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Hello all. We are completely new to this forum and have seen how responsive members have been to other's posts. My boyfriend and I hope we receive the same amount of responses with some well needed advice...

Yesterday afternoon my boyfriend took our 7mnth old pit-lab terrier to the dog park (that we always go to) for some afternoon play. While my boyfriend was pulling into the lot of the dog park, he said he saw a child sled riding down the hill (right outside the fencing of the dog section). As he pulled into a parking spot, he said she seemed very excited...a bit more so than usual for a bark park day. Now as soon as he opened the door she bolted out of the car - before he was able to grab the leash (which was on her) - and she started running towards the boy sledding down the hill While running to get her, my boyfriend said he saw her grab onto the boys pants and shake her head roughly from side-to-side like she had a toy in her mouth. As soon as he got to the kid, our puppy was finished and was acting normal like nothing happened. Unfortunately our puppy had bitten through the boys thick water repellant pants and bit right to the boy's calf area. My boyfriend said the only thing he could think of that made her do that was that in our puppys line of vision, she saw the sled coming towards our car and in defense, wanted to protect.

A few hours later...

We get a call from the boys parents and they were (to our amazement) very cool about it. They said they had 2 dogs of their own so they know how dogs can be. However (with total understanding on our side), was concerned about the incident. Their son had to get 3 stitches because of our puppy and they informed us that the hospital told them to file a police report.

My boyfriend and i love our dog very much, but know that people's safety is the most important. We feel awful about what happened to the child and I'm actually shaking while writing this because it shocked us tremendously. I spoke to the parents and told them that as our puppy's owners, we are going to be as cooperative and responsive as needed and of course will be paying any out-of-pocket hospital expenses pertaining to this incident.

So you can understand further of our communication with the boy's parents and us, I would like to give some history: this past October (2012) when we were looking to adopt we knew we wanted a pit terrier and was adamant that the dog we adopted was both dog and kid friendly. That was an absolute must. When we spoke to the shelter about the puppy we were interested in, they were confident in telling us that she was kid and dog friendly - the perfect combination we wanted! The adoption papers stated she had up-to-date temperment and rabies shots and that she was also spayed. Since the first day we got her she has been nothing but so incredibly gentle, energetic and loving. She is terrific with kids and pretty much other dogs. As first time dog owners we wanted to make sure that we were responsible "parents" and did/do what we need to ensure that we took the time to give her the proper training and socialization. She has been in obedience class since the 2nd week we got her, we take her to the dog park socialization and when we go on walks we allow her to sniff with other dogs and have people pet her. We keep up with the obedience training when we are home so that we instill good manners in her. There really is nothing about us that displays irresponsibility. We made a commitment to be responsible dog owners and have been so thus far.

Now with this said, I do have some concerns. I asked if they would reconsider filing a police report as we are being and plan to be very cooperative and responsive with them regarding this incident. I feel because we are, it doesn't not warrant a police report. They said the hospital advised them to file it because it was mandatory as the hospital has to send the paperwork to the state. This makes me weary as this seems like the beginning of a lawsuit. I feel as though they inquired to (possibly) sue, not like the hospital told them to do it because why would a hospital need to send paperwork to the state for 3 stitches?

In our defense, I am wondering why a mother would take her child to a DESIGNATED dog park section of a park to go sled riding when there are other sections of the park with perfect sledding hills? I can maybe understand if perhaps her husband was watching their dog inside the fence and she decided she was going to watch her son sled down the dog park hill (outside of the fenced area). But that was not the case as she was solely there for her son to sleigh ride. I really feel it was a very poor decision on her part to bring her 5year old to a dog park section of park for sledding. I mean, there is always a chance of dogs getting off their leash before they are walked into the fenced in area. There is a reason why this park has a designated dog section. So because of this, it bothers me that it seems as though she hasn't taken some responsibility in this.

Are we wrong to feel this way? We feel horrible that our puppy did this, but as a parent, she should have used better judgment about the appropriate place to take her 5yr old sledding. My boyfriend really wanted to have her put down but i was totally against it. She has NEVER displayed any aggression towards adults or children or animals (well, except for those small occasions when at the dog park and the dogs get a bit aggressive bc they are over excited). I can understand if we noticed she was aggressive over and over, but our puppy is very loving and there is was absolutely NO way i was going to have her put down. I called a professional dog behaviorist and told her about this incident and she said this does not warrant our dog being put to sleep. The woman said that she feels our pup did what she did because of instinctual defense. I told her that we live in the downtown part of our town and there are kids running everywhere as well as people on bicycles and that she's never displayed aggression or growled. The woman said our pup saw an object in motion coming her (and her owner's) way very quickly and deemed it as a threat. She also mentioned that it was most likely the lab breed in her, not the pit. I guess she wanted us to have some peace of mind and not us think it was her pitbull half. While we know that dog bites/attacks are very common, we dont want to be flexible with responsibility and we've booked our first session with the dog behaviorist later next week.

Can anyone give us advice on what you would do? If you were in our situation and knew that you were responsible owner's (who do acknowledge responsibility of your dog) would you also feel the other parent has some responsibility in this as well by bringing their child to go sledding in a designated dog park? Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated as we are very torn over this. Thank you!
 

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I wasn't there, but it sounds to me like you're reading what happened wrong. A kid sledding is moving quickly and that's exciting. Especially exciting for a 7 month old puppy. She probably thought it was fun. When my youngest was a puppy if you ran you'd get your pant legs grabbed. If he accidentally hurt you in the process it wasn't the intent. You were just moving quickly and it was fun. If it was going to boil down to fault, unless there are any rules against kids sledding in that area there is merely a lack of common sense there. You should be working on a solid recall and a solid "Wait." before opening the car door to prevent barging out and running.
 

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Yes, it does sound confusing as to if the child was in or outside the dog park. At first you say the dog ran out of the car before you caught the leash. Like TWAB says above, a solid 'wait' before opening the car door could have prevented this. This is actually one of THE most important tools you should teach your puppy for a LOT of reasons, this included.

Also, you should really check into the bite laws in your area. It is definitely the responsibility of the hospital to report a dog bite. As a dog owner, you should know that, and the consequences as well. Especially if your dog has the word "Pit" anywhere on her paperwork.
 

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The report MUST be filed, the dog may be quarrentined for 10 days, some areas will allow this to be in home, if not the pup will be taken to AC. If they allow you to do the quarentine in home the dog will NOT be allowed to l,eave your property or be around other dogs/people. Either way you will have to pay a fine (part of being a responsible dog owner).

Frankly, I think ThoseWordsAt Best has hit the nail on the head, this doesn't sound like aggression, but excitement/rough play. I'd say in the future you'll need to be sure to have a firm hand on the leash, perhaps use a seatbelt harness and be sure the dog is secured before you release it. I'd also work with a trainer on attention work and 'Look At Me" and 'wait'
 

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I agree with TWAB. The pup was excited and chased after the moving sled. That doesn't change what happened and the situation you now find yourself in. As an owner, you are responsible. Leash laws apply outside the park. If I were in your shoes, I would be pro-active and A) get a behaviorist out to evaluate the dog. An observations from a qualified professional will help you understand your dog, but also help with any potential issues that develop over the next few days-weeks. You will want that documentation. B) Have your dog secured in the car so that an open door is not an opportunity to bolt. C) Continue with training in and out of class as well as work on a solid recall.

Bottom line is, you are responsible for your dog's actions. What you do from here is important and will help determine how far this incident goes. jmo
 

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Sounds a bit like prey drive to me, she saw the boy on the sled going down the hill and her prey drive kicked in to chase it. It's an unfortunate outcome but I wouldn't call it aggression.

As to the police report I really depends on where you live and what the laws are. In some areas absolutely all dog bites that require medical attention much be reported, and 3 stitches certainly qualifies as a reportable bite in most areas. Again it depends on the laws where you live on what will happen from there.

Right now I think you are just in a wait and see period. Seeking the help of a positive reinforcement behaviorist is a good first step in my opinion so you are off to a good start. In the end your dog got loose in a public area where dogs are required to be leashed and bit a child so yes all the liability will fall on you. It was an accident and accidents happen but you can't really shift any blame here from the information you've given.

I will warn you of one thing with pit mixes. You can't promise a puppy will be dog friendly it's entire life. Pits are prone to dog aggression, not all are by any stretch but it's more common than in many other breeds. This dog aggression or even just dog selective behavior may not kick in until maturity around 2 years old. She may never become dog aggressive or dog selective but you can't rule it out simply because she is dog friendly as a puppy. If you absolutely wanted dog friendly and child friendly you should have gone with a young adult who already reached maturity.
 

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As far as the report goes...I'm not 100 percent familiar with how this works but I believe in many states the hospital is required to report dog bites. It has nothing to do with the number of stitches - the theory is that if a dog bite is serious enough to warrant hospital attention, the dog that did it should be reported. Your dog may end up being labeled a "dangerous dog" or some such - it depends on the area.

Obviously you have no control over whether or not they file a report. If it was me, I would file a report, to be honest. It's an unfortunate situation, but if it was my kid I would be pretty freaked out and would want the incident to be recorded. Sorry, but that's the truth.

I don't mean to sound harsh, but I don't think it matters how you feel about whether or not the other party was responsible or not. Maybe they could have chosen some other hill, but they were not inside the dog area, period. While tempting, this sort of victim-blaming isn't productive and is not going to improve the relationship with these people who you think may be considering a lawsuit.
 

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My thoughts --

First - your dog should be restrained in the car, which he obviously was not. If the dog was properly and safely restrained, there is no way it could have bolted when the door opened. My dog travels in a crate (leash hangs out, you grab the leash, then open the crate door). For a larger dog, a seatbelt harness would be appropriate. Either way, IMO, this was your first mistake.

Second - Unless the child was in the fenced area of the dog park, the child and his parents have every right to sled there. Who knows why they chose that hill, could be many reasons, none of which are relevant. I'm sure there are leash laws, and the onus is on you to have your dog leashed when it is not in the designated dog area, even if you're two steps outside of it.

Third - I agree that it doesn't really sound like your dog was being aggressive as much as it was being really excited. It sounds like he was excited to be at the park in the first place, and there's a fast moving object to chase, which might not even have looked like a person to him all bundled in snow gear. If he was truly *attacking* the child, I don't think he would have stopped and been "normal" that quickly. Definitely work on "wait" - "come" - "leave it" etc...

Finally - Expect to get a call from the police/health department. In NY where I live, doctors have legal obligation to report any animal bite to the health department. There's no use in trying to convince the parents not to do it, the doctors are under legal obligation to report it. Just make sure you have proof of rabies and the dog's license is in order, and hopefully that will be that.
 

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If the kid was sledding in the dog park than it can't be your fault. If the kid was sledding outside the dog park then it is your fault. I have a dog that isn't 100% sit stay yet and she will bolt from the car. If the park is a multiple use area then it's up to the dog owners responsibility to keep the dog under control outside the dog area. My dog park is close to a baseball field, soccer fields and tennis court- I bet it could get interesting at times with all that activity. I agree, I don't think your dog attacked but was playing but people get strange when it comes to bully breeds.
 

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It sucks but the dog did a blood bite, the dog was off leash out of your control. I find it wrong of you to ask the parents not to file a police report, you will have an equal opportunity to state your version of the events on that report. But if the child does have long term damage then yes you would be responsible for it and the police report protects the child.

My child dog "collie" went after a motorcycle on our road, we never had one come down there before, he went after it, and he nipped the kid on the back. We were responsible for it, well my parents. Everyone got involved in the paper trail. And Rusty never bit anyone again as it was an accident of excitment but he still nipped the kid.
 

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My thoughts --

First - your dog should be restrained in the car, which he obviously was not. If the dog was properly and safely restrained, there is no way it could have bolted when the door opened. My dog travels in a crate (leash hangs out, you grab the leash, then open the crate door). For a larger dog, a seatbelt harness would be appropriate. Either way, IMO, this was your first mistake.

Second - Unless the child was in the fenced area of the dog park, the child and his parents have every right to sled there. Who knows why they chose that hill, could be many reasons, none of which are relevant. I'm sure there are leash laws, and the onus is on you to have your dog leashed when it is not in the designated dog area, even if you're two steps outside of it.

Third - I agree that it doesn't really sound like your dog was being aggressive as much as it was being really excited. It sounds like he was excited to be at the park in the first place, and there's a fast moving object to chase, which might not even have looked like a person to him all bundled in snow gear. If he was truly *attacking* the child, I don't think he would have stopped and been "normal" that quickly. Definitely work on "wait" - "come" - "leave it" etc...

Finally - Expect to get a call from the police/health department. In NY where I live, doctors have legal obligation to report any animal bite to the health department. There's no use in trying to convince the parents not to do it, the doctors are under legal obligation to report it. Just make sure you have proof of rabies and the dog's license is in order, and hopefully that will be that.
All of this. Well said.

Part of responsible dog ownership is knowing your dog. That means understanding a dog's body language, knowing their triggers, etc. You said the dog was more excited than usual as soon as your bf pulled into the lot. That means that before the dog actually bolted from the car, there were signs that would have predicted that. Those signs were the first cue that your bf should have left. Or gotten leash control before opening the door. Or put the dog in a down-stay. Or...or...or. Plenty of options besides letting the dog get loose. I don't say this to make you (or your bf) feel worse, but to warn you (or others reading this) that individual dogs are highly predictable, and in the future, there are usually signals before incidents occur. Learn to read them.
 

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Willow used to tackle and grab us when we went sledding. . .we got hurt all the time, nobody cared. But of course it's different if it's a stranger. But it is very normal dog behavior, not aggression. It's just too exciting for them to control themselves.

Hospitals are required to file a police report for all dog bites and all gunshot wounds. It's just the way things are. When my dog Toby accidentally bit my mom the hospital still needed to file a police report. The cop just wanted to see his rabies certificate and that was that. I'm sure this varies depending on local ordinance, though. Hopefully nothing much will come of it.
 

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I had a foster dog give me a 4 puncture bite above a rollerblade from over-stimulation. The dog wasn't aggressive in the least, but the blades just jacked him up and he really, really nailed me. He just needed to be de-sensitized to the wheels.

This sounds like over-stimulation to me. And where I live, the hospital would HAVE to report the bite. It has to do with rabies and disease prevention.

I am glad that the parents are being reasonable about this. Many would not.

My chiildhood golden retriever used to grab all of us kids by our hoods and drag us back up the hills when we would sled. And take off with our stocking hats. Pretty normal dog behavior.
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Thanks for such prompt responses everyone. It helps us to better understand things now. Other than when inside our apartment, our pup is never off leash. Even in the car we always keep her leash on just in case she bolts out (which unfortunately she did).

To paint a more clear picture of the park's layout, i'll try to be as discriptive as possible: the park that we go to has several sections, each with their own parking lot and nicely seperated from clusters of trees/shrubbery. For example: the playground section has it's own parking lot and the entire park/lot area is surrounded by trees, the pond/gazebo section has it's own area and parking lot and the hiking/hill sections of the parks have it's own parking lot. As for the dog park, prior to pulling into the parking lot, there is a sign that reads "dog park", so it is known that it's a designated dog park. However I do agree, it is our fault...or more so my boyfriends as i was not there and he had full liability over our pup.

**tried to post my reply to 3doglady, but for some reason it's not showing which is why i'm addressing her on here (still need to learn this forum)**
@3dog lady: I did some research on professional dog behaviorists around our area and made a call that night (yesterday to be exact) and we are booked for an appointment for next week. Since our puppy has never shown signs of aggression, there is just no way I am putting her down (if i can help it), so getting in contact with a behaviorist was an absolute must. As for seatbelt security, she's not traveling anywhere. That privilage has been revoked until she is under more control. The only time she is going outside is for potty time and her daily walks. We went to the petstore last night to get one of those muzzle-like things. It's not a traditional muzzle where it encloses her entire snout, rather it's a rope that wraps around her snout and head to prevent her from opening her mouth. The most she can do is stick her tougue out. I did some reading about dog parks and to my surprise learned that they are NO-NO's bc of possible learned bad behavior. I was under the assumption that dog parks were totally ok as we spoke to staff at different pet stores and other dog owners. But now that I know it has more negative affects, I think i'm going to stop the dog parks altogether. She is not a vicious dog and I dont want her learning other inappropriate behavior; especially from male dogs who have recently started to mount her, in which she has to stand up for herself to get them off and has no choice but to growl and sometimes bite them off. We have pulled a male dog off of her only to see that not even 3 seconds later another dog is trying to get his turn. Fortunately she is spayed, so we dont have to worry about unwanted breeding. In response to continued training, we signed her up for all training courses when we first adopted her, so she will be there until she completes the advanced courses.

We have been working on commands: wait, stay, no, leave it, etc. She is also about to go into her 2nd stage of obedience school (we had planned for her to attend all courses until she completes the advanced ones). I appreciate all of your responses as it helps me to be more aware and more prepared. It makes me feel much more at ease to know that we do not have an aggressive driven attack-filled dog, but more of a excited/prey driven one. However we will certainly give much more attention to being more attentive when we have her in public. I'm also going to do some research on the seatbelt harness that's best fit for her build/strength because eventually we will have her in the car with us again. I never want to have to worry that this will happen. Just hearing about it from my boyfriend and speaking to the parents made my stomach drop.
 

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My pit gets so excited when you run and play, he did this for a LONG time ( to us ) he had no idea he was doing anything wrong. it was just his nature of play. He still does not realize that my arms and legs are inside my clothes and in a moment of excitement will try to grab onto them. Resulting in a no and an instant stop play. He really has no clue that my body is inside the clothing not a clue. I haven't figured out how to teach him this...so I just set to teach him not to grab. Which eliminated tug of war because your arm would turn into a toy just as quickly as the rope. So yes, I can see how a dog would react this way. its not aggression! your dog is like a child at that age and you have to teach them what is right and wrong because they do not know. They are full of energy and do not know their limits yet. Just like with our children at a certain age they have to be told and taught they just don't automatically know that something is bad. Don't expect your dog who has a much smaller brain to know any better. So do not feel bad just know that this is something you will have to teach your dog. to be gentle and kids on sleds are not chase toys!

Now the general way a dog bite works is it HAS to be reported. in the wrong or not. Even if someone trespasses on your property and a dog bites them. they procedure has to be followed. If your dog is up to date on his rabies shot. ( which since your at the dog park I assume so ) then most states require a in home 10 day quarantine. How it works is you go and see the vet for a rabies observation exam. 10 days later you go back and have the dog examined again. Even though this is obviously not a rabies provoked bite. it is the law and this is the procedure. 10 days is the amount of time it takes rabies to show up with physical symptoms. Now if your dog is not up to date on the Rabies vaccination. then the animal control may quarantine the dog at their facility or a selected facility for 10 days at your expense. This probably is different in each state but something like this is what to expect. They generally do not just take a dog for a issue like this. Most states take a lot of continuing REAL aggression issues just to get into the paperwork. Unless there is a breed ban or ordinance in the county.

As far as fault. I dunno whose fault it would be if the were sledding inside a dog park. that is just stupid since a child sledding is tempting to a lot of dogs and owners caught off guard not expecting there to be a child zipping down a hill inside a dog park. A sledding child would be a fun chase toy for a herding breed. IMO

I am glad your seeing a behaviorist. They can give you some good help training the puppy and the fact your working on the commands is really good! I drilled sit and down and stay into Vaders head to the point that even if he gets into his overdrive happy mode. he listens really well. Maybe he wiggles uncontrollably while performing his down and stay but he will listen anyways. They are happy dogs. and everything is happy and play for them. Labs are the same way. So you will have a big goofy happy playful dog on your hands. I hope it goes well for you =-)
 

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I think it is perfectly natural for you to want to place some of the blame on the childs parents. No they probably shouldn't of allowed their child to play right next to a dog park, but they did and now you are at your current situation. Honestly it sounds like your boyfriend should be around your dog alone because he hasn't the first clue about dog behavior and it kind of sounds like he doesn't even like the dog. If I am reading too much into it, then I'm sorry..but to want your dog put down immediantly doesn't say much about him.

And you are pretty d**n lucky about how the parents are handling this, count your lucky stars. With a pit mix, most people would call for death. Dog bites that result in any type of hospitalization are by law required to be filed. So no, they aren't lying to you about this. You just need to suck it up and learn from the experience. Your dog does not sound aggressive, like most have stated just over excited. You do need to be proactive about the situation though, just in case. Get your dog checked out by a behaviorist like others have stated. You should also enroll your dog in better obedience classes it seems to me. Pet store classes do not count as real obedience in my books. Get a real trainer. If you have honestly been taking her to classes, she shouldn't have bolted and she should have had some sort of "stay" or "wait" command ingrained in her already.

I think I would be placing blame too, but only because it is a natural feeling. Labs are very exuberant puppies, as are pitties. Remember, your dog is just a puppy. Now, I have no idea if they are going to sue you or not, it doesn't sound like it, but you never know. If you are fully committed to your dog, you will take whatever happens in stride and do whatever you have to do as a result with a smile on your face. Your puppy has no idea what she did was bad. If you are going to blame her and resent her for what happened, she belongs in a new home.
 

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We have been working on commands: wait, stay, no, leave it, etc. She is also about to go into her 2nd stage of obedience school (we had planned for her to attend all courses until she completes the advanced ones). I appreciate all of your responses as it helps me to be more aware and more prepared. It makes me feel much more at ease to know that we do not have an aggressive driven attack-filled dog, but more of a excited/prey driven one. However we will certainly give much more attention to being more attentive when we have her in public. I'm also going to do some research on the seatbelt harness that's best fit for her build/strength because eventually we will have her in the car with us again. I never want to have to worry that this will happen. Just hearing about it from my boyfriend and speaking to the parents made my stomach drop.
I wouldn't worry about the kid. His popularity in school will go up 4 fold as he'll have a good story to tell about how he got a new scar and kids love scars. The other side of this could be that he develops a phobia to pitbulls and/or labs and may miss out on some quality dog ownership as either of these are fine breeds to own although I prefer dobermans and nova scotia duck tolling retreivers. I think you're on to something with the training. Wait, Stay, and no are good commands to teach a dog and it sounds like that's coming along nicely. I might consider sending the boy a card with a picture of the dog b/c honestly there could be some backlash from the parents if they decide later on down the road that they want to hire one of those TV lawyers that always win big settlements.
 

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Other than when inside our apartment, our pup is never off leash. Even in the car we always keep her leash on just in case she bolts out (which unfortunately she did).
I'm sorry - not to be combative. But what does this mean? If she's on a leash, it really means nothing unless you have control of the other end. Do you mean you usually tether her inside the car with her leash in case she bolts and this time it just wasn't done?
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
I'm sorry - not to be combative. But what does this mean? If she's on a leash, it really means nothing unless you have control of the other end. Do you mean you usually tether her inside the car with her leash in case she bolts and this time it just wasn't done?
We keep her on the leash in the car. But let me speak from my end rather than my boyfriends. When she's with me in the car i never open the door all the way. I'll say wait, open it half way blocking her and the door from opening more (by using my leg as to prevent the door from being pushed open), grab her leash, and then let her out. But now i will be looking into some sort of seatbelt harness for her or at least buckling the end of her leash to the seat. With my boyfriend, he is too damn lenient with her and he knows it really bothers me bc I feel she hasn't earned full trust yet. This will be more of a lesson for him and hopefully he will not think it's me being too hard on him. I'm going to show him everyone's post so he can see that it's not just me saying he needs to be more firm/commanding.
 
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