Summer Time and the Weather is HOT!

We in the UK have been lucky enough to have some really lovely weather this past fortnight or so.

We’re quite lucky, living where we do there’s easy access to a lot of water – the sea is only a 5 minute drive away (although we go a little further to stay away from the crowds); and the nearest lake is only about 20 minutes away.

Obviously, when we go, we go later on in the evening so it’s cooler; but what can we do at home to keep our dogs cool – especially for those of us who aren’t lucky to live close to a body of water?

Luckily the below infographic was shared with me by TheUncommonDog.com, and I thought it’s worth passing around.

Some other things you can do to help keep your dog cool include: –

  • stuff and freeze a food carrier toy, such as a Kong, Orbee, or Tux, giving it to your dog when it’s frozen will help to cool them down, and give them a ‘mental workout’, meaning they won’t need as much physical exercise
  • walk your dog when it’s cool out, this is easier said than done – it’s already pretty warm in the mornings when I get up, and it’s still very close to, if not over, 20’C around 9pm
  • train your dog, on the days when it’s far too hot to go for a walk, doing some training at home will help your dog to use up some of their excess energy, and you don’t even have to train anything “fancy” – sits, downs, stays, and waits will have the same effect as leg weaves and other “tricks”
  • if you really must take your dog out in the heat, invest in a cool coat – there are a number of varieties available, from sun-reflecting material to various ones which you soak in cool water and wring out before use; Inka has one and it’s wonderful for him when we need to use it.

What about you – what do you do to help keep your dog cool in the heat?

NB: I have received no compensation from TheUncommonDog.com for writing this post and sharing their infographic, beside the knowledge that I’m helping other pet owners to be more aware of their furry family member’s needs in the heat.

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Be Your Dog’s Advocate This Summer

It’s officially summer time.  That wonderful time of year when we in the UK hope we will have long, warm, sunny days.

We daydream of walks at local beaches and lakes, or on hills and fells; we think of all the things we could do at the weekend: go to a local beauty spot, visit a nearby picturesque tourist town, take a day trip to an ancient wonder, sit in the beer garden of a local pub.

Many of us – when weather allows – will follow through with these plans; those of us with family dogs may also take them along for the trip when we’re going somewhere that welcomes them, sometimes a dog may be taken for a trip even when he’s going to be sitting in the car as the destination doesn’t allow pets.

But, wait – have you considered whether your dog would want to go?

When we have summer days out, we make a distinction: we either take Inka & Starr and go somewhere they’ll be happy going to (a quiet beach, a lake with a little used area, or similar); or we leave them at home and go somewhere they they are less likely to enjoy.

Sure, I’d love to be able to take them both to Keswick, or to local agricultural shows or fun days where I could enter them in the requisite dog show, and plenty of other places too; but knowing my dogs, I know that – at least for now – they wouldn’t enjoy that kind of atmosphere.  People everywhere, lots of noises, children who are neither trained nor leashed, and dogs who are leashed but often untrained are just some of the things we’d face.

Days out are supposed to be fun, and I know they wouldn’t enjoy that, just as I wouldn’t enjoy fending them off.

Yes, I could use it as a teaching opportunity for people who insist on doing “The Wrong Thing(s)” with other people’s dogs but why subject us all to that stress?  When I’m out with my dogs, I want to devote my time to them – not to ensuring the guy who “all dogs love” doesn’t put his clammy paws all over my obviously anxious dog(s); and I want us to have fun.  Running around a field is fun, running a gauntlet of people who are mostly clueless about dogs is not.

I love my dogs, and I show them that by sometimes leaving them home, even if I’d much rather take them with me and let them in on the fun. After all, who has fun when they’re worried, stressed, or anxious?

Starr enticing Inka to play at home, in her own special way…

 

Why is Recall So Important Anyway?

I know I’ve posted about recall before, but I love it! Whether I’m training, practising, or using that one special word; recalls are fantastic and they’re also one of my ‘markers’ as to whether I’m comfortable allowing an individual dog off lead in any given situation.

Even with my first dog, I knew that teaching a reliable recall was a very important thing, but it was only when I happened across Susan Garrett’s take on recall – as a way to evaluate your relationship with your dog – that it fell into place in my mind.

* If I’m going to allow my dog to have some off lead freedom, I must trust him 100% to come back to me when I ask
* That means that he must want to come back to me, even if I’m asking him to move away from something “really interesting” such as a rotting sheep carcass (yak!), or kids playing football
* If I want a reliable recall, then I need to define both ‘reliable’, and ‘recall’.
* I also must set specific criteria, and stick to them – what will my cue be, how many times will I say it, will I use a visual signal as well, what specific behaviour(s) will it elicit, and so on

So, first things first – define what I’m training, and set criteria:
Reliable: dependable, consistent, unfailing, steadfast, certain.
Recall: often used in terms of memory – remind, recollect, evoke; also used when quality control issues affect one or more of a company’s products – e.g. “there was a recall on yoghurts”. In dog training, recall is the set of behaviours the dog performs when you call him or her to you. Exactly how fast, how close, and so on are part of your criteria.

My criteria
My dog’s recall behaviour will involve:
* Responding as soon as I say his cue, on the first time I say it (that quick response may one day save his life)
* Turning and moving away from whatever he is engaged or interested in
* Locating me, usually visually – though if he’s out of sight I will encourage him without using his recall cue again (and then work on him keeping better track of me, and me of him)
* Running back to me as fast as he is able
* Returning right to me, and staying close to me – no staying out of grabbing distance, or coming back and immediately going somewhere else

What I would add to that list now: –
* Now that I use a release cue, I would also add that he stay with me while I leash him up and we walk on, or until he is verbally released.
* I would also list the dog’s distractions and reinforcers, and rate them so that when the time comes I can pair a distraction with a reinforcer of equal or higher value. This list would need updated as we worked our recall, so it will need to be kept safe!

“Wait a minute!” You say, “I have a husky – who should never be off lead anyway – and we generally walk in the city, where it’s not safe or legal for any dog to be off lead, I don’t need to teach her recall, do I?”

Well – no, and yes.  If you’re 100% certain that her lead, flat collar, and/or static harness will never, ever break; and you can be completely certain that you will never, ever, ever let go of the lead, no matter what’s going on around you, then maybe I can let you off.  For the rest of us that are fallible: even if you don’t intend to ever have your dog off lead, it’s a good idea to train a recall anyway, that way if something ever does go wrong, you have at least a chance of having your dog come back to you rather than disappearing over the horizon.

So now that we know our criteria (to come straight back to me the first time I call, and stick around), how do I go about training?  Technically, I guess recall could be shaped, but that would likely be a slow process!  Since recall is so important, I think it’s much better to train it.

Obviously since I signed up to Recallers, the way I teach recall is changing; but since I paid good money to be a ‘Recaller’, and I respect Susan and her propriety information I won’t/can’t share it with you in that way (though I’m sure there’ll be lots of videos of various bits and pieces in the future).

However, I can share this video of Starr and I again.  This is one way I teach recall – I have my dog “chase” a thrown piece of kibble, I mark when she turns around, and when she returns to me she gets three or four tasty treats.

As with all good training, we start off somewhere not distracting (in this case, we started indoors), and slowly work up to very distracting environments, using a lead or long line as appropriate (in our enclosed garden, she’s fine off lead).  I help her to make the right choices – by marking the turn; and I make the right choices achievable – I don’t take her to the beach on a sunny Sunday afternoon, take off her lead and expect her to stick around, much less come when I call her, without plenty of practice of what I do want first.

After all, practice makes perfect and if she practices ignoring me, or having me chase her for twenty minutes before I can get her back on the lead (after calling her repeatedly) then that will become her “recall” behaviour – and that is not what I want!

What about you – is recall important for your dog(s)? Do you have a special way of teaching it?

Are You Bribing Your Dog?

There seems to be a fallacy in the world of dog training, and indeed even outside of the world of dog training, and dogs in general.

I’ve had knowing looks on the street, overheard strangers commenting at the beach or lake, had comments directed towards me in person and online, even my mother has (once again!) chided me for my seemingly “poor choices”.

If you train your dog with treats, you’re bribing her.

Bribing – Craige Moore

There I said it.

Anyone who’s anyone knows that all dogs love and respect all humans, and will do as we say because it makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside when they make us happy by doing as they’re told; so it follows that anyone who’s anyone also knows that dogs don’t need treats, or any form of reward, for working for humans. And if you choose to use treats, you’re bribing your dog to do whatever it is you want him to do, because he wont do it out of “love and respect”, or for the joy it brings him in knowing you’re happy with him, he’ll only do it for the food in your hand.

Clearly, all the people making such comments are amazing, wonderful even. They may have spent their whole life working, but they have never once taken a penny – or anything else – in recompense; or if they have they’ve given it all away again.

They have no need of reward or recognition from their employer (or customers, if they’re self-employed), they do the work because they like the fuzzy warm feeling it gives them to help others, and that’s all the payment they need.

Oh, wait…

That’s not true.

While some people can, and do, volunteer their time; the majority of people in gainful employment need to take home a pay cheque every month (heck, even people who are not in gainful employment still have to find a way to get the money they need!).

I don’t know about you, but if my employer decided to stop paying for my time I’d certainly be looking for another job – let’s face it, for humans, money is a very powerful secondary reinforcer.

Money gives us roofs over our heads, various methods of travel, the ability to buy food, books, clothes, music, tickets to the cinema, theatre, or concerts, and even the ability to have and appropriately care for our animals.

Animals see no value in money (aside from the ones who may see value in eating it). They tend not to have pockets to keep it in, or places to keep a lot of it safe, and they don’t have bills to pay, so money as a form of payment is as meaningless to them as hotdog slices as a form of payment is to you and I.

But just because they don’t see value in money doesn’t mean they don’t see value in being “paid”.

Especially when training new behaviours, your dog (or human, horse, goat, lamb, cow, chicken…or any animal) needs paid. They need to feel value in their work (learning), and this value comes from rewards – not only food and toys, but also other things they enjoy doing – digging, barking, running around, sniffing…whatever floats their boat.

These rewards do a number of things: * firstly they help the animal to learn that the rewarded behaviour is worth repeating;
* it adds “money to the bank” for the behaviour, meaning that at some future time when you need to ask for the behaviour and only have dry, biscuit treats (or, worse, nothing at all) your dog is more likely to do as you ask, and not mind too much that you didn’t have some liver or a favourite tug toy handy (however, after this type of situation it would be worth “refreshing” the behaviour in your dog’s mind – and increasing your “bank balance” – by training the behaviour with one or more of your dog’s desired rewards, especially if you made a large withdrawal – such as recalling your dog away from unexpected livestock or wild animals;
* additionally, training using the rewards your dog wants (rather than the ones you think he should want) also has the added bonus of teaching your dog that you’re worth listening to;
* and it’s great for building a strong relationship with your dog.

Looking at that list, I wonder why we aren’t all training with rewards. For me, it all comes back to working: I want my dog to want to be with me, and to not only want to interact with me; but to enjoy interacting with me – whether we’re playing tug, or whether I’m training a drop on recall.

It pains me to see a dog who wants to be nowhere near his human, after all, dogs are social creatures and should have the strongest bond with their ‘family’; but to think that some people actively dislike despise “treat training”, well…I don’t want to think about what they do to their dog in the name of training

Sheep

‘Name That Sheep’ – Alan Cleaver

Well, this has certainly been an interesting week!  I found out through a friend that a local rescue organisation had hired an electric shock collar trainer for a dog that was chasing sheep.  I posted on my Facebook page that: “Currently I’m feeling shocked and saddened that a local rescue organisation has hired an electric shock collar trainer to “cure” a dog of his sheep chasing.

I feel very sad for the dog, but also lucky that I will never have to resort to such dangerous and barbaric practises – in fact I currently have just the same problem with Starr, she would love to chase sheep if given the opportunity, so she’s not getting it!  Or at least not until I can take her up to my friend’s farm and start teaching her to play with sheep appropriately.”

‘Loweswater Sheep’ – mPascalj

And I mean every word of it. Starr has about 10% of the recall she needs to be off-lead, and about 1% of the recall I’d like her to have before I “let her loose”; and I’d never ever let her off lead anywhere near sheep that she was not working.  Why would I?  If a farmer thinks that a dog is worrying his sheep, he can shoot it dead on the spot, and to many farmers a dog being off lead near his sheep is more than plenty reason to shoot it…

This then brought to mind that a little while ago I was chided in the comments section of another blog.  The post was about dog training and the apparent lies therein.  The reproach came as I’d said I never had and never will use anything except a flat collar & static (i.e. fixed) harness on any of my dogs, and I have no need of telling them “no” (as in “don’t do that”).

I was told I had “so much to learn”, including “the four ways to deal with a behaviour” and “what to do with a confirmed sheep worrier”.  I did have to wonder where the common sense was – if one has a confirmed sheep worrier why would you take it anywhere near sheep?  That’s just asking for trouble, and certainly not something I would ever advise to any future potential client I may have, unless they were under the tutelage of the person who owned the sheep, and they were either a) teaching the dog to herd the sheep; or b) teaching the dog enough that he could leave the sheep entirely alone on one cue.  Note also that both of these would take more than one short lesson!

It was then that I was curtly told that I “know nothing”, and should “go out and learn” as well as “shut up” because my “lack of knowledge won’t impress anyone”.  Hmmm, yes – clearly I lack knowledge because I’m not going to take a dog who may worry livestock near the livestock, nor will I let said dog (or any dog, for that matter) off lead unless they’re working the livestock, and I certainly would never electrocute my dog for showing an interest in livestock!  Oh, how much I must have left to learn to get these sensible ideas out of my head!

‘Sheep’ mPascalj’

I then had someone else telling me that I “don’t live in the real world”, and “would rather keep a dog on lead than give any form of ‘no’ command”.  According to this second commenter, I’m not alone in living in cloud cuckoo land, as I’m an “example of many UK trainers”.  This coming from someone who allowed her dog to kill a sheep (meaning it was off lead and/or under no control around them), and then used an electric shock collar, rather than walk her dog somewhere beside sheep-covered moors.  Of course, she’s otherwise a totally positive trainer, and had “exhausted every other positive option”.

I’m sorry, but I really fail to see what is so bizarre about being responsible enough to keep your dog on lead around sheep that don’t belong to you and/that your dog isn’t actively working; not to mention keeping your dog who you know is, or is likely to be, overtly interested in sheep away from them.  It really isn’t that difficult – I did it for over twelve months while living up the road from a farm; not to mention having done it with my previous two dogs!

It’s common sense – if you don’t want to see your dog shot by a farmer, you need to make sure he or she can see you have control over your dog around livestock and that means using a lead – something that is visible and obvious; not just hoping that you have enough verbal control over your dog that you can call your dog away in the split second before the farmer reaches for their gun…

‘Sheep’ – mPascalj

 

Vet Visits

I was going to post something else today, but was so annoyed livid on Tuesday evening (and most of the day Wednesday!) I decided to write and post this instead.

So Inka and I were sat in the reception/waiting area of our vets before our follow-up appointment about his haematomas.  Inka was stressing a little, so I was doing what I could to help him keep calm, including asking him to do some of the tricks he knows, the Look at That! protocol from Control Unleashed, and a little bit of Pattern Games too, as well as calmly petting him.

The waiting area isn’t very big, so I try to keep us within a small area, though this can be difficult at times, so sometimes I’ll ask Inka to hop up on a chair so he’s off the floor and out of the way; if the practise is very busy, I’ve been known to sit him on my lap, usually for his own sake, but sometimes for mine too.

Inka chilling out after being at the vets

You see, what a lot of people don’t seem to realise is that any of the other animals at the vets could be in a lot of pain, and an animal in pain doesn’t want some stranger’s sweaty hand all over him, nor does he want another dog right in his face.

It’s not as bad for small furries, and even small dogs because they’re usually in carriers or can be easily picked up. But bigger dogs, like Inka, are too big to put in a carrier, and too gangly, heavy and/or too unwieldy to pick up.  Or all three in Inka’s case.

That means that when someone walks in and has little to no control of their dog, he or she is almost immediately bouncing on the other dog’s heads, without even a basic show of politeness from the owner to ask if your dog is friendly.  Not forgetting, of course, the plethora of people who start petting and/or talking to your dog without first stopping to consider that even if your dog isn’t in pain, he’s likely to be quite stressed out just by virtue of being at the vets.

All in all, other people often do not make vet visits easy.  This is not helped by the fact that when you ask someone to remove their dog from your dog’s face, or their hand from his person they often don’t.

At all.

Some might ask why (and then ignore your response as well as the original request), some might say “oh, but he likes it” (I’m sorry, can really you not see the huge stress signals he’s telegraphing to you about how uncomfortable he is right now??!), or as the dog owner we contended with on Tuesday evening, they might smile gormlessly at you, while still allowing their dog to harass your, as you tell them your dog’s in pain and is likely to snap – complete with a lack of basic control of their dog and obliviousness while they speak to the receptionist/nurse (yes, the dog was on a flexi lead – thank goodness it didn’t also have a choke chain on!)

Meanwhile, as a responsible owner I’m left trying to separate their dog from Inka, and ensure enough distance is kept that the other dog isn’t pulled back to jump on his head, while the owner continues to discuss politics with fairies, or whatever it is that’s currently occupying their mind and obviously so much more important than their dog and his or her well being.

I’m generally not a nasty person, but between this dog owner as we waited to see the vet, the lady who was very intent on petting Inka as I tried to keep my very obviously stressed dog calm and pay the bill, and the woman with a staffy on a choke chain who moved to sit two feet away from us, and proceeded to strangle the poor dog rather than help keep him out of the way and keep his stress levels down (plus I’m sure she hit the poor dog, though as we’d just left I didn’t actually see it, but it sounded like it) I was ready to hit someone…well, maybe not, but I wanted to at least give them all a good talking to about appropriate human behaviour and their lack of it in that setting.

It’s very simple, all you need to remember is: when at the vets, don’t pet.  Not at all, even a tiny bit on the sly, and certainly do not allow your dog into the face or space of any other dog or human.  Also, it should go without saying (but I have seen it happen, on purpose, recently) keep hold of your dogs lead!  Even if he is “friendly” and “just wants to see” someone else in the waiting room, do not, ever, ever, ever let go of that lead – he may just want to say hi, but he may also be so stressed out of his head that he completely freaks out and bites the person instead, and while there are a lot of dog owners that would recognise the difference, I’ve seen many more that wouldn’t.

Thankfully, Inka’s preferred method of dealing with stressful situations shit clueless humans try to put him through is to flee, and even when he couldn’t really flee as he was on lead and in a small area, I would put money on the fact that he wouldn’t bite, unless he was seriously provoked – which, of course, I wouldn’t let happen.  He might threaten it, and on Tuesday, I wouldn’t have blamed him one bit.  And I probably wouldn’t have held back if someone had made a comment about him being aggressive, but I managed the situation so that nothing too bad happened, and then after we got home, Inka got to play in the sudden downpour of rain.  I still felt bad for what he’d been through though.

As for Inka’s ears, we’re to finish all of his pills, cream, and drops and see how he is from there.

Other People’s Dogs

Following on from my earlier post, I saw a question posted on Facebook, regarding canine/human interaction.

The question was: “A lady stopped me earlier when I was out with my dogs and started talking to me. Without asking, she leaned forward to stroke my dogs. One of them backed away, and the other barked at her. The woman told me that I “have problems” with my dogs.

I haven’t taught my dogs to not let people stroke them, they just don’t like it, although they’re happy to just stand/sit whilst I talk to people. Is this so wrong?!?”

I find this quite interesting as “is it wrong?” is a very subjective question.

Personally, I don’t think it’s wrong that any sentient being has preferences for how much personal space they want or need; however I do think it’s wrong there are some insistent people who see no problem in thinking (and acting on!) “all dogs must be stroked”, “all children must have their cheeks pinched”, “all women/men are free for the feeling”, and so on.

I believe it is up to those of us who disagree to say “please always ask first (and listen to the response you get!)”, “please don’t”, and “I’m reporting you to the police” (respectively). While many people don’t seem to listen to what you say when they want to pet your dog(s), some do – and it’s important that we tell the people who do listen, as that’s what helps to circulate the message, and the more people that know – and share this knowledge – the fewer people there will should be who impinge upon anyone’s personal space.

What about you – where do you stand on the “petting someone else’s dog” scale? Do you think more people should ask (and listen!), or are you more of an impulsive petter, and think there’s nothing wrong with it?

My Dog’s on Lead, PLEASE – Take Heed!

Scot and I were out for a walk the other day with Starr and Inka.

Inka’s been with us for just over eighteen months now and has a good standard of training, and a fairly reliable recall, so he was off lead. Starr, obviously being younger and having had less training and time with us was on a long line of about 12 feet – in part to keep her safe (as we found, she can find and fit through holes in fences!), but also to ensure she doesn’t learn “bad habits”.

We had a lovely walk, but sadly towards the end we were met with a small off-lead dog who came running right at us. This shouldn’t have been a problem, as many owners would recognise in a similar situation that we were trying to move away from them and their dog, and would call their dog back to them – or at least make a valiant attempt to do so.

“Dog On a Lead” by D_Alexander
http://www.flickr.com/photos/davida/6341776479/

Although both of our dogs are friendly, the fact that Starr was on a lead should have alerted the other owner to the fact that his dog running over would not be welcome – leads often create barrier frustration, whether one or both dogs are being held on one.

The other owner, being so far away from his dog and us, wasn’t able to check with us first that his dog was OK to greet one or both of ours; for all he knew Starr could be blind, deaf, or have hip dysplacia, or any other manner of things where she wouldn’t appreciate a strange dog charging towards her.

As we attempted to move away from the dog, the owner simply kept on walking, not calling his dog to him (and, in fact not paying any attention at all to his dog), and he completely ignored our requests to call his dog back.

At this point, any halfway responsible dog owner would have called their dog away, or come to ‘collect’ him or her. A truly responsible owner would either have put their dog on lead while they passed us, or would not have had their dog off-lead if he or she wouldn’t come when called.

Thankfully, nothing ‘bad’ happened, but I do wonder what this dog owner (or others like him) would have had to say to us had Inka or Starr shown their displeasure at his dog’s rude behaviour. My guess is it wouldn’t be an apology for their dogs’ behaviour and their lack of action, and it would probably contain a number of “four letter” words.

This, of course, is (or certainly should be) simple etiquette – but many dog owners seem to be lacking this basic knowledge, so please if you see a dog on lead, take heed and stay away. Regardless of whether this is on the street, in a pet shop, or while walking your own dog in fields or woods. If you have a dog, or dogs, with you it is your responsibility to ensure they also keep away from the other dog, call them back and put them on their own leads until you’ve passed the on-lead dog.

It really is little wonder how the general public can perceive “dog owners” so negatively, when some owners allow things like this to happen; so please: if you see my dog on lead – take heed and be a responsible dog owner, and a good example to the rest of the community.  I may not get close enough to thank you, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to say it.

Compulsory Microchipping

A microchip

So the UK government has decided to introduce compulsory microchipping of dogs.  It’s supposed to enable those owners who’s dogs bite or attack people to be more easily prosecuted.  However, the law isn’t to be implemented until 2016.

The government haven’t gone so far as to introduce a link between the details held on the database for a particular microchip proving ownership of the dog who that chip is implanted within.  They also haven’t looked at any way of linking the current microchip provider’s separate databases together.

They have – however – stealthily added an extension to the current ‘Dangerous Dogs Act (1991)’ (DDA), to include dogs who are “dangerously out of control” on private property e.g. at owner’s home, or other houses (importantly, excluded from this addition are bites to intruders/burglars).

So far, so good – or is it?

To responsible owners, like myself, it makes little difference.  My dogs are already permanently identified by a microchip (which, importantly, is kept up to date), as well as wearing a collar and tag 100% of the time in public, and 99% of the time at home (just in case, not because of paranoia – honest!).

As they both can be anxious around strangers, there’s baby gates to restrict their access to both the front and back doors, and if someone ‘new’ were to require access to the house, Inka and Starr are crated, or put in another room – whichever’s most appropriate for the situation.

However, I know of a least one person who is publicly against microchipping, due to the belief that the chips are linked to or cause cancer in dogs.  Tina Humphrey (of ‘Tina & Chandi’ fame) says “Enough with the ‘responsible dog owners already have their dogs chipped’!  I am responsible but chose to NOT subject my dogs to medical procedures that carry health risks.  Instead I supervise my dog 24 hours per day, have up-to-date info on a collar and tag.  It is possible to be ‘responsible’ and not risk your dog’s health by implanting a foreign body!”.

There’s been no indication from the government that another permanent form of identification might be allowed, such as tattooing.

And as for the extension of the DDA onto private property?  I think many responsible dog owners may choose to have a few less visitors to their homes, especially “non-doggy” people.  The reason?  The current, extremely subjective, wording of the DDA.

This quote, as taken from the Blue Cross website, goes some way to explain the problem (emphasis is mine): –

“Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act is not breed specific, and applies to all dogs regardless of breed or breed-type.  Section 3 makes it an offence for any dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place.  Dangerously out of control has been defined in law as “Any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that a dog will injure any person”.  This means that a dog could be considered dangerous even if it does not actually injure anyone.  If a person believes that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the dog could injure them then charges can be brought.

It is that simple – if someone thinks your dog might injure them, you can be charged under the DDA.  For instance, let’s take Joe.  Joe doesn’t like dogs, and is a little bit afraid of what he calls “big” dogs – those that are about Spaniel-sized or bigger.  I’m walking Inka & Starr down the street towards Joe.  Inka’s closest to him, and as we walk past Joe, Inka moves towards him a little to take a sniff of his hands (Joe’s recently finished eating a sandwich).  Now remember, Joe doesn’t like “big” dogs, and thinks Inka – who’s about 22″ at his shoulders – is huge.  He sees Inka moving towards him, and panics, clearly Inka’s out of control and is going to rip his arm off!

 

Sneaking in of extension of DDA to include private property. Laughable, as the definition of “attack” is dependant upon the feelings of the “victim”, so someone who doesn’t like or is afraid of dogs could see something as the dog moving closer to sniff them as an attack. Additionally, look at the number of dog owners who misinterpret their own dogs body language and/or behaviour – barking as being aggressive; playing as fighting; not doing as requested as trying to be dominant..

Considering that many dog owners seemingly understand little of canine behaviour and communication, and many misinterpretations are made – dogs who don’t do as asked are dominant or stubborn, two dogs playing together is seen as them fighting, a barking dog is obviously aggressive.  How can we then expect the non-dog owners in the UK to correctly interpret the actions of any given dog, especially one on his home territory who may not be used to visitors?  Even when in their crates, both of my dogs will bark at anyone knocking on the door, or getting too close to them – I now have to consider that this behaviour, from 2016, could mean I get taken to court.

While I applaud the government for realising that something needs to be done, it seems to me that this is a knee-jerk reaction, similar to the original implementation of the DDA.  It seems to have been brought about by people who know little, understand less, and are reluctant to take on board the views of those who know and understand more, let alone other countries where this has been tried.

Northern Ireland being a close example.  Although compulsory microchipping has been in place for less than twelve months (see here and here), from following just the Mutts Anonymous Dog Rescue (MADRA) page on Facebook, I see just how many strays can be found in that one area of Ireland.  Not to mention that Starr was an Irish stray, as were several of my friend’s dogs before they found their new homes.  I know Starr wasn’t microchipped until she arrived in England, and I doubt that any of the other “expats” had microchips either.

Let’s be realistic for a minute:many dog owners in the UK currently flout the laws they should be following (dogs being on leash when near a road, poop-scooping, and dogs wearing a collar with an up-to-date ID tag with the name and address of the owner to name just three!), and nothing is ever done about them.  Nobody’s fined, nobody’s taken to court.  Nothing!

Until somebody can do something about these, basic, simple rules (let alone welfare rules which are frequently ignored by everyone from ‘regular’ dog owners to puppy farmers), then I think it’s unrealistic to expect that anybody is really going to care whether every dog is microchipped, and/or randomly check dogs on the street and issue fines for those dogs who aren’t chipped.  Not to mention that vets will not be routinely scanning new patients – for fear of causing embarrassment

 

Responsibility

 

Recently, I’ve seen people, read stories, and been involved in a few conversations that have made me realise that maybe not everyone is on the same page when it comes to responsible dog ownership.  We, as dog owners, should behave responsibly with and towards our dogs, and by that I mean all of us, all the time.

I’m sure you’re all aware that there are laws surrounding pet ownership, I’m not going to write them out here, but if you’re unsure a quick Google should tell you all you need to know.  I’m also not going to have a rant at different things I see that make me mad, or make me worry, or upset me; though I easily could do that too.

I like to think that I’m a responsible dog owner, I follow the law, I look after my dog, I train him using scientifically proven force-free methods, and if it’s called for, I manage him to ensure he stays out of harm’s way.  I like to think that in doing so, people notice that I’m responsible; not because I want public attention, or gold stars, or to be told how awesome I am, but because they should see me as ‘just another responsible dog owner’, like all the others.

Sadly, it often seems that I, and others like me, are in the minority.  I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve asked to put their dogs back on lead and they’ve not had a lead with them – the most simple of all tools for the dog owner, it could literally be a life-saver, and they don’t have one on them, let alone on their dog.

Oh, but wait…it’s OK because their dog walks alongside them on the pavement, they don’t need a lead.

Well I’m sorry, but it’s not OK – just wait until a car backfires, sending your dog running into the road – it’s not a nice thought, and not a position I wish anyone to be in, but I bet you they wish they’d walked their dog on a lead then.

Responsibility isn’t a huge burden, but if being a responsible dog owner seems like too much hard work, perhaps you should have bought a goldfish instead.  I have no problems with people being responsible enough to say they can’t cope with the responsibilities owning a dog brings; but I do have a problem when people can’t cope with them (or worse, don’t want to!) and just carry on as if every thing’s OK.  In that situation, I’d rather see one responsible act of dog ownership – finding the dog a new home, or taking it back to the breeder or rescue, than a life worth of irresponsibility.