Think of it this way…

People often find it hard to understand dogs. They seem so alien to us – they bark, they seem to communicate by peeing, they want to smell everything, and they only seem to understand English well enough to ignore it. Let’s see if we can simplify things:


A puppy is roughly the same as a human toddler. It can walk, run sloppily, make lots of noise, communicate a little bit, can’t control its bodily functions and needs constant supervision.


A full-grown, adult dog maxes out at the approximate maturity of an 8-year-old boy. It has mastered a few self-care skills -like using the potty in the appropriate place and licking ice cream off its face, it’s had some education, and learned a few things about the world. It still needs a significant amount of supervision, is still curious about most things, but can be trusted with some time alone, in his bedroom or in the backyard. Unlike the boy, the dog is going to remain at this level of maturity for the rest of its life.

And just like an eight year old boy, your dog’s behavior will be a reflection of what and how it was taught earlier in life. If the dog was treated harshly, then it will learn to expect that from the world, just like the boy will. It will go out into the world with a chip on its shoulder, always preferring fight to flight.

If, on the other hand, the dog has been coddled and protected inside the home, it is likely to enter the world confused and behaving inappropriately. Like a person raised by wolves, it only knows how people behave. It might become fearful, and fearful dogs can be aggressive – just like the 5th grade bully who picks on kindergartners.

Either of the dogs above could be dogs who are just afraid without knowing how to hide it. They look like victims to other dogs and some dogs, being essentially 8-year-old boys, are inclined to pick on victims. When victims run, dogs give chase. For that matter, when anything runs, dogs will chase it. But the fearful dog will remain fearful, at least until it is socialized properly, and that can always be done. While exposure as a young puppy is best, it is never too late to introduce your dog to new experiences. You may need to have a lot of patience, but it will be well worth it as the dog gains confidence.

But, if the dog is consistently raised with a firm but gentle hand, introduced to many different things early in life – including sounds, people in various “costumes,” other dogs, vehicles, and all different things to walk on, smell, roll in, and listen to, and been taught about limits and appropriate behavior, then that dog is likely to grow up to be a confident, well-behaved dog – a good doggie citizen.

Back in the Saddle

October 12, 2016: Email from Town Manager, Steve LeDoux:

“Please be aware that Tom and Cathy have submitted a budget request for a dog park for next Fiscal Year. I am currently evaluating requests as I have to submit a recommended budget for next Fiscal Year to the Board of Selectmen right before Christmas..”

My meeting with Steve LeDoux was pro forma. I felt he was listening to me and he seemed to be supportive, but what he subsequently told Franny Osman, Selectperson, was not at all the message I thought I was trying to impart.

There has been minimal communication with the recreation department since my last meeting with Cathy, though I did get information that Cathy, Tom Tidman, and Matt Selby had been, and will continue to be, vetting properties for a dog park. In a peculiar case of missing email (which I blame on my switch to Outlook) I can’t document any of this. What I do remember hearing from Cathy, by email, is that they had looked at a property behind the Trader Joe mall on 2A as well as a property right by the sewer treatment plant.

I asked to be part of this vetting process and was denied. Apparently Cathy wants to wait until the selectmen have approved and seated a Dog Park Committee/Dog Committee, at which point she/they will present a list of approved properties to the committee.

I’m not crazy about that, but I’m busy with other things and don’t have the energy to fight about it. I remain committed to Great Hill, as I personally feel that is the best place for the park and resent that the Recreation Department even considered that we be shoved onto the margins of Acton, where nobody else would want to be. This is not uncommon, for dog parks to be treated like landfills, but those of us who own the dogs deserve better. There is nothing disgusting or shameful about a dog park and it shouldn’t be treated as such. Perhaps they could put a few soccer fields next to the landfill. There’s plenty of space.


I am making progress, slowly, on healing with Bruin and we’ve even improved his recall, which I didn’t think was possible. I have more work to do with him, but will be ready for the meeting of the BoS on December 5.