Assuming that your dog is well trained and fairly reliable in their behaviour, your daily walks probably follow a fairly set pattern with nothing out of the ordinary happening and little cause for concern, providing that you remain alert and watchful to what is going on around you.
However, every dog walker will run into the odd unusual incident now and then, or have to face the challenges that can arise when out walking due to the behaviour of other people or their dogs, and it is helpful to understand some common dog-walking scenarios that you might face and know how to resolve them.
Read on to learn about three common dog-walking challenges that you might face, and how to handle them.
At any time that you take your dog out walking, you should ensure that they are obedient and under control enough to take everyday occurrences in their stride. If your dog cannot be relied upon to return to you on command, keep them on a lead. If your dog tends to be snappy with strangers, use a muzzle. And if your dog needs more space than most and should not be approached by other dogs or people, learn more about the Yellow Dog Project and consider putting a yellow ribbon on your dog’s lead to give people a heads up; but don’t assume everyone will understand this!
You are out walking with your dog on the lead, and another dog running loose without the owner in sight comes bounding up to your dog and gets into their personal space.
If you can see the dog approaching from some distance, keep walking with your dog and do not look at them, and encourage your dog to ignore their approach too. If the other dog is looking for a friend or wants to play, being ignored may well put them off; whereas if you stop and make a fuss, the other dog might see this as an invite to play.
If the other dog is upon you very quickly or does not change course when you ignore them, this can unnerve your dog, or appear threatening to them, particularly if the other dog is loose while they are on the lead. Position yourself between your own dog and the approaching dog, with your dog behind you, and instruct your dog to sit. You can then attempt to issue commands to the other dog while shielding your dog from the other dog’s approach, and awaiting the dog’s owner arriving and recalling them.
“Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” There are few things more infuriating for the dog owner who is trying to walk their dog on the lead without interruption, or who knows that their dog will not welcome the approach of another dog, than to find another dog getting too close while the owner stands by and does nothing because “their dog is friendly.” The owner of the other dog in this case is both displaying bad manners and naivety by assuming that just because their dog is supposedly friendly or wants to play, your dog will too, and that you are happy with this.
Keep your dog on a short lead, and concentrate on controlling your dog’s head and keeping them listening to your commands and not the actions of the other dog or owner. Ask the owner to recall their dog. If they say “don’t worry, he’s friendly!” or anything else along these lines, simply repeat “please recall your dog” until they do so. You will probably have too much going on to be able to get into a long, drawn-out explanation as to what is going on at this stage, and your priority should be to get the other owner to recall and control their dog, even if you sound curt when you do so.
Once the other owner has recalled their dog and is in control of them, you can, if you wish, explain that your dog does not welcome the approach of other dogs off the lead and just because their dog is friendly does not mean that every other dog is too. In a perfect world, you should not have to explain what is, after all, a very reasonable request, but unfortunately not all dog owners view things the same way!
You are walking or out in public with your dog on a lead, and a child or adult approaches your dog suddenly and attempts to pat them without first checking if this is alright with you.
Any adult who likes dogs enough to want to pat one should be wise enough (and polite enough) to understand that they should not do this without speaking to the owner first, although this is not always the case! Similarly, responsible parents will teach their children never to approach a strange dog without permission from the owner, although one must expect more leeway in this case for the children’s understanding and learning process. However, the immediate issue you will face if your dog is likely to snap, cower or otherwise be unhappy with a stranger approaching without warning, is how to protect both dog and person while you remove them from each other.
The “stop” or “no” command given firmly not only works on dogs, but will also usually pull people up short too! As soon as you see someone homing in on your dog from close range, use a short, firm command to make them pause, and then tell them clearly “please do not come too close to my dog.” You should also keep your dog on a short lead as soon as you spot an approach, and try to keep their attention on you, and their head turned towards you.
If the person approaching is a child and their parents are nearby, it is wise to ask the parents to explain to their child about asking before touching strange dogs, and why this is important; they might not even have been aware that their child approached your dog.