Karen Wild: Developing a ‘dog radar’
A dear friend of mine had a difficult time last week, where yet another errant off-lead dog came pounding over to hers. Whilst the visiting dog began engaging her dog in some too-rough play, she struggled to move her dog away. Her dog was safely on lead; the other dog was completely out of control. In the end she managed to locate the owner who was a great distance away, head in the clouds, completely oblivious to her own dog's antisocial (or perhaps over-social) antics.
Time and time again I hear of such incidents. Perhaps as a community of nice, caring dog owners here locally, we can do our bit?
A 'dog radar' is a term I use to refer to the awareness we need to adopt whenever we are out with our pooches. I know that many of us use the dog walk time as a chance to relax and switch off. The news for you, if you are that person, is that you are legally responsible for your dog. Would you wander and switch off when driving your car on the road? Would you allow your shopping trolley to wheel its way madly across the car park whilst you fumble for your car keys? Thought not. We can still have a nice easy-going walk, but let's keep our awareness tuned in.
Golden rules for 'Dog Radar' skills.
1) Is the other dog on a lead? If so, put yours on their lead, at a good distance away. This prevents your dog getting wrong messages about visiting a dog that might not want to be mugged, happily or otherwise. If it were ok, the other dog would be off lead, wouldn't they?
2) Even if your dog is friendly, others may not want to play. It can be fun for dogs to romp around with their playmates, but not every dog is the same. Even the friendliest dog might be feeling poorly one day. Never assume or insist that your dog must play with another just because you want him to.
3) Even if both dogs are off their leads, call your own dog back to you regularly. Give him a tasty piece of meat as a thank you, then tell him he can go play again. This is a brilliant strategy, since when it is finally home time your dog will think that running back to you is part of the playtime, and will not mind he gets his treat and his lead on for home too.
4) Find regular friendly doggy playmates. This way, your dog can safely have a run and tumble without worrying whether or not they will get along. This makes your dog's life a lot more fun. We all love to have familiar friends, and your dog is no exception.
Let's all have a happier and relaxing walk with dog radar switched on. Your dog will love it.