We are blessed in this area to have several beautiful open spaces, which we can enjoy with our families and our dogs too. Sadly, dogs can often get into trouble (or drop their owners in it!) if they aren't under appropriate control, and this can spoil everyone's day. Follow these 8 tips for a nice, relaxed (and safe) walk:
1 - Respect other dogs on lead. The dog will be on lead for a good reason - they may be frightened of dogs themselves (and may react if they are approached while 'trapped'), be recovering from an illness or injury, or be old, deaf, blind, in season etc, etc... if you see a dog on a lead, pop your dog back on lead for a few moments, until you've asked whether it's ok for your dog to approach.
2 - Teach your dog a really good recall. Take the time to find out what really motivates your dog, and make sure it's on offer when you call them back. Making your dog see his or her lead as a positive thing (and not the end of fun) will help make getting them back a pleasure, rather than a chore. Ask for help from a suitably qualified dog trainer if you are struggling with this.
3 - Do not allow your dog to approach a dog wearing a muzzle. While they may be muzzled for various reasons (such as scavenging), they may well be traumatised by your dog rushing up to it while they cannot defend themselves.
4 – Not everyone likes dogs. Sadly, not everyone is a dog lover, and some people (especially children) may be frightened of dogs. Teach your dog polite greeting behaviour, or to come away if need be. Also, don't encourage dogs to jump up yourself! They can't understand when it's appropriate and when it's not if they are constantly getting mixed messages.
5 - Watch your dog. If your dog is off the lead, you need to pay attention to what he or she is up to. If you can't see your dog, you have no way of knowing what they're up to, which might be trouble! This is especially true if livestock is present in the area.
6 - 'My dog's only playing' or 'He's only a puppy' is not a defence. Your dog may not have the social skills (yet) to understand when to leave well alone, and some young dogs actively enjoy winding up their elders. What looks like 'play' to you, might look like threatening behaviour to an under socialised dog, or one who has had traumatic experiences of other dogs. Play is only play if both parties are genuinely enjoying it – otherwise it’s potentially just bullying.
7 - 'It's ok, my dog needs telling'. Well, no, he doesn't. In fact, if he repeatedly gets 'told off' by adult dogs for being over the top or rude, then he may well become defensive and reactive himself in the future. It is up to you as a dog owner to ensure your dog has appropriate social skills, not rely on other dogs to be the 'teacher' for yours. It can be very stressful for the adult dog to have to give that ‘lesson’, not all dogs make good instructors!
8 – Bitches in season. Bitches in season still need appropriate levels of exercise, but their hormonal status can be a real problem for other dogs in the area. Consider walking at quieter times, or more isolated areas, and consider if it’s really sensible to have them off the lead in densely ‘dog-populated’ areas during that time. Unwanted (and sometimes extremely persistent) behaviour from entire males can put your bitch under emotional pressure unnecessarily, or could even lead to unwanted puppies.