The Covid pandemic has seen an influx of people investing in new additions to their families with Puppies and dogs. With this in mind, there are more and more dogs being walked and popular dog walking hot spots becoming a gauntlet and for some, a stressful time in their day.
The dog walk is the perfect time to bond with your dog, distress after a day at work and stimulate your dog as well as keep them and you physically fit. But is the daily dog walk as stress free as first thought?
More and more dogs have either anxiety or reactivity issues making the daily dog walk a very stressful event for both dog and owner. For the owner this can be isolating and frustrating. Without the awareness for dog walking etiquette people with ultra friendly dogs may be unaware to the potential hazard and stress their over exuberance may cause and the potential harm this may cause their beloved pooch should they then come in to contact with an aggressive dog. This encounter can see that they too then become a reactive and anxious dog themselves.
Some owners report that their dog is elderly, unwell or simply in season and feel very worried when taking their dogs out at peak times along popular dog walking routes. But why should they feel this way when all that is needed is that we, as responsible dog owners follow a simple code of conduct with our dogs. After all, we cannot be responsible for our dogs character but we can be responsible for their behaviour when out in public.
I found this myself when out walking my usual group of dogs, to be confronted by a disgruntled dog walker when asked to pop their dog on a lead while I passed. Taken aback by this, I consulted the social media community and found that this was a huge topic so many of us feel passionate about and that incidents like this happened on a massive scale. Either they had anxious dogs, even elderly dogs with chronic arthritis or puppy owners trying to train their pups were being approached by over exuberant dogs on a daily occurrence on their walks making it virtually impossible for them to enjoy that bonding time with their dogs.
I pondered over this for a while and whilst some owners are not happy to be asked to not allow their dogs to approach others without consent I wondered whether other owners ever thought how it would feel to walk their own dogs along this gauntlet of a walk if the shoe was on the other foot.
Unfortunately quite a lot of the time this has become the reality for some dog owners as altercations with their once very friendly dog with a reactive dog had seen that their dog now live in fear and had become reactive on their walks.
These incidents could be reduced if we take time to minimise the hazards on our walks. Careful consensual introductions are the key to meeting new dog pals. Socialising is vital for dogs mental well-being and that too for humans. It’s lovely to see our dogs make friends and play together in the park.
Let’s meet safely by following these basic friendly guidelines:
- Make sure you have a basic reliable recall for your dog. Puppies should be taught from a young age to stand them in good stead for their adulthood. Having good recall of your dog will allow you to be able to call your dog back so that you can do your introductions together and allow you to check that it’s safe for your dog to meet an approaching dog. Recall is vital for approaching roads, livestock or other dangers outside the home. If you still need to work on your dogs recall head over to whatsyourstorydogtrainingacademy.co.uk for more help and tips.
- Wait for the approaching dog owner or person to come closer and with your dog under control with you – ask if it’s ok for your dog to meet their dog.
- Give the other owner time to recall their dog before walking forward.
- If the answer is yes, calmly allow your dog to greet the other dog and have fun!
- If the answer is no, be polite, smile, and calmly allow the other dog to pass, Give them space!
- If the approaching dog owner has a nervous or reactive dog, allow them to stop at a safe place to allow you to pass them safely. This allows them to be able to distract their dog and keep them calm and you and your dog safe.
- Don’t allow your dog to go in front of you out of sight - all too often a dog will disappear off round a blind bend or corner before you to find a reactive dog on the other side. Think of your dog walk as the hazard perception on your car theory test. You don’t overtake on a blind bend - don’t let your dog do the same.
Following these guidelines will literally take 2 minutes out of your walk and will strengthen your training to ensure you have a well behaved polite dog and you a responsible dog owner.
People with dogs who have issues try to make it easier for others to see from a distance whether or not they wish for their dog to be approached. So, things to look out for would be:
- Is the dog being walked on a lead ie not being let off,
- Is the approaching dog wearing a muzzle
- Is the dog wearing apparel telling people they are anxious or not to approach. These leads tend to be yellow or red with the warning on them. I’ve found a fabulous company who make a whole collection of leads (harnesses, jumpers for walking with an anxious dog. If you need one for your dog have a look at: bellascollars
The dog walk doesn’t have to stressful, isolating or fearful. We all share a common love and that’s for our dogs. Let’s embrace our four legged friends and our environment and enjoy! Following the basic rules of etiquette on our walks will allow us all to enjoy our walks with our best four legged friends, socialise safely, see less reactive dogs on our walks and the ones that are a little shy or anxious be able to exercise and be happy with their human without stress.
Spread the word my friends - it’s nice to be nice!