I need to rant. Lately there's been a massive increase in off leash dogs attacking both humans and dogs in my local area. (Reading, Berkshire) I don't post on local Facebook dog groups often, but I like to keep an eye on them and there's daily complaints about loose running dogs that pay no attention to their owner. I see this myself on a very regular basis. What really gets me, is the excuses these owners come up with: "my dog is friendly" or "it's what dogs are supposed to do" or... (My latest pet peeve) "why didn't your dog wear yellow so I'd know it didn't like company...?"
Yes, you read that right. Here in the UK a "movement" started a while ago where they're trying to promote a colour scheme that matches your dog's temperament. Yellow, is for "I need space" and red for "I'm aggressive" to mention a few. You're supposed to let your dog wear these colours, on a collar, lead or harness etc to inform other dog owners that your dog need space.
Along with "its OK, my dog is friendly", when did it EVER become right to blame YOUR shortcomings on another owner/dog??
Everybody likes to humanise things, so let's do this: I love to hug people. Genuinely. I'm from Sweden, we're a cold country so we hug a lot. (compare it to UK cheek kissing when you meet) Now, if I was to run up to every person at the shopping centre and hug them, I'm sure a few would give me a slap or at the very least tell me off. With all right.
I don't expect people who doesn't like hugs to wear a yellow vest, so I know not to hug them!! We have something called personal space, and we rarely welcome anyone, uninvited, other than close friends and family into it. We know this, it's basic stuff and I do like to think that most of us know that this is the norm, without any colour coding on people.
Here's the kicker... Your dog ALSO have a personal space!! Whatever you may have been told, or what you believe, It is NOT natural for dogs to meet face to face, whether that is on or off leash, and it is up to YOU to control YOUR dog.
This really hit home recently, when a wolf from a local sanctuary decided to have an off leash romp outside her sanctuary for about half a day. She travelled quite far, as wolves do, during those hours, but was safely captured without causing any drama. However, FaceBook went crazy with all the dog walkers, owners/boarders etc. posting and warning about the wolf, and in all honesty, rightly so. Although a lone wolf extremely rarely pose a threat to humans or dogs, you should of course not approach an unknown, wild animal. And even though semi-tame (I have had the honour to spend some time with this particular wolf outside her enclosure, as she is an "ambassador" for the sanctuary and allowed to interact with certain guests) as this wolf was, she is still a wolf.
Funny how people didn't expect the wolf to wear a yellow vest saying she needs space? Or a red one saying she might attack when approached by a dog who just doesn't know any better? I bet they all had their unruly dogs on leads that day...!
Look, it is not up to me to say how to train your dog, but please, just train it or keep it on a lead. Be responsible! I recently had a lady (who is a local dog walker at that) at my door the other day, in a completely different business. She spotted a photo of some dogs in my hallway, and we shared stories of what we do. A man jogged passed the house, with an off leash dog at heel who couldn't care less about us, and I expressed my joy by simply stating that it was "such a nice thing to see, considering all of the out of control off leash dogs there is in the area". She questioned my statement and I said "Surely as a dogwalker you face this problem on a daily basis, just as me? Dogs off leash who runs up to you and couldn't care less about their owners, who's normally shouting -It's ok, he's friendly!" Her response baffled me no end: "Well, I am probably one of those, dogs are supposed to meet other dogs on their walks and socialise! It's their time!"
If even so called professionals have this attitude, what chance have we got to educate the every day owner?? I am being serious here; I see professional dog walkers unload a van of dogs, take them for a "walk" (off leash) while they spend their time on their phones or tablets. I have friends who has been approached by 10+ dogs OFF LEASH and their walkers coming around the corner 2 minutes later! I see owners EVERY DAY who think that just because their dog is friendly, it is OK to approach an unknown pack?
When you're out walking your dog, you're a pack. It is you, and your dog. When a dog comes running up to yours, whether your dog is on leash or not, they are INVADING your pack's personal space. That dog is like me running up to a stranger in a mall and giving them a big hug. Now, some people will appreciate it, but most certainly wouldn't, and dogs are no different. If you're an aware dog owner you make sure the strange dog never reaches your dog; it is YOUR job to keep your pack safe. (If you don't, guess who will try and take on the job and you might get a dog who is soon leash reactive, but that's yet another blog post.)
It is not even a case of that mine might be aggressive, (which in it self is reason enough to always call your dog back and ask if it's OK to meet) but they might be old and don't approve of young, boisterous dogs, wanting to play. They might just have had surgery and is recovering. They might be terrified of other dogs and is working through their issues.
Your dog is at risk, as much as mine. Neither of us wants a fight. If you don't have a 100% recall, keep your dog on a long line. It is that simple. Or, you can always contact me, and we can have a chat on how we can provide your dog with that 100% recall, it IS doable, I promise 😃