate number.
posted by crazylegs to Human Relations (97 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
If I had to guess, she will report the incident to your local animal control. They won't be able to do anything with this information since they can't identify you. But they will keep it on file in case similar reports are made in the future.

I love dogs, but I have to say that the other person didn't mess up at all. You shouldn't have had your dog off-leash out of your sight like that, especially since your dog apparently likes to chase. The woman was probably afraid of the dog and that's why she didn't want to be approached by the two of you.

It's important to be compassionate. Anything else makes all dog owners look worse.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:44 AM on March 16 [162 favorites]

She could file a police report. Probably nothing will happen, but the kid might never want to go to that park again.

Fellow dog owner here: what are you thinking? Your dog chases kids when she gets excited and you have her off leash in the park? You cannot do this. I would be off my head with worry and rage as well. In general, nobody cares about your dog other than you; nobody has any reason to assume positive intent or a sweet personality, and it's your responsibility to keep your dog from scaring the shit out of people by keeping her on the leash. Full stop.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:46 AM on March 16 [209 favorites]

Here's the thing. Your dog chased her kid and scared them. She was therefore understandably angry and afraid. She dealt with it totally within the realm of "fine".

She may have taken pictures as a was to feel like she was doing something or maybe as a way to document if off leash dogs were a problem in this park.

If your dog is going to be off leash, it's 100% your job to keep them in sight at all times and prevent them from chasing and scaring people. I don't this you're taking your failure there seriously enough, at least in the framing of this question.
posted by mercredi at 4:47 AM on March 16 [41 favorites]

She will probably send it to the city/town office that enforces leash laws. Maybe not to ping you personally but to give a heads up to the municipality that they need to keep an eye out at the park for people letting their dogs off-leash.

I call 311 when I see dogs off leash at the park near my house, not to get anyone specific in trouble but to let them know a code enforcement officer should swing by.

She handled it perfectly. You are the one who screwed up here.
posted by tippy at 4:48 AM on March 16 [19 favorites]

I have her license plate number.

Whatever further thing you're thinking about doing to this lady, I would encourage you to reconsider! She was probably just scared by seeing an off leash dog running far out of site of its owner when she had kids with her.
posted by ftm at 4:49 AM on March 16 [14 favorites]

I have raised guide dog puppies and had a rescue dog and I love dogs.

I also have kids.

If I had been the mother in this scenario I would have been livid. Having your dog chase my child, even in play, is wildly unacceptable. I don't know what your local leash laws are but here that's a total no unless you're in a designated leash-free area. It's not just about biting (although kids move and sound different so you do need to be careful) but also about knocking kids over or tripping them (this goes for seniors...and in fact I broke my wrist cycling on a bike trail when an off-leash puppy darted out in front of my bike.)

I doubt anything will come of it but please do not ever let this situation develop again.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:51 AM on March 16 [49 favorites]

My dog is absolutely harmless

The woman or her kids are not psychic - every dog is a strange dog. Even if your dog is "friendly," that is not an excuse for it to go running up to people. Most places have leash laws in public parks, and you are not above the law because of what you decide. She dealt with it fine - again, she doesn't know you or your dog, and has every right to be protective in lieu of your negligence.
posted by raztaj at 4:51 AM on March 16 [55 favorites]

One town over from me, a dog recently attacked an older lady, a mutual friend, who was minding her own business taking a walk. The owner took off. Since she was old and frail to begin with, she spent four months in the hospital. I like animals (my sisters have tons of pets including big dogs) but if a strange animal I didn't know came at me, I have to say in all honesty the stun gun would probably be out. You say your dog is a sweetheart, but she and I have no way of knowing that. Please keep the dog leashed.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 5:06 AM on March 16 [18 favorites]

She's probably going to try to shame you on social media-which probably won't be much worse than this thread. I'd not worry about the lady, personally.
posted by crush-onastick at 5:10 AM on March 16 [12 favorites]

My husband and I both enjoy dogs and grew up with them. I've been accidentally injured by mine. My husband literally had his face/cheek ripped open by accident his dog when she was playing when he was a kid. He had to get the entire inside of his mouth and cheek stitched shut. He's left with an inch long external scar and weird muscle abilities on that side of his face.

What I think you need to learn is your dog is never "harmless." He could not be "violent" but playing too rough or jumping on a kid can cause serious harm. Plus people and kids can be severely afraid of dogs.

Keep your dog on a leash. This woman did nothing wrong and I think I would have considered doing the same. What are the leash laws where you live? Was that even legal?
posted by Crystalinne at 5:11 AM on March 16 [25 favorites]

All that woman knew was that some strange dog came running up out of nowhere, unleashed and with no owner in sight, and started chasing one of her kids. Of course the kid was frightened, of course the mom was pissed! And then when you finally did show up and leash your animal, you wanted to bring the dog which had been chasing her child back over to them, only to what? Get offended yourself that they didn't want squat to do with you?!? Sheesh.

Unless this all happened within a fenced area where you were legally allowed to have your dog off-leash, you were 100% totally in the wrong, and you have no excuse. She and her kids were in the right, and enjoying a peaceful day in the park bothering no one; she had absolutely no way of knowing if your dog is indeed "absolutely harmless" or not, so she acted in the best interests of her kids: she got them as far and as fast away from you and your dog as she could.

As for the pictures she took, it is unlikely that anything serious will come of them. At most, it might put various park officials on the lookout for you, to make sure you follow the rules and keep your dog leashed at all times.
posted by easily confused at 5:19 AM on March 16 [39 favorites]

Keep your dog on a leash, and go to a different park for a while. See if you can find an off-leash dog park in your area.
posted by Elly Vortex at 5:20 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]

In addition to what everyone else has said: if your dog runs off where you can't see him, you're lucky you still have him. It really is that, just luck. Don't tell yourself some story about how the dog knows enough not to get distracted by a squirrel and run across a road and get hit by a car.
posted by BibiRose at 5:22 AM on March 16 [26 favorites]

She could post it to social media to try and find your identity. She could also refer to it and keep an eye out for your dog (and you) whenever she's out, and try to identify you that way. There could indeed be consequences in the future.

Sorry to pile on, but yes, in most places a dog off the leash can get you fined. I see it all the time and it's frankly infuriating. While driving, I often see people "walking" their dogs off leash. Maybe their dog is trained to stay away from traffic, but as a driver I don't know that and it provides an extra distraction when I should be watching the road.

I love dogs. But when I was 14, I was mauled on the sidewalk by a friendly-looking stray (or runaway) dog on my way to the store. It only stopped attacking me when I (unknowingly) rolled into the street in front of an approaching car, which came within inches of hitting me. I had gashes on my arms and back, and had scars for years. I also had to have a series of rabies shots. Back then it was 14 shots, one every day for two weeks, in the stomach, resulting in swelling and pain worse than the bites. So now, even though it's 40 years later, when an off-leash dog approaches me, I freeze up, because I know how quickly a friendly looking dog can turn into an animal that is literally trying to kill you. I would have no idea that your dog is "harmless." (And honestly, there are circumstances in which even your "harmless" dog, out of your direct control, could be harmful!)

Keep your dog leashed, and if this woman tracks you down and you get fined, suck it up, pay the fine, and apologize.
posted by The Deej at 5:28 AM on March 16 [24 favorites]

I suspect the photo is mostly to keep tabs if she sees you again, or possibly she belongs to a park group that is neighborhood-watchy about things like off leash dogs.

And yeah, you're getting piled on but let me also say it sounds like your dog might have approached another leashed dog if there was a dog over that hill and not kids? This is a textbook way to end up with an injured dog if your dog approaches a territorial dog that is leashed and cannot get away from him. Please don't put those dogs' owners (hi) in the super awkward position of yelling at your nice-looking doggie to get away because THEIR dog might respond poorly.
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:35 AM on March 16 [6 favorites]

She's most likely posting your photo on Facebook, possibly to a neighborhood group and/or local moms group, or/and to the Nextdoor app. She is warning them about you and your dog.
And with good reason. She had no way of knowing your intentions.
Keep your dog on a leash.
posted by younggreenanne at 5:36 AM on March 16 [11 favorites]

I've had dogs come up and start playing with me in a public park and it literally made my entire week because I love dogs and most dogs are sweeties. But, I am a big adult and not a tiny human. Also, the dogs were trying to catch a frisbee I was throwing, not chasing after me, which does sound kind of scary depending on the dog. Unfortunately from this write up it sounds like you're lacking empathy for what was (rightly) going through that mom's mind when she saw a strange dog chasing her kid. I would also be livid if a dog appeared to be threatening my child, even though I would probably laugh it off if a dog chased me instead.
posted by loquacious crouton at 6:01 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]

Yes, you should be prepared for the possibility that she's going to post these photos on your local neighborhood site/mailing list and people may be unpleasant to or wary of you and your dog in the immediate future if they recognize you. And that they will be right to be so, based on what you've told us. You should probably make sure to be squeaky-clean about keeping your dog leashed and in your sight from here on out, and/or find a different park to hang out at for a while.

If people do seem extra-wary of you and your dog, I suggest you resist the urge to defend yourself / approach them / try to show off your dog's 'harmlessness', as you seem to have wanted to do here. Just do better from here on out, for your dog's sake and your own, and this will likely fade and become no big deal, just a lapse of judgment not to be repeated. If you try to escalate it in some way, it has potential to become a lasting problem for you and your dog.
posted by Stacey at 6:09 AM on March 16 [14 favorites]

Honestly, the phrase "This is very upsetting to me. She made no attempt to communicate with me. I was going to apologize and allow her kids to see that my dog was just excited and not dangerous at all" before saying "I was wrong" makes it come across as that you really don't think you were wrong at all.

Look, I love dogs. I have a little dog who is consistently leashed who gets freaked out if an unleashed dog rushes her. If I had the presence of mind to do so, which I never seem to because I'm so freaked out, I'd do the same. You have zero right to be upset about this.

It sounds like you're not going to face any consequences for this, which, good for you, I guess. Hopefully you'll listen to the feedback here and leash your dog in the future. Anything less is being a super-entitled owner.
posted by superlibby at 6:11 AM on March 16 [38 favorites]

Also: if the kid was, say, the same height as your dog, then his/her experience would be similar to a five-foot-high dog of uncertain temperament chasing you.
posted by amtho at 6:15 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]

Your dog is not 'harmless'.

Your unrestrained, uncontrolled dog chased down children who were petrified of a dog chasing them down. Your dog caused harm. To those children. Not harm by your definition; harm by -their- definition. Theirs is the one that counts. Not yours.

You need to stop thinking about your dog the way you want to, and start recognizing what other people see in your dog. That means, first up, letting go of the 'harmless' tag.
posted by Dashy at 6:23 AM on March 16 [76 favorites]

I wouldn't say that I agree with her comment either, but I don't think OP realizes how close they came to that reality: if your dog had taken even a single nip out of the child, or even if the child had fallen down and injured themselves in some way (scrape, bruises, sprain, broken bone) that parent would have taken a lot more photos, filed a police report and you would almost certainly be saying goodbye to your pet right now.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 6:27 AM on March 16 [25 favorites]

I was attacked and bitten by a dog being walked off leash. It came running at me from about 100 yards away and attacked me without provocation.

I talked with the owner and told them that the dog shouldn't be off leash. This was on state park property that has leash rules in addition to the obvious fact that the dog was not suited to being off leash.

In subsequent weeks and months the dog continued to be walked off leash and trying to attack me. I ended up having to climb a stone gatepost to get away from it at one point.

After noting that the owners were not using a leash with the dog even after I was attacked, I reported the incidents to the police. I also let the owners know that by not leashing their dog they were risking losing him and risking seriously hurting someone.

While your dog is not like this dog, please understand that there are leash laws for a reason. Often times there are designated times or locations for off leash dogs - please use them. Please also understand that there are numerous dog owners who are completely irresponsible about their dogs. Part of loving your pet is making sure that it and others around your pet are safe.

In addition, if your dog is on a leash and you meet an aggressive dog, you can remove your dog from that situation more easily.

Let the photos drop. You were in a public place with no expectation of privacy. The woman was taking a photographic record of the dog that was off leash. You did wrong. Don't do wrong again and you have nothing to worry about.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:27 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]

You know, it's possible one or both of these children is allergic to dogs. Like, anaphylactic shock allergic.

Or, perhaps they've been attacked before and your off-leash dog made them re-experience the trauma.

So even if your good dog wouldn't nip a squirrel, he/she might not be harmless.

Either way, there are plenty of good reasons not to let the jerk who won't leash his dog and doesn't care if he gets out of sight anywhere near your kids again, and not bother to communicate. And, to document that situation as future evidence. She dealt with it just fine. If it had been me out there, you would have heard novel arrangements of curse words in multiple languages that would haunt your nightmares for the rest of your days.

Keep your good, good dog on a leash. For your dog's sake, yours, and everyone else's.
posted by stevis23 at 6:36 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]

As far as answering your question goes--probably shaming on social media.

I am not a dog person. AT ALL. Off leash parks/specifically designated areas exist for a reason. Obviously, you weren't in one of those. I don't care how much you say "my dog is absolutely harmless"--it was not an off leash place. PERIOD. I don't care how awesome your dog is--I want to be able to navigate my contact with that dog and if it is not on a leash, that isn't something I can do.
posted by sperose at 6:39 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]

Crazylegs, I know you must feel piled on here. I love my cats like my children, and I'm sure you love your dog the same way - most pet guardians do! But, bottom line, your dog must be leashed unless he's at a designated off-leash area. Full stop. A regular park is not an off-leash area. Leash laws exist for a reason - to protect both dogs and bystanders. Not only can your dog potentially injure another person, he could injure or kill himself by dashing into a road or getting into a tangle with another animal.

Keep your dog leashed! If he must have an off-leash romp, take him to a dog park or designated off-leash area. If you can't do that - too bad, so sad, Fido doesn't get his off-leash run.

Dog guardians will say "oh, he's friendly!" and he may be friendly, but that doesn't matter to a small person without an adult understanding of the world - or even to an adult! Try to understand where this mom is coming from. Chances are she's not a dog-hating meanie, she was frightened and angry on behalf of her child. She saw someone who thought that leash laws didn't apply to them and their dog. That chapped her hide, and it chaps my hide when I see dog guardians flouting leash laws.

Leash laws - live them, learn them, love them!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:40 AM on March 16 [8 favorites]

Your dog came very close to being maced, or tased, or bludgeoned. I'm not sure that you're so harmless.

To answer your question, yes, social media, maybe to warn Animal Control to watch out for you in the future, certainly so she herself will recognize you in the future.
posted by JimN2TAW at 6:41 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]

Imagine it had been you, not your dog, chasing a child you didn't know through a playground, screaming at him and trying to grab until your friend came over a hill and said "Come on, Crazylegs, cut it out." And then imagine your friend trying to explain to the kid's mom that you're not really a child abductor, that you're absolutely harmless, that you just really like playing tag with kids.

Do you think your dog is absolutely nothing like a potential child abductor? You are wrong. Your dog terrorized a child. You must stop thinking that your dog merely "pissed off" a stranger. Your dog, in fact, terrorized her child. I think the pile on here is because we want to make sure you understand that.
posted by hhc5 at 6:42 AM on March 16 [10 favorites]

No dog alive is absolutely harmless. Dogs are animals, they can behave in unpredictable ways, especially around children who can also behave in unpredictable ways.

Even if we assume that your dog is very friendly, they can still cause harm.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:42 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]

My dog is absolutely harmless.

A friend who worked for a vet said she learned to never, ever believe an owner who says this. Owners always think their dogs are harmless, and dogs who the owner describes as harmless often end up trying to bite.
posted by FencingGal at 6:43 AM on March 16 [29 favorites]

You're getting a lot of good feedback here.

Leashes aren't just for you and your dog; they're for others as well. A leash signals "this dog is under control." An unleashed dog is completely unpredictable for other people. Sure, you (think) you know your dog. Other people don't.

The parentheses there? I grew up with dogs. One saved my life as a toddler. We also had dogs who were unpredictable. We thought we knew them... and then we didn't entirely.

There's no such thing as a harmless dog, just as there's no such thing as a harmless human being. This is reminding me of discussions where new people with their first few sheep get a second, non-sheepdog, the whole forum tells them "oh my god dogs are pack animals what are you thinking," the second-dog-person reassures everyone that They Know Their Harmless Dogs, and a couple of weeks later a sheep is dead because of the dogs. The pack instinct is just that, an instinct. A dog sees another dog chasing something that could be prey, and they're off, you can't stop it. What would have happened if there were a second dog off-leash at the park?
posted by fraula at 6:45 AM on March 16 [8 favorites]

went over a rise where I couldn't see him

Just emphasizing this because I don't think you realize how much worse this made the situation.

If a dog runs up to me/my kid, and I can see the owner calling the dog back and moving to get the dog and yelling that the dog is friendly in an attempt to be reassuring — that is not good but at least I have some sort of baseline of knowledge to work with. I'd still be concerned and take defensive precautions but probably my first thought would not be "stop this dog with force so it doesn't maul my child". But I'd still get ready to do so.

If a dog shows up and there is no one around is it because it is a stray dog? Is it hungry and scared? Is it a local dog who considers this park its territory? Did it break out of a yard aggressively trying to get to something? Is it being walked but away from its owner because it has no training? Did someone just get a dog and have no idea about its temperament and it got away from them? Is the owner an aggressive jerk who doesn't care that his dog intimidates others or maybe finds that amusing?

Then you have mystery dog start actually chasing a child? This would be traumatizing for any parent, whether they have a history of being afraid of dogs or not. As others have said, you are lucky to have your dog back unharmed.
posted by mikepop at 6:47 AM on March 16 [26 favorites]

When my child was small, we spent a lot of time at parks. There's dogs at parks! My little one loved dogs! But I was very cautious and unless I felt like personally making the time to talk with the owner and meet the dog myself (which I did a number of times), I generally would not let my child pet or interact with the dog. All the time, I would get a leashed or unleashed dog coming at my child and I would swoop her up and the owner would say cheerfully, "oh, it's okay, she's good!" And I would smile back and say, oh thanks! And I would sometimes pet their dog but still not let my little one at them? Why? Because even a "good dog" doesn't know my kid. And something bad happens would ruin the day for all of us. Also, dog owner doesn't know my kid at all! My kid could pull her ears or poke her in the eye and suddenly the "good dog" for the first time ever gives a nip to the face! I didn't want that for anyone so I used an abundance of caution and I had overthought the issue.

I'm sorry that this happened to you - it's always distressing when we suddenly end up in a weird confrontational moment with a stranger. Try to take it in, learn and let it go. Keep that leash on!
posted by amanda at 6:50 AM on March 16 [10 favorites]

my dog was chasing one of the kids, who was very upset. My dog is absolutely harmless

Forgot to add, that even if your dog is "harmless" in the way you are thinking - i.e. that he won't bite the kid - doesn't mean the kid won't end up hurt physically (not counting the obvious psychological trauma).

My own dog (who is also very nice and good with kids!) took out my own kid in my own backyard because they were running together and they both changed direction at the same time in such a way that the dog swept the kid off her legs. A running dog has a lot of kinetic energy!
posted by mikepop at 6:55 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]

Mom here who is on lots of mom and neighborhood groups. Here is where I believe your photo is going:
1. To the police
2. To your city councilor/mayor
3. Onto Nextdoor
4. Onto the local parents Facebook group
5. Onto the mom's Facebook page.
6. Maybe onto a flier that will be posted in the park.

#1 and 2: Are to complain to the city about off-leash dogs. There may be someone at the park the next time you are there looking for you, or just handing out fines generally.
#3, 4 and 6: To warn other parents.
#5 and 6: Because she is pissed.

In all, none of this really impacts you in the long run - but it's ok to use shame to never do this again.
posted by Toddles at 6:57 AM on March 16 [9 favorites]

I was chased and tackled by a black Lab when I was five years old and waiting for the school bus - I didn't have much exposure to dogs previously and I still recall it as terrifying. The dog was as tall as me, and I was sobbing and screaming as I tried to outrun it, and got my knees and elbows scraped up with gravel when the dog leaped onto my back and knocked me over. It was running around loose in the neighborhood and was "friendly and playful," but that incident managed to give me a healthy phobia of dogs for much of my childhood.

Please leash your dog.
posted by castlebravo at 6:58 AM on March 16 [24 favorites]

I don't have anything really constructive to add other than anecdata.

I have a puppy who will be one year old tomorrow. She loves kids. She was born on a farm in Oklahoma where there were always eight or nine kids under the age of ten running around. She loves them more than anything. She too is harmless -- unless another dog is trying to get into the hole she's digging (then she's a bit of a bitch).

We live next to an off-leash dog park. We take our dog down there all of the time. During the winter, it's no big deal. The only folks down there are other dog owners, and we all get that dogs will be dogs and sometimes chase squirrels or jump on people. But now that the weather is turning warmer, there are sometimes non-dog people at the park. And we know from experience that during the summer, the non-dog people will actually be most prominent.

We've been wrestling with this question: How do we handle the fact that our puppy wants to run up and play with kids? We totally get how she could scare some kids and/or parents. Not all people like dogs. Children, especially, can get scared. We had a sunny day last weekend, and during our normal off-leash walk in the off-leash area, our dog ran up to three different kids under the age of three. Two of the kids were fine, but one freaked out. All of the parents were cool, but we apologized profusely and then leashed the pup up until we got passed where the families were hanging out.

The bottom line is this: We, as dog owners, are responsible to make sure that our dogs are well-behaved. It's also our responsibility to obey leash laws. Yes, we all cheat now and then. (Our off-leash park backs up on an area that requires leashes, but all of us walk our dogs off-leash there too. That's fine in winter when nobody's in the area, but it won't be fine in summer.) But if something happens because our dog is off-leash and being overly friendly and/or aggressive, that's totally on us, not on the dog or the other people. It's on us. We need to accept the responsibility and the consequences.

For us, we've decided the best thing is to take our dog to the second level of obedience classes. She does great with the intro stuff she's already learned, but she absolutely has to lean not to jump on strangers. And we need to make sure her recall is better. We've tried to work on these things by ourselves, but our methods aren't effective. We need professional help. Because I can see myself experiencing the same thing you did at some point (although in a legal off-leash area), and I don't want that.
posted by jdroth at 6:59 AM on March 16 [6 favorites]

Just nthing everyone else. My daughter is allergic to dogs and knows she needs to stay away from them. If an unleashed dog ran up to her, she would be TERRIFIED. I was assaulted by an unleashed dog when I was on a run a couple of years ago, and the owner sat there and laughed. No, I didn't get bitten, but with earbuds in and concentrating on my running, a dog appearing out of nowhere could have caused me to fall and injure myself.

And hey, not everyone likes dogs. I don't. I don't even like it when leashed dogs come up to me and their owners are like "Oh, he/she's super friendly!" I don't care. I have the right to not have my space violated by random animals I don't know.
posted by altopower at 7:11 AM on March 16 [12 favorites]

[A few comments removed. Dog scare + kids + pet ownership + public interactions is obviously a messy, fraught set of topics but folks let's please try to keep this cool and productive/empathetic to whatever degree possible and if you're not finding that possible just give the thread a pass.]
posted by cortex at 7:12 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]

I'll try to address why "she didn't deal with this very well." Your dog chased someone's kid. Her number one priority was to get the child to a place where she/he both was safe and felt safe. Would the child feel safe stopping for a chat a few feet from the dog that had just chased her/him? Was the mom even able to think of anything in that moment besides getting her kids to safety?

I've personally been menaced by an off-leash dog while I was running in a city park. I cannot tell you how terrifying it was even though I wasn't knocked down or bitten. The owner came up and leashed the dog and my heart was still pounding through my chest as I ran off. There is no way I could have had a rational conversation in that moment. If my car had been nearby, I very well may have gone back for a photo once I'd collected myself and felt protected in my vehicle.
posted by mama casserole at 7:25 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]

Facebook and Nextdoor. I'd imagine if the dog had actually attacked her kid that you could face extra-legal consequences. Don't be surprised if you get the stink eye or a stern lecture from a neighbor who recognizes you.
posted by AFABulous at 7:28 AM on March 16

This is the kind of thing I see on NextDoor. If some random, unknown dog started chasing my kid in a park I'd be pissed too.
posted by LoveHam at 7:32 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]

I've had a off-leash dog run circles around me and my (then 2 or 3 y.o.) kid in a park, barking and looking crazy, with an ineffectual owner yelling "He's okay he's okay" from a long way away. It's very scary.

Leash laws are there for reasons, one reason being that a public park is not a free 'dog park' for dog owners.
posted by carter at 7:36 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]

When I got over the rise my dog was chasing one of the kids, who was very upset. My dog is absolutely harmless.

These two statements are contradictory. If the child was upset, your dog harmed the child.

She took several photos of me and/or my dog then sped off. This is very upsetting to me.

In context of what you previously said, would you be reassured if someone told you this lady was harmless and that you're not handling this well? You seem content to minimize the upset you caused, while recognizing your own upset as important.

Taking photos of someone in public is perfectly legal; having your dog unleashed might not be depending on where you live.

I was in the wrong for having him off the leash, but she didn't deal with this very well. My question is, what could / would this woman do with these photos?

She's probably going to report you to some authority. This is actually the proper and most mature way of handling the situation. She seems to be handling the situation quite well. If she'd stopped to talk to you, you would've just made excuses for your dog ("My dog is harmless") and gotten mad at her when she refused to accept that (because it wasn't true). Her kid probably had no interest in "meeting" or "getting to know" the dog that just chased him around and upset him.

As far as I know she has no way to identify me or my dog. I have her license plate number.

What possible reason could you have for taking down her plate number?
posted by mpbx at 7:42 AM on March 16 [33 favorites]

I'll be honest - I think she handled this very, very well, all things considered. She got her child out of an unsafe situation, didn't say/do anything aggressive towards you, and took a photo from a distance so she could (possibly) deal with this situation in a way that didn't put her, or her child, at risk. She doesn't owe you anything, including an ear to listen to your justifications or excuses for threatening her child and herself. (You view it as your friendly dog approaching them, she and her child viewed it quite differently, based on their reactions).

You said you have her license plate number - hopefully that's just a random comment and not a suggestion that you might try to find her or track her down to have a 'conversation'. See above re: her not owing you anything.

In the event that you do find your photo posted online, I'd also recommend that you absolutely not attempt to leap into the conversation to defend yourself, justify your actions, or explain how lovely your dog is. Either say nothing (probably the smarter idea from a legal perspective) or simply state, "I was wrong to have my dog off-leash and I apologize. It will not happen again." and accept whatever consequences may arise.
posted by VioletU at 7:45 AM on March 16 [29 favorites]

My friend was just bitten by a dog this week in very similar circumstances. She, her sons and their dog were out for a walk in a park near a library where there were many other dogs and many children. Her son had just turned over the leash to her when an unleashed dog started attacking her dog. She was able to lift her dog out of harms way, thankfully, and thankfully her dog was not injured, but she sustained two bites that needed medical attention. Her sons could have been injured, her dog could have been injured. This was a dog that was friendly and had no previous biting incidents. The owners were shocked and remorseful, and now have an animal that has been reported to animal control. Her sons are afraid of walking with their family dog on leash. The whole thing could have been avoided. Please, please, please do not allow your dog to walk off leash.
posted by goggie at 7:58 AM on March 16 [6 favorites]

I see my comment was deleted. Maybe this one won't be: my grandfather, towards the end of his life, was bitten by an off leash dog at a park where he'd been taken for a walk by his caretaker. The resulting infection was one of the things that accelerated his physical decline and killed him. Off leash dogs are against park rules for a reason.

To answer your specific question: if it were me in that car, those pictures would be going to the police, to animal control, to the city council, to the parks department, and to anyone else I thought had the power to either penalize you as you deserve for your behavior or stop you letting your menacing dog off leash in the park or both.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:04 AM on March 16 [9 favorites]

This is exactly how I would have handled it in this woman's situation. Get the kid out of the way ASAP, do not engage with the person who is doing something illegal (in my area anyhow), record what information I could obtain, go home to calm down myself and the rest of the family. She did nothing illegal or immoral in any way by choosing not to engage with someone who frightened her kids. As mentioned upthread, she might send the picture to the police, animal control, whatever organization is in charge of the park, or to local friends to ask if they know you. Or she might do nothing but hold onto the picture in case she hears about a dog attack in the future that matches your description--that's probably what I would do if I had the presence of mind to take pictures in the first place.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:06 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]

Huh? Your dog didn't piss off a stranger, your dog terrorized a child and a mom.

my dog was chasing one of the kids, who was very upset. My dog is absolutely harmless.

It's problematic that you didn't connect that this precise situation IS NOT HARMLESS. Really, very worrisome.*

* I had a super friendly dog who was off leash and playing with my kids in the yard. My kid was running in one direction, the dog in another, and they collided, causing my kid to get thrown 6 feet and land on her arm, which broke completely IN HALF with the bone coming through her skin.

The situation you're describing is dangerous, period, and you saying your dog is harmless sort of indicates you don't really get it.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:10 AM on March 16 [16 favorites]

It's not that your dog was off leash and out of sight. It's that your dog was off leash in public and not at a dog park. That is extremely rude and dangerous and if it had been me I'd have had plenty to tell you about animal law and respecting your neighbors.
Fuck- that kid may have a lifelong fear now you should never let your dog off leash in public again, period.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:16 AM on March 16 [8 favorites]

In a practical sense, nothing is going to come of this. Even if she calls the police or animal control, there's no grounds to pursue action based on a photograph taken from her car of someone walking a dog on a leash.

Nevertheless, I'd check your city statutes for the possible penalties for off-leash citation. Where I live, there are not serious repercussions if the dog hasn't caused trouble. If the dog bites someone while off leash, for example, then the ordinances get strict.

For what it's worth, I agree that this person responded poorly. By not responding to you--including when creeping up on you in a car and surreptitiously taking photographs of you--she's escalated the situation without any information from you. If she'd wanted to take serious action, she would have spoken with you, found out your name, found out the dog's name, and let you know her plans. She did none of these things, ensuring that she could take no legitimate follow-up action--nor could the authorities.

Leash up next time. Find an off-leash dog park for fun times.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:17 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]

I am a mom to a small child (whom I try to educate about strange-dog safety when I get the chance). I would probably do something like this. Here's why:

1. I would be somewhat hesitant to confront you directly, because I have no idea whether you'd apologize or try to get in an argument with me. Just like I wouldn't know that your dog is "harmless."
2. There would be no way for us to have a conversation without my kid and your dog either in close range or unsupervised, which would not be cool given the scary chase.
3. I would probably post it to a local Facebook group, not in a pitchforky way, but more like "hey, anyone know this dog? It just chased after my kid and freaked his shit out, and I'm wondering if any of y'all encountered the same thing or if it's cool."

If someone behaves in an indirect or passive-aggressive-seeming way, sometimes it's because they feel threatened, and safety is more important than etiquette. I totally understand how you'd be upset, but she was probably scared and felt powerless and did the safest and best thing she thought she could do while simultaneously managing a child who may or may not have dog-related nightmares for the next few weeks. So I'd cut her some slack.

Perhaps a better way for you to have handled this is for to call out your profuse apologies from a safe distance, and to ask if the kid was okay - which is a much more pressing matter than attempting to prove that your dog was harmless.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:28 AM on March 16 [31 favorites]

I was walking my dog in the park a year or so ago when an off-leash dog came charging up to us, and I panicked. Screamed bloody murder, put my body between myself and my dog - I had no idea what this dog was like but I DID know my dog has reacted with aggression towards unleashed dogs before, and this one looked like she could do serious damage to my (55-lb) dog if a fight occurred. The damn owner came strolling up shortly afterwards assuring me that "she's just a puppy" "she just wants to play" "she won't hurt anybody" and all that crap, and I was so angry I was shaking. I went looking for parks and rec employees right away (if I'd had presence of mind to take a photo I would have, and would have taken it straight to the parks and rec folks I know are always in the area), but by the time we returned this person had gone. I was shaken and upset for the whole day, and felt very wary the next time I went back to that park because this owner showed no sign of responsibility and I had no sense that he wouldn't just keep on letting this happen.

And I flipping LOVE dogs. I have my first dog's paw tattooed on my foot, all of my pictures on my phone and FB feed are of dogs, at parties I would MUCH rather socialize with the host's dog than the other people - heck, check out my user name. Being run up to by an unknown dog still freaked me out intensely, left me feeling traumatized and infuriated because I was afraid for my dog's safety.

I'm speaking up to lend weight to the fact that even other dog owners - even self-identified Crazy Dog People and Dog Parents - really, REALLY hate it when an unleashed dog approaches unasked-for. Please don't be that kind of dog owner in the future.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:35 AM on March 16 [27 favorites]

Another thing to consider, which hasn't been brought up, is that there may have been another dog on the other side of that hill instead of children. Now there's an owner who was being responsible and trying to let his dog be outside while taking precautions, but your dog being off leash completely destroys that owner's capacity to decide how his dog interacts with other dogs. If it was an aggressive dog, your dog could have been badly injured or killed. This is not fair to other dogs, or their owners.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:37 AM on March 16 [13 favorites]

My dog pissed off a stranger this morning. She didn't handle it well.

The dog did not piss off a stranger, you did.

She dealt with this in a perfectly reasonable and understandable way for person who is justifiably angry that her children just got frightened by a strange off-leash dog who chased them around in a park.

Put yourself in her shoes, man.
posted by desuetude at 8:37 AM on March 16 [15 favorites]

I'll try to not directly add to the pile on re: the mothers/childs point of view. Try to view this as a safety issue for your dog. In many/most municipalities if your dog is involved in an accident in which a person is injured, your dog is getting put down.

While running and chasing, dogs instinctively may nip. This isn't a problem for other dogs, they're covered in fur and a bite has to be pretty hard to break the skin. This is a giant problem for other people, a playful nip can easily break the skin; especially on a running child. Perhaps thick winter clothes saved your dog today.

I run with my (on leash) dog all the time. I've trained him specifically to run by my side, and only cross behind me. Occaisionally he forgets. For the few times that he forgets and crosses in front of me, there's about a 1/10 chance that I end up getting tripped. I'm someone who's half-expecting him to run in front of me and it's still unavoidable. In all of those situations that I've tripped, I've been bloodied up. Your dog tripping a child who then gets injured may count as a dog attack.

I'll N'th that on-leash dogs react poorly to off-leash dogs. It's a really good recipie for a dog fight. In such a situation who do you think will be to blame (civilly for the vet bills, and potentially criminally (keep in mind that the on-leash animal's owner has a good chance of getting bit/injured in the middle of the two (or more) animals?)), the on-leash controlled animal, or your dog? Again, your dog could really be "harmless" but if it gets too close to an animal that's not and it's attacked it's response might surprise you.

Watch the news, about 1-2 times a year you'll come across articles about dogs that get sick or die and are later diagnosed as being poisoned; commonly laxitives or rat poison. This usually happens around parks where lots of leash free dogs end up (but aren't specifically fenced off and designated leash free). One just occured in our area a month ago. With your dog on-leash you can stay away from the mystery meatball with who-knows-what in it. Off leash you haven't a clue.

If you have no empathy for the remainder or humanity, a leash for your dog when you're not in a specifically designated leash-free area is essential for your dog's safety.

(below is no longer just about your dog's safety).

All that said, around age 3-4 a neighbor's ~90 lb dog *terrified* me (I'm actually a bit shakey having just remembered this incident) when it got lose and chased me into the house (and then started jumping at the back glass window shaking it). A lab is giant compared to a kid, and if they don't have experience with dogs, they are literally terrifying. A different dog chased, grabbed me and pulled me off of my bike in front of my dad on my first time down the street off of my training wheels - no major injuries. I've had dogs for 15+ years now. If I see a leashed dog I always ask the owner if I can pet it and am full of the love. Which is to say that I'm *really* not anti-dog. But an off leash dog that I don't know (away from the dog park) still immediately fills me with fear. Given the stories above there are many of us.
posted by nobeagle at 8:53 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]

So I, like you, have a dog that I love very very much. I would probably risk my life to try to save this dog. I love him so much and whenever anyone says he's a bad dog, I get super defensive. I will insist but he's a good dog, that he loves me, inside the house he has a playful adorable guy, and I wish everyone could see that.

I also have multiple Asks on the green, because my friendly-after-treat dog, when he was seven or eight months old, was with me on leash when an off-leash Jack Terrier made a beeline for me, barking his head off. A little dog. Neither I nor my dog were seriously "in danger", which is why I suspect he was off leash in our apartment complex in the first place. But I was still afraid. I have a large German Shepherd, and if he had bitten this tiny dog, even once, he could have killed him. I was terrified of this uncontrolled dog trying to pick a fight, because if my dog killed it, my dog would be put down. My beloved dog could tell I was afraid, and it did not help the situation. He put himself between me and the other dog and started snarling, while I lifted my dog off the ground, I was trying to keep him back so hard.

We were working on getting him to trust dogs again, when some off leash dogs who probably wanted to play ran up to us yet again while he was on leash, with owners trailing behind, clearly not trying that hard, only mildly embarrassed, because they were sure their dog was harmless.

I longer have a dog that I can take within range of another dog. Because he has seen humans accompanying these dogs, I can no longer ever again trust him to be within leash range of another stranger, because he started interpreting them as a threat. I can never again have the simple, easy relationship I had with my dog. For the next 10 years, it will impact every aspect of my life. The dog that was going to help me become more social has made me more withdrawn. We already have less friends over. I can feel myself growing more and more depressed. Every time I walk him, I am hyper conscious of where people are, and where offleash dogs might appear from.

I'm not angry at the people who had their small, supposedly harmless dogs off leash. I haven't reported them, because I know their owners must love them a lot too. I know they thought that nothing happened. But it did. Those other dogs may have been equally harmless as you say your dog is, and I will trust you on that. But a dog doesn't have to bite to cause damage while off-leash.

I know this must feel so embarrassing and you must be feeling a little defensive. Like I get, whenever anyone judges me and my dog who is barking his head at someone who is outside our car. I want, like you want, to tell them he's a good doggo. There are circumstances. He is being misunderstood.

But I, and it sounds like, maybe you now, still need to take measures to ensure other people, and beloved doggos, are safe. Please listen to that, even if you are feeling snarly and want to tell people he's a good boy. Please listen. There's really a lot at stake.
posted by corb at 8:55 AM on March 16 [32 favorites]

One of the reasons I'm guessing she reacted the way she did was prior experiences, as others have said. She or her kids might have had a bad interaction with an off-leash dog. However, in my own experience, I've had tons of bad interactions with off-leash dogs. I love dogs, and the off-leash ones I meet are generally friendly. But my dog has a serious dominance problem with other dogs, so she's always leashed when we go anywhere, on the off chance we run into other pooches. There is nothing more frustrating than taking my dog for a walk and seeing a dog run toward us while its owner shouts, "Don't worry, she's friendly!" That's great! My dog isn't!

If this happened infrequently, I don't think I'd be bothered. But it happens at least a couple times a week. You should consider that what is a first occurrence for you and your dog specifically, could possibly be the nth time for this mom and her kids. (And I know when it happens to me for the nth time, I am frustrated and pissed and don't want to have a convo with someone who seems oblivious to the fact that my dog is trying to pick a fight with their off-leash dog. I just want to get my dog out of eyesight.)

Re: the picture -- it seems a little passive aggressive (she could've confronted you or at least talked it out with you) but it could be for family documentation too. Though we've never taken any pics, my husband and I share descriptive details with each other about the loose dogs we see in our neighborhood -- so we can be on the lookout when we're on a walk alone.
posted by pepper bird at 8:59 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]

Over 30 years ago, I was the child in a similar situation. The dog loped around after me for a minute before my mother could intervene. Our family didn't have dogs and I didn't know anything about them. I believed it was going to kill me. Perhaps unreasonable, but I was four years old. The terror of that moment haunted me for years.
posted by frobozz at 9:03 AM on March 16 [12 favorites]

Yeah, as a little kid I was chased by a dog who by all accounts was friendly and harmless and just playing around. Intellectually I know this and I am still scared of dogs as an adult. I second those who think the mom handled this situation well--if my mom had made me confront the dog at the time, I'd probably have developed a fear of her, too.
posted by ferret branca at 9:07 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]

Maybe a thing you could do: make a laminated sign and post in the park. The sign would explain briefly what happened, you would acknowledge that you had made a mistake in allowing your dog off-leash, and you would NEVER AGAIN ALLOW YOUR DOG OFF LEASH IN THAT OR ANY OTHER PUBLIC AREA. Put an anonymous post on your community bulletin board, seeclickfix, etc. You don't have to put up your picture, but it might be helpful to the community for people to see this. Dunno.

But you have to get comfortable with the fact that you made a gigantic mistake here. If you can't accept that, then you can't use community resources.
posted by disconnect at 9:14 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]

A few years ago, I was driving my powerwheelchair along the footpath near the beach (NOT a dog beach.)

An illegally off-leash German Shepherd bounded up to me and took umbrage at the sound my powerchair engine made, and barked and snapped at me, and repeatedly lunged for my throat.

The owner was nowhere to be seen.

After a few terrified minutes of me fending it off with an umbrella and my handbag, the owner strolls round the corner looking unconcerned and unphased. No apology.

You don't know how a dog that is offleash AND out of your line of sight will response to new and unfamiliar stimuli (kids, babies, other dogs, wheelchairs, bikes, skateboarders, rollerbladers...)

Don't take the risk.

Someone could get badly injured or even killed by your dog.

Also, if your dog attacks someone, they might pepper-spray your dog in self-defense...
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us at 9:22 AM on March 16 [27 favorites]

People carried bats while walking in my old neighborhood just because of this. Even in my new neighborhood I know a mom with one discreetly tucked down the side of their stroller. Please be careful and keep your dog on a leash, it's just as much for the dog's safety too.
posted by FuzzyVerde at 9:26 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]

My question is, what could / would this woman do with these photos?

Others have said that she could/would try to shame you on social media, but that shame only works if it gets back to you, so another way to look at it is that she could/would use social media to warn other parents about a person who doesn't care about having their dog on-leash at a particular park.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:27 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]

I've already posted, but I want to add that it's not just about leash or no leash - if you are with your dog in public, you need to be in control of it at all times.

A few years ago, I was running on a wide path in a local park. A woman was with her dog on one of those absurd, pointlessly long, retractable leashes. The dog was on the other side of the woman, and there had to have been at least 8 feet between me and her dog - but I guess it got protective and jumped, latched its jaw on my upper arm, and held on for a few seconds. Thankfully it did not break skin. She told me her dog was "friendly." To me this term is code for "I'm a lazy and irresponsible dog owner."

Your dog is a strange, unpredictable animal - "friendly" as it may seem to you. Being a dog owner is a responsibility, and when you're in public, you have the obligation to walk it with constant presence - not as a chore. Not as something you have to do while you text or browse Facebook on your phone. In public, you hold control over your animal at all times - period. It's not the burden of others in the people park.
posted by raztaj at 9:32 AM on March 16 [14 favorites]

I wouldn't worry too much of anything coming of the picture. as others have said, it may be to shame you on facebook/social media.

As for the off-leash thing, I'm a grownup and I am very uncomfortable (ie. scared) around dogs. VERY. Had a bad experience as a kid and have never gotten over it. It isn't that I hate dogs or wish them ill. I can appreciate adorable puppy pictures. I'm fine with other people having dogs, but lets just keep all the dogs away from me, thanks. Seriously, every dog is seen as threatening to me, and having an owner tell me "Oh, they'd never hurt a fly" is like telling me water isn't wet. Does. Not. Compute. Dogs are scary to me and you don't get to tell me that they aren't. They are. They are scary.

If an unleashed dog came running at me I would probably instinctively run and scream, and if it followed me I'd almost definitely kick at it as hard as I could to make it stop because jesus christ that dog is COMING AT ME.
It isn't malice or cruelty. In my mind I would be literally fighting for my life.

If you won't keep your dog leashed in public spaces out of consideration and respect for others (which should be enough but I guess not...), do it out of fear of someone hurting your dog. If I were you I would keep your dog on a leash otherwise you run the risk of a terrified person hurting/killing your dog because your dog was chasing them and jumping on them and scaring the ever loving shit out of them.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:33 AM on March 16 [13 favorites]

My small dog was bitten and killed by a larger dog. You better bet I call in every unsupervised offleash dog I see to animal control.
posted by freezer cake at 9:42 AM on March 16 [12 favorites]

corb, that is a sad story, and it is a very similar story to what we have experienced. I just want to say that my dog is actually recovering, with help from an amazing dog lady, and while I haven't been to a dog park for ages, we have dealt with difficult situations happily, he has a dog-friend, and at the dog lady's home, he plays with many other dogs.

Unfortunately, I have twice been in situations similar to that of crazylegs. After my dog was viciously attacked by a little aggressive terrier as a little puppy, he became very fearsome of small dogs. So I normally walked him in a large off-leash dog park where mostly large dogs are walked off leash. I always walked early morning or late evening to be as alone as possible. Then one morning, just as we were reaching the car park, a young couple arrives with an adorable little puppy, and my dog just heads directly for it as if it where prey, and picks it up in one big bite. The little terrier was the most scared dog I've ever seen, the young couple were terrified, I was crying, and my dog was completely out of his mind. To this day, I have no idea what happened, he is a sheepdog type, and has no hunting instinct (sometimes dogs will chase up a deer in that park, and he'll run over and see and then get bored and return). But that day, something else happened. You cannot trust your dog. Happily the pup was unharmed, but I never let him off-leash there any more.
The second time something happened, I was on the street near my home, and my dog sees one of our friends. He breaks loose, because he saw our friend first, and I wasn't aware, and runs over to greet and play. In his excitement, he also tries to herd in a completely strange family of five who are clearly scared of dogs and have no idea what is going on.
The thing is, the scared dad in that family does what a scared protective dad will do in that situation, and begins to shout at me (totally fair), but my big alsatian/border collie now sees it as a situation where it is his duty to protect me and my friend and our children. If I hadn't caught the leash by that time, this could have ended very badly - I'd have lost my dog, and paid a big fine, and it would have been the right thing, but incredibly sad.
At the time, he was only a year old, today this particular thing wouldn't happen because of more training. But still: you cannot trust your dog. In principle, this time my dog was only doing a thing he is supposed to do: protect me. But because he is a dog, he misread the situation entirely.

The moral of all this is: if you don't have 100% control of your dog, it must be on the leash. For your sake. You don't want to loose him.
posted by mumimor at 10:07 AM on March 16 [6 favorites]

The mom is likely providing the photo ro the police. In my community, a dog may get a second chance before being out down for minor nips.

Dogs with histories of agressive acts wouldn't get this buy.

She may also be hoping police will find and fine you for letting your dog attack her kids. If your dog is chasing her kids, yeah, that counts. You could call the police assuming they are looking for you to try and sort it out. She could also just be looking for increased patrols in the area. I know you would recieve a large fine for this incident in my area. And I believe with 3x incidents, the animal is put down. I actually would be very, very concerned about the photo and your dog remaining alive. Always keeping the dog on leash and five feet from a kid is probably going to keep your animal alive.
posted by Kalmya at 10:42 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]

Your view of this situation is ... warped. You're seeing it through the lens of how much you love your dog, and what you believe to be true about your dog, instead of from her point of view.

She was in the park with her children when a strange dog ran over the hill and started chasing one of them. The child was terrified, and she was also probably terrified, because she didn't have any idea what was about to happen. When you tried to approach her, she didn't know why - you could have wanted to apologize, but then, you're the type of person who lets a dangerous dog off leash in a public park, so who knows what you actually want? She had her children with her and made the safe choice to leave.

With respect, you are not behaving like a responsible dog owner. You're behaving like all of those dog owners who say, "oh, my fluffy would never hurt anyone" right before fluffy takes a bite out of someone's hand or ankle. A responsible dog owner would be mortified that their dog had chased a small child, and would be far more sympathetic toward the child's mother.

A dog that chases small children in a park, even in play, is not harmless.

Look, I kind of understand where you're coming from. My friend has a dog who we all love, but has some problematic behaviors. We know that they're not aggressive behaviors, but they can still scare or hurt someone. If he nips in play, or if he gets excited and chases someone, he's not being "harmless." He's done harm. And she works very hard to train him out of these behaviors, and control him while in public so this doesn't happen. Admitting that her dog has these problems doesn't mean she loves him less - rather, it means she is being realistic, and she loves him enough to keep him safe.

You need to be realistic and really change how you're viewing this situation.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:02 AM on March 16 [16 favorites]

I was tackled by a playful black lab when I was five. I thought it was my neighbor's dog who I knew and liked, but it was a runaway from down the block. She licked me all over and I got hives so bad I couldn't move. Had to dope up on Benadryl and lay on the couch all day icing my face and every inch of exposed skin. 23 years later, I still fight off anger and fear when I'm near dogs of all sizes and temperaments. I was in a café yesterday and the woman at the table next to me had a little leashed chihuahua roaming underfoot. It was well-behaved, rationally I had no complaints. But the mere sight of it made my skin crawl, I couldn't focus on my work and when it started gently licking my pants leg I had to stiffen my spine to suppress a kick reflex. That free-roaming pup violated my bodily autonomy. No kid should be expected to deal with that. I'll have a fear memory for the rest of my life. Please leash your pup.

PS I commute by bike and almost ran over a terrier last month when it dashed into the street to jump in its owner's car. It's for your dog's safety, too!
posted by fritillary at 11:04 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]

Take your dog to a dog park, not the regular park.

I run through my local park every day, and I see multiple dogs off-leash every day (ok, days where the weather is decent). Sometimes they run at me. This is when I say something like, "Your dog needs to be on a leash!" to the owner. More often than not, I get a REALLY hostile response.

If I were with a child, I wouldn't have spoken to you directly, either.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 11:40 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]

Something like this chased-by-an-off-leash-dog thing happened to my sister once, and she was phobic of all dogs for like ten years afterward, when she never had been before. You gotta stop doing this.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:01 PM on March 16 [7 favorites]

I have a slightly sideways view.

First, though--you were negligent, for all the reasons given above.

My SIL had a 60lb shepherd type dog she wanted me to help her train. I have had several working dogs, which I taught to work both on and off leash. For example, they were taught not only to walk at heel, but to patrol. On patrol the dog was never allowed to be out of my sight, and would stop and sit to wait for me at turns in a trail. He would be aware of any clicks and kisses I used to get him to look at me if I wanted to give him hand signals: move left, right, sit, lie down, return to heel. I say "he" but the sex of the dog and his breed is not the issue.** Most of my working dogs could patrol at, say, a hundred or so meters, as long as they stayed in sight. When I gave him the hand signal to drop, I expected to hear the thud of his chest on the ground. Most dogs are eager to know what pleases the pack leader, and what their role in the pack might be. Rewards are strokes and praise.

Anyhow, I was emphasizing to my SIL that her dog must always be under control, and she said, "Well, when does he get to just run around and be a dog?" I told her, "When he's in a fenced yard. Even then he doesn't get to bark for entertainment." The point being your dog must be under your control at all times. Most dogs are not confirmed to off-leash control. In fact most dogs are not really taught how to be on leash, they just sort of drag their person around.

Push back from this theory mostly comes from those who've not been schooled in how to train their dog. I guess training is a misconception. Socializing would be more accurate. A well-socialized dog isn't one whose behavior is suppressed, but one who looks to you for guidance, especially when confronted with new situations.

**Some breeds are more easily taught to herd animals than other breeds, and any given animal has his own set of talent.
posted by mule98J at 12:26 PM on March 16 [15 favorites]

You can never say your dog is harmless. I believe all dogs can be aggressive in certain situations, if they are large dogs the situation is downright life threatening. Recently my step mother was walking down the sidewalk on her street and at a house nearby the family dog got out the front door when she was walking by and went straight at her and knocked her down and bit her. The dog owners were horrified and said their dog had never been aggressive before. The family dog was put down because of it.
posted by Justin Case at 12:30 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

Take your dog to a dog park, not the regular park.

Please do not go to the dog park unless you are willing to pay attention to your dog at all times just as you would in a normal park. You should still have control of your dog even if it isn't on-leash.
posted by winna at 12:30 PM on March 16 [14 favorites]

Off the top of my head your picture could be circulating on several local facebook pages, shown to animal control or the local cops, emailed/facebooked/etc to her friends and family - especially ones in the area. There's going to be warnings to look out for you or asking if anyone knows who you are.

Look, your lucky all that mom did is scoop up her kid and run for the car. I'm out with my kid and a dog comes running up, I don't wait to see whether it's gonna bite, I have to assume this is a bad situation and protect my kid. I'm his advocate not your dog's or yours. That dog is gonna get hurt and it would be your fault.

Leave this lady alone. Put your dog on a leash.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 12:37 PM on March 16 [6 favorites]

You were in the wrong. What you did was threatening. The woman was presumably taking notes for a "police report." She doesn't have to talk to you.

I wouldn't worry. She was blowing off steam and will forget about it (until the next time you do this). Also, nobody cares if dogs threaten children. No police department will take her seriously. By-law enforcement *might* if they catch you in the act.

By the way, the most infuriating thing any dog owner can ever say in public is:

My dog is absolutely harmless (or I wouldn't have had him off the leash)
posted by My Dad at 12:51 PM on March 16 [11 favorites]

mule98J, When I was younger, I trained a dog like that, and I agree with everything you say. But there is another point to it. My wonderful, loving and 100% obedient German Shepherd was only all that when I was present, because I could not train my family to act in the way he could recognize and feel safe in. And while I'm not at all training to that level now, I have the same problem with my family now. One has to be realistic about the conditions the dog is living under, and adapt ones safety measures accordingly. As you say, any dog that runs out of sight is not safe, to himself or to others.
Even that perfectly obedient working dog can do unexpected things if he is insecure and his leader is not there. In my case, I was away on holiday and he snapped at one of my cousins because that 4-5 year old boy stuck a finger in his nose, or something. If I'd been home, he would have looked to me for help. In this case, when I came home, my dog was gone. I agree with that decision, but I was devastated.
posted by mumimor at 1:06 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

She didn't handle it well?! What do you suggest that she does, wait for the strange dog to maul her kid to death? I'm a mother with young kids and a puppy and I can assure you, if a strange off leash dog with no owner present comes bolting towards my kids, it does not get the benefit of the doubt, because that can result in the death of a child. (And actually has, where I'm from.)

You're damn lucky that all she's done is take photos of you. Leash your dog. Train your dog. And yourself, while you're at it. Regarding the photo, if you're lucky, she will just be telling the entire neighbourhood via Facebook that an unsupervised dog is terrorising children and to be careful (that's what I would do, anyway.) If you're unlucky, she'll be telling animal control.
posted by Jubey at 1:41 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

Realistically, there are broadly speaking, two things she can do with the picture:

1. Circulate to social media
2. Circulate to a government authority

That's it. Either way, I doubt anyone is going to fly into a frenzy over a photo of you + dog and her side of the story. People would RAGE over a video, over a picture of a small child crying or with an obvious wound, etc. If all she's got is a picture of you and your dog and her story, embellished however she wants to embellish it? Pretty thin, won't go anywhere. I wouldn't lose sleep over it but don't let it happen again. There are no "damages" here and I assume no other witnesses so legally it won't go anywhere either.

I won't chide you over this as everyone else has done that well enough, but I agree you aren't really the innocent party here.
posted by stockpuppet at 2:40 PM on March 16

You're behaving like all of those dog owners who say, "oh, my fluffy would never hurt anyone" right before fluffy takes a bite out of someone's hand or ankle.

Yeah, slightly unrelated story, but we had to take our grumpy cat to the vet recently, which he does not like. He growls and makes terrible noises the whole time. When the vet came in to check him, she looked taken aback at his growling, and we assured her that he was completely docile and just liked to complain about his situation. After she was able to examine him for a few minutes with him just lying there, growling and moaning away, she remarked, "Wow, you're right, he is really docile." It occurred to me then that EVERY pet owner must say, "Oh, s/he wouldn't hurt a fly!", and the enormous scar on the vet's forearm put the lie to that statement.

The mother didn't want to talk to you because she didn't want to hear you say, "oh, my dog is harmless!!!!", just like every other pet owner, right after he harmed her child.
posted by chainsofreedom at 3:15 PM on March 16 [8 favorites]

I agree with the flak you're getting here. I'm going to assume you're correct and that your dog is great and listens and comes when called. My dog is is awesome but terrified of other dogs. An unleashed dog attacked her. Unleashed dogs give us a ton of grief. I plan our walking routes around where I know unleashed dogs are likely to be. You just can't know how your dog will react when faced with my dog, who will snap from awesome happy lady heeling next to me to terrified I-have-to-act-like-a-big-deal-so-this-dog-won't-mess-with-me nutso dog. It's not just that you're protecting other people from your dog when he's on a leash, you're protecting your dog from other threats, because I can't promise my dog wouldn't defend herself and hurt your dog. That would be awful for both of us.

It's a tough position to be in, I'm guessing you want him to be able to run around and be a dog, but maybe it's time to find another way to let him release that energy.
posted by Bistyfrass at 3:47 PM on March 16 [6 favorites]

Honestly, you're lucky that all the woman did was take your photo. I'd have called the police. Your dog needs to be on a leash, period.
posted by sarcasticah at 6:20 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]

As everyone else is saying, I think the mom handled this very well considering the situation. She had zero way to know that your dog -- or, indeed YOU -- were harmless. In a similar situation, I would probably have started screaming at you. The thing is, she and her children are not psychic. Even if you know your dog to be "good with kids" and "friendly," she cannot know that and plenty of dogs are not. From your story, obviously your dog is not well trained enough to know to stay within your sight and not randomly run over hills and chase children (yes, you could choose to train your dog to do that, but you decided not to). Even if the child was not physically harmed, from your own accounting of the story he/she was visibly upset, and frankly, it's not okay to do stuff that upsets random kids out and about in the world and minding their own business. Again, the child would have zero way of knowing the dog's personality or potential for violence, but merely that they were being chased by a strange animal.

What will she do with the photos? I think most likely is a local mom's group or an app like NextDoor, to ask whether anyone knows you and to warn people about an off leash dog in the neighborhood who chases kids to the point of making them cry.
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:29 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]

When I lived in a neighborhood where people brought their dogs into the grocery store I would take photos, generally when the people were looking the other way. I was confronted once by a guy, but I told him that since he was in a public place he had no expectation of privacy. I sent my photos to the Health Department but absolutely nothing ever happened.

I wouldn't expect any repercussions for you. The other person had the right to take the photo but has no grounds for anything.
posted by bendy at 6:55 PM on March 16

You've gotten quite a pile-on, but I just wanted to add something about the kid's perspective. My little kids have really only interacted with 1-2 dogs (ours and another). As someone who is really comfortable with dogs, it took me a while to realize that kids don't understand dogs yet. I've interacted with 100s of dogs. They haven't. They don't know what the animal is going to do. The animal will most likely behave differently than their dog, the dog will most likely have it's face with big teeth near their face, and will most likely weight significantly more than they do. They just don't have the height or experience to really deal. They just don't know enough dogs yet to have any sense of whether it is friendly play run or an all out I'm going to bit you run. They don't yet know that monsters aren't real, and one just came to get them.

Also, I'm an absolute dog lover, but if that had happened to me I'd be pissed. Not just because you just scared the shit out of my kid, but because I won't get a good night's sleep for the next few weeks because I'll be busy reassuring my kid who is having nightmares. Don't give a kid nightmares.
posted by lab.beetle at 8:35 PM on March 16 [7 favorites]

The point about the dog needing to be leashed for everyone's sake has already been made, and I agree with it, but personally, I think following someone and taking photos of them from your car is a bit creepy, unless a some kind of major crime (which this was not) had been committed. In this case, since you presumably had your dog on the leash by the time she saw you again, there's not much she can do with her "evidence." If you wanted to play it that way, it's her word against yours whether it was you, and not just someone who looked like you, in that park.

I would advise against getting into this, though, and just keep your dog leashed from now on, and avoid that park (and that person) for a while.
posted by rpfields at 9:41 PM on March 16

Your dog is a strange, unpredictable animal

that day, something else happened. You cannot trust your dog

Ditto these. I know a dog who respects adults but treats little kids as animals.

Also, even as someone who likes dogs, I've been bitten twice in public in my life (once as a kid, once when a hungry stray dog attacked a leg wound I had(!)). Maybe your dog is nice, but they didn't know that at the time. So they very understandably reacted as though it were an aggressive stray. Keeping your dog on leash prevents people from having to fear the worst like that.
posted by salvia at 9:54 PM on March 16

I wasn't going to comment on this, because my angle has been pretty much covered, but in talking about this just now I realised one of the most aggravating things about all the times when I was a kid and a dog's owner said "Don't worry, he's harmless" - it sounds a lot like "you have no right to be afraid". I have never been bitten by a dog, nor even really chased by a dog, but the memories of dogs that ran up to me and blocked my way while barking are crystal clear, as though they happened last week and not 30 years ago. Numerous times I stood rooted to the spot while a nearby owner said "Oh, he won't hurt you" and the dog continued to bark and (to my mind, at least) menace me. Maybe the dog was excited to see me, and really wanted to be friends? I don't know, and I honestly couldn't care less; I did not consent to that interaction and it was terrifying. You don't get to judge your dog on its intentions and minimise or ignore the distress caused by their behaviour - it's on you, as a responsible owner, to prevent that from happening.
posted by Cheese Monster at 10:29 PM on March 16 [19 favorites]

OK, you're getting piled on here, and I think it's because of how you're interpreting the other person's actions, so I won't harp on that, but I want to say: I kinda get where you're coming from. When I was a relatively new dog owner, I seriously didn't get that a LOT of people are scared of dogs, anywhere from "dogs make me a bit nervous" to outright phobia. A lot of that fear is warranted, but even if it weren't, you have to share your community/world with people who feel that way, and their feelings and sense of personal safety are just as valuable and important as yours.

In that sense, it doesn't matter if your dog is harmless - a dog chasing a child is going to seem threatening to the child and their parent. They deserve to go to the park without feeling threatened.

I also totally get how great it is to go to a park with your dog off-leash. I love watching my dog run and run and run at the off-leash dog park. And my dog is super energetic, so I take him almost every day so I can have some peace and quiet at home. The two years I didn't have a dog park nearby were kind of hellish - I spent way too much money on doggy daycare, and I experimented with having him off-leash at public parks (didn't work because, like yours, he's prone to running off). So I get that too. If there is an off-leash dog park near you, I would just get in the habit of going there. If there isn't, you might want to find out if there is an unofficial one in your neighborhood - that's not an ideal situation, especially if your dog is a runner, but at least if it's a place dogs are known to be off-leash, people who are afraid of dogs will know that and avoid it. But work on recall stat. If you can't get a rock-solid recall with your dog, don't take him to an unfenced park - this is for his own safety (happy to give you recall training tips if you memail me).

Anyway, I wouldn't worry too much about the pictures, but I would definitely strongly recommend against you having your dog off-leash in any nearby parks going forward.
posted by lunasol at 10:35 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]

On a helpful note, where I live outside of Boston there are many town-owned wooded areas and parks that DO allow off-leash dogs on certain days. Signs are posted at all entrances of these parks so parents know if they take their kids to these conservation lands M-F, there WILL be dogs running willy nilly off leash. Conversely, dog owners know if they take their dogs off leash on the weekends, it's likely they'll get ticketed. Dog owners meet regularly and our dogs know each other and play -- when a new dog comes there's a loose protocol for having it meet the others so everyone gets a sense of how friendly the dog is. Check to see if you have similar options.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:37 AM on March 17

When I was a kid an off leash dog came up to me and started following me in a playground, which was terrifying because I was scared of dogs. I went over to my dad, the owner came over to say it was ok, don't worry, the dog was super friendly, and while we were all standing there it bit me on the leg. I don't believe any dog owner who thinks their dog is "harmless", and especially not one careless enough to let it off leash and uncontrolled.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 3:08 AM on March 17 [15 favorites]

Your dog came very close to being maced, or tased, or bludgeoned.

Or shot—and depending on local gun laws the authorities might not be on your side if this happens.
posted by musicinmybrain at 6:34 AM on March 17 [4 favorites]

It's an eye-opener when your beloved dog, whom you previously judged completely harmless, goes after a neighbor kid with unprecedented fury. It happened to me, and I was mortified and prayed for hours afterward I wouldn't see the police rolling up my driveway.

Oh, and I had my dog on a leash; he bolted so quickly the leash slipped out of my hand.

Always leash. Always be vigilant.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 9:14 AM on March 17 [10 favorites]

If your dog is off-leash and it isn't in a fenced dog park, their recall had better be transcendent. You need to have the kind of recall that can pull a dog off a dead squirrel. Clearly this isn't the case.

It is never too late to train. Dogs want to work with you. Give them the courtesy of teaching yourself clear and positive communication with them.

Maybe check your local subreddit to see if anyone's complained.
posted by Nyx at 10:28 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]

Agree so much with DrAstroZoom. Our dog has never gone after a kid, but she killed a bird while I was walking her through a park - on a leash I'd wrapped around my wrist to about 3 feet, no less. This is a smart dog who has been through many training courses, who at home wants nothing more than to ooze onto her mommies and receive snuggles and adulation, a dog who is the sweetest cuddlebug in the universe - yet as we walked past this hidden bird that tried to make a dash at the very last moment, she lunged out and took it in her mouth and it was all over in an instant. The bird had tried to flee, our dog's "chase" reflexes kicked in, and she was close enough to grab it. Even she seemed surprised when she let go of the now-dying starling.

You can know your dog and still be surprised by what they do. They're living beings with instincts and impulses all their own. I bet that I would adore your dog if I were to meet him. I bet a lot of us here would. That still doesn't mean it's safe to let him off leash where other people might be affected by his behavior.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:40 AM on March 17 [6 favorites]

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