This article was published in the newspaper last week and due to the important message and positive feedback from the community, I wanted to share it again in the newsletter.
I am writing this article to offer support to all reactive dog owners – owners with dogs that exhibit stress, excitement or over arousal when they see people or other dogs while walking on leash. Through my training I educate owners how to be able walk their dogs in a calmer, safe manner.
If you have a friendly dog, it can be hard to understand why other dogs are reactive (or appear “aggressive”). While some people might judge the owners and assume they are not trying to help their dog, or that they must have done something wrong for their dog to feel that way, I believe most people would be empathetic and want to help if they could. This article will give you some ideas for how you can do just that!
Dogs can be reactive for many reasons, including genetics; lack of positive experiences on leash; coming to the city from an off-leash life in other communities; being attacked or rushed by off leash dogs; and many other reasons. I am now asking others, including those with friendly, social dogs, to help them have success. So how can you help whether you are walking a dog or you are by yourself?
First, please do not assume that all dogs want to meet/sniff you or your dog while they are walking, I encourage you to stay in your own space. If you see a person walking a dog that is pulling, barking or lunging, then please give them lots of room to pass by and do not directly approach them.
If you have children, teach them to always ask the owner if they can pet their dog and encourage them to approach the dog calmly and slowly only if you and the owner both agree it is safe to do so.
Please only have your dog off leash in areas that are marked to do so. Just because your dog is friendly does not mean other dogs are. They could be reactive, elderly, sick, or injured and having your dog approach can start a fight or cause emotional trauma for the dog and owner. Even for normally friendly dogs, being on-leash while others are off-leash can cause problems.
When you are walking in areas with a lot of activity it is recommended that you walk your dog on a 6 foot leash rather than using an extendable or retractable leash. If you are using a longer leash, call your dog back as soon as you see another person. You can then use some of your training skills like heel, anti jumping games, or tricks to get past. Be prepared and always bring treats!
Be your dog’s advocate when you are around people, dogs, bikes or traffic. Make sure that you are not too distracted to be aware of how your dog is feeling. Watch their body language for signs of anxiety or discomfort.
Overall, as a dog owner myself I feel that we need to exhibit respectful dog walking whether it be on or off leash. This display will give dogs of all shapes and sizes a better reputation in our society