Entitled Dog Owners, Racism, and a Viral Video

By jer979!! | | 18 Jun 2020

tl;dr: how entitled behavior leads to conflict, disharmony, and discord. An example of dog owners in public parks.

An entitled dog owner doesn’t leash her dog

There is a wonderful park across the street from my house. It’s 500 acres full of paths, trails, and much more. I take a walk there nearly every day.

In the midst of the park, there is a fenced off area that serves as a “dog park.” Inside, dogs are free to roam around and run however they want.

Outside of that specific area, however, the signs and rules are crystal clear.

Dogs must be on a leash.

While there are many dog owners who follow the rules, there are some who believe that the rules do not apply to them.

Even within that audience, there are segments.

If the dog owner sees you from afar, they may call their dogs over well in advance and hold the dog by the collar until you pass.

Others, however, are content to let the dog do what the dog does.

Some dogs ignore you, but some don’t.

And that’s the issue.

Canine Unknown Unknowns

The other day we explored the idea of the “unknown unknowns” and the “known unknowns.”

In a situation where an unleashed dog is approaching you, the dog owner may “know” that “oh my dog is totally friendly and will never do anything to you.”

The other person has an “unknown” coming down to “ok, there’s a dog coming up to me and I really have no idea what the intention of the dog is.”

Now, for smaller dogs, this may seem like not a big deal. However, as a former runner, I can tell you that it is extremely irritating to have a dog barking or nipping at your heels as you are trying to maintain your pace.

As a walker, personally, it’s just not something I want to contend with, assessing the intentions of someone else’s dog. Not only should it not even be something about which to think, but I certainly don’t want a dog jumping on me, smelling me, or licking me at that moment.

This issue becomes even more acute as dogs get larger and there’s more risk associated with the unknown.

I remember this problem specifically when my kids were much younger and in strollers. Dogs would come up to them in the stroller and I was in no position to defend them in the event that things went wrong, which obviously could happen.

“My Dog Would Never…”

Every time this happens, I think about what an appropriate response would be.

Sometimes, I keep my mouth shut.

Sometimes I say, “you know, the dog is supposed to be on a leash” which I have tried with tone ranging from extreme compassion and kindness to Brooklyn/Queens/Bronx-level directness and everything in between.

The responses have ranged from ignoring me to scoffing me to confrontations.

The answer from the dog owner is basically some version of “well, my dog is friendly and would never do anything.”

First of all, “never do anything” is a strong statement. It’s already something if I’m annoyed or concerned by it, so perhaps the dog owner could redirect some of the immense compassion they have for the feelings of their dogs to the feelings of the other person in the park..

Second of all, I don’t care if you genuinely believe that your dog won’t do anything.

That’s also not my problem. As the dog owner, you are assuming NONE of the risk while, as the object of the dog’s unknown intentions, I (or my kids) are assuming ALL of the risk.

That seems like a very unfair and unbalanced situation, particularly when you as the dog owner are already violating the larger social contract of “not putting your dog on a leash.”

Yet, for some reason, there’s a swath of dog owners who feel entitled to walk anywhere they want with their dog and without the use of a leash in spite of the regulations.

The Racist, Entitled Dog Owner

A few days ago, a white woman named Amy Cooper was walking with her unleashed dog in Central Park in New York and it led to a life-altering confrontation for both of them. I guess the risk is not totally unbalanced after all.

Despite the rule stating that “dogs must be on a leash,” Ms. Cooper decided that the rules didn’t apply to her either. As she went upon her walk, she came to a part of the park where a man, Chris Cooper (no relation), was engaging in some birdwatching.

Mr. Cooper (birdwatcher) asked Ms. Cooper (dog owner) kindly to put her dog on a leash.

She refused.

Apparently, Mr. Cooper carries dog treats with him as a means of distracting dogs that come up to him and which he would rather ignore.

[I’ve thought of this myself, but felt offended at the idea that I should buy dog biscuits when I don’t have a dog and when I’m not doing anything wrong. I’ve also come up with other possible solutions.]

Well, the situation with Ms. Cooper and Mr. Cooper was recorded on video and it’s resulted in a Ms. Cooper getting fired from her job at Franklin Templeton funds as well as losing the dog.

It’s also destroyed her personal brand SEO with mentions all over the place including CNNNewsweekCnbc, and USA Today.   c7b02387abacc6051a2f22945bc2701842aec0214ade0a97c4bed80a3862f6ab.png  

Entitlement and the Law

Now, I’m not saying that my personal discomfort about dogs not being on a leash is as serious as a white woman threatening to call the cops on an African-American man.

Certainly, given all we are witnessing, it’s clear that the risks for Mr. Cooper are even higher than they are for me.

So, let’s be clear about that.

What I am saying is that we’re engaged in a massive social conversation about core issues such as equality before the law and double standards.

It may seem silly to think about “dog leashing” as a huge issue. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not. I can see that.

However, the societal conversation, in part, is about erasing the sense of entitlement that certain groups (white, men, rich, dog owners have) so that all are treated equally.

If dog owners want to unleash their dogs, then change the rules and take down the signs.

Otherwise, as the saying goes, “check your privilege.”

What we are learning the hard way these days is that when some groups of people feel entitled under the law, whether as a white person dealing with the police or as a dog owner in the park, there are other groups of people who simultaneously feel disrespected and concerned.



And here’s one thought (and I have no idea what Ms. Cooper’s politics are, though I’d be willing to make a bet).

What happens to this call when the police are defunded?

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