By Sue Lefevre with photographs by Cheryl Murphy
In an ideal world, a walk in the park with your dog would be wonderful and relaxing. All the dogs would be friendly, play with each other and interact socially. Importantly, they would all return to their owners when called first time. Unfortunately, as we all know too well, we don’t live in a world that is ideal.
For those of you who own sensitive/reactive dogs, a walk in the park can be incredibly stressful for both of you. I have known owners to walk their dogs at midnight or very early in the morning to avoid other dog owners, however this sometimes defeats the object because most dogs out at that time are reactive – so they will only meet unfriendly dogs!
There are four words that an owner of a reactive dog dreads when walking in the park, words that send shivers down their spine. “Don’t worry he’s friendly!,” they exclaim, as you are wrestling to not only keep your own dog under control but someone else’s as well! I’m sure we have all been there, I certainly have. So, what’s the solution?
There is one thing that owners of friendly dogs can do to make a walk in the park a lot more relaxed for everyone. If you see a dog on a lead please call your dog back to you and either put your dog on a lead (only until the other dog is out of the way), or keep their attention on you. There will be a very good reason for that dog to be on a lead and there are a number possible reasons:
- they may be reactive to other dogs
- they may be in training
- they may have just had surgery or be poorly and need gentle lead-restricted exercise
- they may have lead frustration
- they may have just been adopted and are getting used to their new surroundings
- they may be fearful of other dogs and need space.
- the dog on the lead may be perfectly friendly but their recall is not up to scratch.
If you have a friendly dog, always ask another owner if their dog is friendly. If they say, “no” please respect their wishes and give them space. If they say, “yes” then ask if their dog would like to meet your friendly dog.
Just one simple action of calling your dog away from a dog on the lead and one simple question of enquiring about the other dog’s friendliness, can make the world of difference. And we can all then enjoy a relaxing walk in the park!