Improved doggy manners would keep us safer. With bonus points for a more comfortable outdoors experience.
I have proposed that our grossly outdated laws be updated to shift dog attack losses from the victim to the owner. But what about preventing dog attacks from occurring in the first place.
It’s deceptively easy. All we need is for owners to keep their dogs under control.
Conveniently, keeping your dog under control doesn’t just achieve public safety. It’s the polite thing to do.
Last week I shared the results of my research about dog walking etiquette. The punch line is that without consent, allowing your dog to come in contact with anyone or their dog is just plain rude.
But so many dog walkers let their dogs off leash. Are they intending to be rude?
Of course not.
You’re out with your incredibly cute, furry “best friend” that you know with absolute certainty is 100 percent safe.
How could anyone not want that bundle of joy coming up to them?
Or up to their dog. It’s so cute when dogs greet each other playfully. Your dog has never even yipped at another dog, let alone nipped.
It doesn’t feel rude at all, walking your perfectly safe, cute best friend off leash. It feels friendly. It’s almost like a gift to those lucky enough to come across your path.
It hasn’t even occurred to you that it might be rude.
Politeness requires fully considering a situation from the other person’s (or dog’s) perspective. The articles I read when researching dog walking etiquette help explain other perspectives.
As unbelievable as it might seem, many people would prefer that your dog not come up to them, or up to their own leashed dog.
I posted a link to a video that illustrates some of it. It’s a cute illustration, showing a woman running up to a man who is out for a walk and excitedly getting in his face.
If you don’t “get it”, e-mail me and I’ll send you links to the results of my research.
But if you have to read articles to understand the rudeness of allowing your dog free range to greet people and other dogs, how can we possibly get to the point of changing dog walking behaviour?
How do we enlighten the world of dog owners?
It’s uncomfortable calling out to someone whose dog is coming up to you: “Please leash your dog”.
If you have the assertiveness to make that request, you’ll probably be met with the standard clueless response: “Oh, don’t worry, she’s really friendly”.
Perhaps if you then looked them in the eye, smiled, and said “I feel uncomfortable when dogs come up to me. If you call out that your dog is friendly, that is reassuring but it doesn’t ease my discomfort. I am not some weirdo, by the way. Others feel uncomfortable about dogs coming up to them as well. You would give me, and others like me, a more comfortable walking experience if you kept your dog leashed.”
How about if those words (or more eloquent ones!) with some eye catching graphics were printed on little slips of paper you could hand to dog owners who let their dogs come up to you, or your dog. And put up on signs along walking trails. And in pet stores. And circulated from time to time on social media.
And if you get a “Screw you! I have a right to walk my dog any way I wish!” response, you could pull out your cell phone and record a short video of the off leash dog and obstinate owner while you inform them about the bylaws.
They might not be aware that in all public places within the Regional District of the Central Okanagan, except specifically designated off leash areas, dogs must be kept on a secure leash, with a fixed total length of no more than two metres.
Interested in entering a contest? E-mail me your proposed design of a what might be printed on a slip of paper or a small sign to help dog owners learn about dog walking etiquette. I will ask my daughter, Morgan, who was skittishly afraid of dogs for much of her childhood after an unfortunate dog encounter, to pick the winner who I will treat to a $50.00 gift certificate for my favourite West Kelowna restaurant, Il Mercato.
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