RDORC recognizes that it is hard being a responsible dog owner. Taking care of the dog's needs, protecting him from harm, and at the same time being sensitive to the rights of others and protecting others from the dog is a tall order, especially for the city dweller.

The city can be a dangerous place for a dog, full of things that are frightening, challenging and distracting to a dog. Dogs are reactive to their environments and their owners never have 100% control over the dog's environment.

And dogs are hard to control. It sounds like excuse-making, but even the top trainers have trouble. Dogs don't think the way we do, so learning how to control a dog is counterintuitive for humans.

People are not born knowing how to train a dog, but many people assume they should be able to control their dogs without taking classes or cracking a book.

Training a dog is work and hard work for working people.

It is especially hard being a responsible dog owner in a city like Seattle with one of the toughest bite laws in the country. In Seattle it's one bite and your dog is basically quarantined for the rest of his life because, if he bites again, he'll be euthanized. If you love your dog, you won't want to risk giving him another opportunity to bite. And he probably will bite if he ever gets another opportunity because dogs in isolation lose their canine social skills.

In the course of protecting the dog from the world and protecting the world from the dog the urban dog owner is sometimes worn pretty thin. Being responsible can be a hard life for a dog owner, but the true dog lover chooses it because, for him, it's the good life, the only life.

The would-be responsible dog owner needs help. City government is in a position to help and should help. RDORC believes responsible urban planning should provide adequate canine infrastructure: public education and places like off-leash areas that provide dog owners with environments where they can give the dog the regular exercise, socialization and training he needs to muster self-control, but these facilities need to be safe and that means they have to be controlled settings that are well-designed and well-managed. Otherwise these off-leash spaces can actually be counterproductive, setting dog owners up for failure, condition dogs for bad behavior that spills out into the world-at-large unfairly exposing the dog owner to liability.

Learning theory teaches us that good dog training involves "dog management," controlling the environment to teach behavior gradually in baby steps. By providing spaces that give dog owners some control over their environment, cities give dog owners the tools they need to get their dogs under control.

RDORC's believes the responsible dog owner must educate city government on its responsibility to provide adequate dog management facilities, reminding the city that it plays an active role in its own animal control problems when it fails to do so. We dog owning citizens have a responsibility to find out what science and experience recommend for off-leash facility design and then lobby city government to get it.

Dog bites are like plane crashes – they don’t happen very often but when they do they are awful. When dog facilities are not designed to minimize the potential for incidents, all of us are living with probability and liability. Most of us don't know it. This is an imposition by city government on its citizens.

What constitutes good design of dog management facilities is an area of study that should be pursued as scientifically as possible. It is the mission of RDORC to help that science happen.


Responsible Dog Owners for Responsible Cities


Two dogs were killed in fights at off-leash areas in Seattle recently (Christmas 2011 Genesee, summer 2012 Regrade). After the incident at Genesee the Parks Department made noises about wanting to install a "small/dog" segregated space there. RDORC was appalled to learn that the space being considered was to be inside the current site, making it even smaller - when the site is surrounded by unused city land. We learned 6/26/13 that the Parks Department is holding up the project until the neighborhood comes up with the small amount of money necessary to pay for the fencing.  Dog owners of Seattle, it's time to howl!

Also 6/26/13 our contact at the Parks Department says the reason people go off leash in undesignated areas is because they "aren't being adult."