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So, I have a neighbor who happens to have a large somewhat aggressive dog. I happen to have a small somewhat aggressive dog. I use a leash on my 20 pounder. She lets her 100 plus pound dog run loose.

I really like my neighbor, but I don’t think it’s OK for her to let her dog run off leash. He has attacked my dog before, and now, any time I see him loose, I have to walk all the way around the block to avoid him. The last encounter wound up with a torn dog coat; I am afraid that next time I might have some serious vet bills or worse. Any thoughts on how to encourage her to use a leash and keep the peace?

—Going to the Dogs

The Straight Skinny: Some options:

1. Ask her nicely, and tell her that otherwise you are going to call the dog warden.

2. Fake an attack—when her back is turned, pour ketchup all over your arm, and stagger about so she’s scared witless.

3. Buy her a leash, and tell her that you knew she would want it, so you went ahead and bought one for her.

4. Get real. She has a ferocious and dangerous dog, and you should treat her like you would anyone waving a loaded and deadly weapon around. Tell her that if she doesn’t use a leash, you will have her dog put down.

The Moviegoer says: I truly hate bad pet owners. I really do. In my angry heart, I really feel you should start messing with her. Slash her tires and put a (typed) note on her car saying, “you’re a bad pet owner and you deserve this.” Don’t do that. Only imagine it and smile.

What you should do is grab her dog one day when she’s not paying attention. Take the dog to her door. See if you can well up a few tears before knocking and tell her Ralphie almost got hit by a car, but you (the hero) saved him/her. Then hug Ralphie tenderly and say, “you should really leash him. I’d be devastated if something happened to him.”

Or you could just be reasonable. Try this, “neighbor, I really love my dog. That’s why I leash him. If he ever hurt someone else’s pet, I would be distraught. I’m sure you would feel the same way. Because our obnoxious, poorly trained dogs are both aggressive, don’t you think they should both be leashed?” You can leave out the poorly trained part.

The Shutterbug says: Record an audio track of yourself whispering, “The first rule of Block Club is don’t talk about Block Club. The second rule of Block Club is put a leash on your dog.” Sneak into your neighbor’s bedroom each night and play that in a loop as they sleep. The power of suggestion! Just don’t get caught. Or you could write a letter, but that wouldn’t be as fun.

The Practical Cogitator says: Aggressive behavior is just one, very good reason that your neighbor should leash her dog. The other is that any dog, no matter how well disciplined, can lose its training in an instant, and in that instant dart into the road and get hit by a car—or, worse, lash out at another animal, whether that animal is a dog, a cat, or a person.

Someone needs to tell her that it’s a problem. I know it’s tricky, in terms of intra-neighborhood relations, but that person should be you. Her free-ranging dog is causing you angst; it’s probably causing others angst as well. Be brave and tell her, as nicely as you can, what you’ve just told us. Assume that her intentions are good, that she is at worrst being thoughtless rather than malicious. Odds are, she has just assumed that her loose dog causes no problem for anyone. Odds are, she’ll react appropriately when she learns that’s not the case.

If she doesn’t, then you’ll have to consider calling the authorities. But make that a last resort, one you won’t consider unless your relationship has deteriorated to the point that you’re not speaking. Try the civil, neighborly approach first.

Dad Gone Mad says: I’m going to tell you a story I’m not proud of, but it’s true. I was once a young father, and in those days I derived a great deal of pleasure taking my little daughter out for long walks in the jogging stroller. On warm summer evenings, I strolled with her down Buffalo’s long avenues, admiring all the beautiful homes, and beaming with pride as passers-by smiled at our approach. Often, we wound up in the park, where a group of dog owners would gather to chat over coffee as their pets ran wild. We tried to avoid them, but one day a sturdy mutt ran toward us, teeth at the level of my daughter’s face. Something primordial in me snapped.

It was over in an instant. I remember my shoe connecting with the dog, the whimpering, and the shrill chorus of dog lovers calling me a monster as they ran to the scene. I told them that may be so, but that if any of their pets ever approached us in that way again, they would be carrying both the dog and the leash home.

We didn’t have any more problems with that little social group.

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