It’s finally May and you might, like me, find yourself and your dog out walking in the warm spring air looking at all the natural splendors that Seattle has to offer, Ahh spring! May, as it happens is also Dog Bite Prevention month. I thought it might be good to offer a few basic rules of the road when you’re out on the town with Rover.
To be a good dog walker you need:
1) Situational Awareness - actively and continuously assessing the environment. You wouldn’t climb on your bike, whip out your cell phone and begin to text as you peddled down the Burke-Gilman. Crosswalks, boarders, baby carriages, other cyclists, skaters, joggers, dog walkers…all of these hazards and more make paying attention to the environment a must when you’re biking. Walking your dog requires that same level of attentiveness.
2) Proactivity- don’t wait for a situation to occur. Take steps before you and your dog are in trouble. Example: If your dog is uncomfortable with skateboards and you see one coming up the sidewalk, cross the street if you can. Step behind a car or bush and begin to reward your dog with great bait, get silly and trot away but change your course. Waiting for the other person to be responsible and take action is not a strategy, especially if your dog loses his mind at the sight, sound and movement of skateboarders.
3) Leash up for safeties sake-not only is it the law of the land but it keeps your dog out of harm’s way. Seattle is home to a large number of dogs, some of whom are uncomfortable with off leash dogs rushing into their space (think close talker here). There are also other companion animals that Rover might find interesting enough to leave your side in order to “check out” the strange thing. Example: My own walks have taught me that the unexpected happens, a deer in the Rite Aid parking lot, coyotes cruising down the center of the street, pet chickens, a truckload of goats, various species of geese and ducks, twenty Nutria grazing and two ferrets walking on leashes. Ahhh…so glad I had my dogs on line.
4) Courtesy -when you are out in your neighborhood be polite and step to the side, get your dog’s attention and allow people to pass. Not everyone is comfortable with dogs and it is surprising how a little consideration can brighten someone’s day.
5) Parking Strips- are for pooping! Dogs should not be in your neighbor’s yard doing their morning toilet. Always, always, always carry extra bags and pick up what’s pooped out.
6) Saying NO nicely- it’s always tough when someone wants to pet your pooch but your pooch may not be comfortable with strangers or perhaps other dogs. First off, it is okay to tell someone that you are working right now so, “sorry now’s not a good time, got ‘a run.” And really do trot away chatting happily to your dog as you move away from, “that nice person.” Some folks, well-meaning though they are, just won’t take no for an answer, “All dogs love me!” and they press forward, hands out-stretched, don’t wait for them to move closer, step in front of your dog with your back towards the person. When presented with another person’s backside most folks stop what they were about to do and move on. Remember your dog is counting on you to be proactive in keeping his world safe for him.
7) Tie outs need to die-out- It is never okay to leave your dog unattended while tied to a post, chair or anything else as you run in to grab a quick latte. It leaves your dog exposed to any number of hazards and it exposes the public to a dog who might become so frightened that it resorts to biting.
8) Do onto others-be understanding and if you are out with your dogs and see someone coming your way with their dogs, give them some space. Wouldn’t you want someone to do that for you?
Well those are my thoughts on being a better dog walker/owner and all of us who live with and love dogs must take our responsibility seriously and do what we can to keep everyone safe, including our canine companions.
Favorite website for dog people interactions check out Animal Behaviorist | Dr. Sophia Yin.