Friday, 21 March 2014

Ways to protect yourself and your dog in public

Being a dog owner and dog lover I know how hard it is sometimes when all you want to do is make sure they're safe and happy. My dog Spud is a rescue dog, we have had him for almost 8 years now and he's the most wonderfully friendly and affectionate dog in the world, that is, when it comes to people. In the case of other dogs he has a lot of anxiety from the way he was treated as a puppy, having been used as bait to train fighting dogs. When he is around other dogs he becomes very anxious and if those dogs are particularly boisterous he will bark fiercely and get angry, trying to protect himself. I have devised a list to help protect your pets in public situations whether they be the troubled dog, or you come across one.

1. If your dog is protective and nervous like mine, try to have an enclosed space available (a fenced off garden for example) where they can get exercise and use the bathroom, therefore not needing quite as many walks, as they're not always the safest option.

2. Know the signs. Sometimes if Spud is in a good mood he can interact with other dogs in close proximity, sometimes getting as close as to have a little sniff, but other times he wants to stay away from all contact, and usually it is easy for me to spot which mood he is in. When walking on the park if there is another dog, he will either look at it and look away and act calmly, in which case he is usually okay to get a little closer, however, he may also react by trying to remove himself from the situation buy pulling on his lead in the opposite direction. If provoked by aggressive behaviour from another god he will bark and sometimes will pull towards the other animal in defence, at this point I would walk your dog away. If you know how to spot the signs of your dog's mood it will make your walks easier.

3. Don't panic. The last thing that your dog needs if he/she is agitated and scared, is for you to panic. If you start shouting this may make the dog more angry, as your behaviour may act as an encouragement of their behaviour. Plus they may think you are in danger and want to protect you. Try not to hit your dog either, or punish them. It won't work. How would you feel if you got punished for having a panic attack? Remember that they're doing whatever they can to protect themselves, whether fight or flight, just like a human would.

4. Get a harness. Most dogs walk on collars and are good with that but harnesses are nearly impossible to slip out of if they fit properly, unlike collars, and the allow the person on the other end of the lead a lot more control. This may make the owner feel calmer, which then will have a positive impact on the mood of the dog.

5. Avoid avoid avoid. If you can tell that your dog isn't in a very social mood, try not to get too close to any other dogs. Cross the street if there is one coming towards you. And if you are the owner of an un-troubled dog, and someone seems as though they are trying to avoid you, don't then let your dog be curious and approach. I know it seems obvious but the amount of times I have moved away from a dog and it's owner and they've come even closer, and I've had to explain that he's not feeling friendly before they will leave, is silly. It's not only for my dog's protection, it's for theirs too.

6. Reward. If you carry something with you on a walk like a couple of treats or a ball or something that your dog loves, present it to them if they get through a situation without getting angry or agitated. Reward them for managing the situation well and they may just surprise you in future.

I hope this helped a few people who might struggle in situations like I have previously, and I hope that if you have a troubled dog like mine, you'll feel much happier taking them out for walks.

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