Safe dog walking – Other dogs
We all need an escape from other people now and then and what better way than a lonely tramp across the hills with only your faithful dog for company. On the other hand it is a social activity and being out with your dog can be a great way to meet new people and to catch up with those that you already know. It is at times like this though that we need to be most on our guard. You can’t assume that every person you meet has a friendly, approachable dog so it is a good idea to watch out for obvious signs. If the other person is deliberately trying to avoid eye contact with you it probably means don’t come near me OR my dog. Body language is easy to pick up on with lots of practice and you will soon find that you can instinctively recognise both sociable dogs and owners.
Remember that dogs don’t hold grudges! They may have had a scuffle yesterday but could be best friends when they meet today. The trouble is that a human will remember the fracas for a long while, and will go out of their way to avoid any further confrontation with the same dog.
Here are some things to avoid when walking your dog:
Don’t always expect the worst
Worrying that something bad is going to happen on your walk, as soon as you set foot out of the house, will set the scene for a bad experience. As you leave for your walk, change your expectations to a pleasing walk with your dog beside you.
Don’t avoid other dog walkers
When you see another dog approaching along the street, don’t drag your dog across to the other side of the road in a panic. After doing this just a few times, your dog will associate danger with other dogs.
If you come across another dog on your walk – stay calm. Your dog will sense that you are relaxed and unruffled and will walk past each other, or maybe give each other a friendly sniff. If by chance the other dog becomes aggressive or over-excited, your pet will sense your assertive and calm energy and will not worry at all.
It’s all too easy when your dog becomes aggressive or over excited on your walk, to shout at him. This only aggravates the situation, and your dog will only copy your energy state, and excited manner. Stay calm yourself, and your dog will calm down too.
Don’t jerk the leash if your dog begins to bark at another dog. He will only lunge and pull harder as a reaction to this sudden tension – For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
You should always be on the lookout for signs of fear in your dog. Some smaller dogs will romp quite happily with bigger ones, yapping away and leading them a merry dance. Others though will be frightened by the size and demeanour of a larger dog. As with everything else it is a judgement call. You will soon know when it’s safe to let yours socialise with someone else’s.
There are times, unfortunately, when play turns to fighting and having some useful phone numbers to hand is a good idea – your vet, dog warden services, pet insurance company are examples. It’s best to avoid potential conflict but sometimes it comes up unexpectedly and good training can go a long way to avoiding trouble. Your dog has to understand that YOU are in charge at all times. There are lots of ways of making the dog know that he is second in the pecking order – they are usually intelligent enough to pick up the signs that you give them (eventually).
One final point – taking other people’s dogs out for walks. Get to know them a little first. Find out what they like and don’t like; what scares them; where they like to go most of all. Armed with such useful information should ensure that both you and the dog have an enjoyable experience. Isn’t that what taking a dog for exercise is all about?