It’s the classic trope every dog walker knows so well and wishes she didn’t:
Dog is walking on-leash in an on-leash park. Other dog is running off-leash. Dog keeps his distance from Other Dog and sticks to the perimeter of the park. Other Dog notices Dog and runs directly at him. Dog gets excited and starts jumping and flailing to get at Other Dog. Person of Other Dog calls Other Dog but Other Dog does not respond. Dog strains against leash and slips his collar. Dog proceeds to run around in giant circles like a lunatic, frighteningly close to a busy parking lot. Person of Other Dog finally puts a leash on Other Dog. Person of Other Dog comments to Person of Dog about Dog, “Wow, he really likes to run, doesn’t he?” Person of Dog gives Person of Other Dog a death glare.
Okay, maybe it’s not quite so classic, but I am sure many of you relate to the main elements of the tale. Unfortunately, if you replace the word “Dog” with the name “Shiva” this exact scenario occurred twice over the weekend. Luckily, both times Shiva eventually returned to her person without further issue. But I can’t help but fear the ending to this story may be much more tragic.
The obvious solution is to perfect Shiva’s recall. Which we are working on. I am proud of our success so far and after a minute or so Shiva will come back. Approaching off-leash dogs triple her already very high energy levels. They get her so revved up and so anxious that she has to release the energy before she bursts. The best way to do that is to run around at Mach 5. In those moments, she can’t think, can’t even hear my desperate attempts to get her attention. All she cares about is running.
As I say, we are working on this. But in the meantime, I still need to take her for walks and those walks will probably occur in public areas. If we lived closer to an off-leash dog park, I’d probably take her there a lot more often and it might help prevent the above scene. Because her recall is not yet perfect, I don’t like letting her off-leash in non-off-leash areas. It’s just not safe. That and I don’t want Shiva to harass other people or their dogs, dogs who may not be so friendly. I’ve been there. It sucks.
Personally, I have no real issues with dogs being off-leash in any public area. With the caveat that said dog has an excellent recall and minds his own business. If a person can walk their dog off-leash in an on-leash park and the dog leaves me alone, that’s just fine. In fact, that’s fantastic and I’m more than a little jealous. One day I hope to get there myself. Unfortunately, as we all know, this is not always the case.
But what is the solution? How do we encourage other dog walkers to either train their dogs or keep them on a leash?
All the death glares in the world don`t seem to make a difference. Nor does my hasty advice. I can warn people about the dangers of letting their dogs approach other dogs who are on-leash but they usually just laugh it off or look at me like I`m speaking Klingon. I tell people all the time that they are lucky Shiva is no longer reactive. Two years ago, I say, and your dog would have been in trouble right now. They still don`t get it. Unless one has lived and worked with a reactive dog, one doesn`t seem to truly understand the issues.
I admit, before Shiva, I was just as clueless.
More laws aren’t the answer. Dog walkers are restrained enough by current legislation. We don’t need more rules that will only punish good people. Perhaps the opposite would be better. I am reminded of my Philosophy of War class in university wherein the professor advocated encouraging countries to build up huge amounts of nuclear weapons. He believed that if everyone has the capability to destroy the world with the push of a button, world leaders are more likely to work toward peace. It`s a gross over-simplification of this argument, but I wonder if something similar would work in this case.
What if all public parks were designated off-leash areas? What if we removed all leash laws entirely? Would people then be forced to work more with their dogs lest they be hit by cars? Or would our animals just take over the streets?
I am all in favour of creative answers. Where do you think the solution may lie? Or is there one? Am I just destined to keep repeating the same thing over and over again?