Whether we admit it or not, our dogs are a reflection on us.
When I meet an uncontrollable dog, I immediately judge its owner. It's the same reaction I have when I see a bratty kid. I don't think, "what a bratty kid." I think, "what an asshole of a parent."
It's even more pronounced with dogs, since they're much more easily trained than children and have a larger desire to please their owner. If a dog is "bad," that often means their owner is either ignorant or lazy. And while certain breeds have certain tendencies, you can't blame your dog's breed - the only breed of dog that can not be fully domesticated is a freaking wolf.
Am I right to have these judgements? Usually. Sometimes I don't know the whole story. The Vick dogs have been rehabilitated, but I bet in the beginning, they were difficult. Someone walking a dog that they just saved from a terrible life is different than walking a dog that they raised from birth to be an asshole.
Most shelter dogs are like Michael Oher in the first half of the Blind Side. Good instincts and good heart, but no knowledge of how to fit in to every day life. I feel like the first day we brought Bea home, she looked at her dog bed and said, "It's nice, I never had one before."
It's because of judgement that I am super conscious of Bea's behavior. When I'm with Bea in the elevator, I'm always careful to monitor her. I try to prevent her from sniffing strangers legs, hitting anyone with her wagging tail, or bearing teeth at another dog. While it's pretty normal behavior, it's the same reason I don't want other people I'm with to be obnoxious on the subway. I get too embarrassed.
And before you think I'm overreacting, this is the same reason that people teach their dogs tricks. While training is good mental exercise, most people saying "look what my dog can do" are really saying, "look what I taught my dog to do."
So next time your dog gets out of hand in public, remember, that's YOU getting out of hand.
"Sit! Good human."