Hi, I’m Ted, and I’m fed up. Every day I go for a walk with Big David and we generally have a great time, sniffing around, checking out the pee-noticeboards, leaving my mark, riding in the bike basket between bridle-path and park before coming home for a good towelling down.
So why am I fed up? Because every day I meet at least one dog with no manners (on a bad day there are many). Now I don’t blame the dogs, they don’t know any better. Dogs are like your children, they don’t know how to behave until you teach them. It’s you humans that are at fault. It shouldn’t be down to me to tell you to get a grip, but someone has to, so here goes…
- Get off the bloomin’ phone. It’s a dog-walk. Interact with your dog, not your facebook profile. Don’t listen to music or a podcast, don’t check your emails, Instatwit, Snap-prat, Tweeter, or your personalised newsfeed. Switch it off, or at least take the ruddy earphones out. You’re only out for an hour, the internet will still be there when you get back. Enjoy your time in the outdoors with your dog and pay attention to what he’s doing!
- Teach your dog good manners. The polite way to greet another dog is to calmly walk up to them, perhaps pausing to take stock of their outlook (are they frightened? nervous?) and if they too are calm approach and sniff first the head, then briefly the groin and bum before coming back to the head to wish them well and going on your way. That’s it.
- If your dog does not behave with good manners, do not allow them to approach other dogs. It is NOT good manners to charge at another dog, screeching to a halt a nanosecond before colliding. It is not good manners to growl, or to bark, or to lunge on the lead. It is absolutely appalling manners to chase another dog that hasn’t signalled his own desire to play a game (and I won’t, so don’t hold your breath).
- ‘He only wants to play’ is not an excuse. If human stranger ran up to you, straight into your face and shouted, ‘Wanna play a game mate? C’mon, let’s play!’ and then shoulder-barged you or grabbed you in a bear-hug around the waist, you’d rightly think they were a dangerous lunatic. Dogs think the same.
- This week alone I’ve had a huge husky charge two hundred yards at me before towering over and staring at me; two terriers scream and pull up onto their back legs on the lead at me; a large hairy mongrel circle round and round me; a collie drop into a stalk and eyeball me and a whippet snap at me as we passed. Transfer those into human behaviour towards you and think how you’d feel about it. Each one blinkin’ terrifies me.
- Luckily Davey has found us a way of dealing with these ill-mannered oafs (and their dogs). He simply says, ‘Leave it’ and we walk away together. When we’re a safe distance we stop and he gives me a treat. Today’s was a piece of cat-kibble, but we can do sausage, cheese or leftovers. Yes I know it’s bad for me, but so’s the doughnut, cake, beer and wine you scoff, so don’t lecture me. The ‘Leave it’ reminds me a treat is on offer if I have good manners and helps me anticipate a good result when under threat, and the treat itself calms me down. Like having a smoke in a stressful situation, but without the horrible resulting death from debilitating lung disease.
- And as we walk away, I think, ‘If I can train Davo to help me deal with these pilchards, why can’t they teach their dogs some manners?’ and the answer of course is that they can. Here’s how.
- There are three kinds of things we dogs like that you can use as rewards: food, toys and games, and kind words from you. Different dogs find them rewarding in different amounts at different times, but generally you can find a most-rewarding one for your dog. It could be a special toy, or special food. I’ve heard people say, ‘My dog isn’t food-orientated’. My answer would be, ‘You haven’t tried the right food then’. We’re all food-orientated. Working dogs, spaniels, collies, retrievers and even some terriers might rather play than food though, so worth checking that out. Kind words, whilst much appreciated, probably lie further down the reward spectrum for most of us.
- As soon as you see another dog, call yours to you and give him a reward. If he can’t be relied upon to come to you every time you call, keep him on a lead or at least a long line until he can. If you don’t have verbal control, you must have physical control. Practice this until every time your dog sees a dog they come to you for their reward. This will most likely be toy or treat, but intersperse those with kind words too.
- Now assess the other dog. Does it look scared, worried? Does the human? If you don’t know, ask the human, ‘Is it alright if mine says hello?’ If they say anything other than, ‘Yes’, such as ‘He’s a bit wary of big dogs’ or ‘He’s been scared by another dog’, they are being polite and actually mean ‘NO, GO AWAY’. Please respect their dog’s wishes to be left alone and walk yours away, saying ‘Leave it’ and rewarding him when you are a safe distance past.
- If the human says, ‘Yes’ and your dog is usually polite (exactly as described in paragraph 2) you may allow them to walk forward to say hello. If your dog is sometimes not polite, keep him on a lead and allow him to walk forward to say hello. If he misbehaves in any way, immediately walk him away, saying ‘Leave it’ and rewarding him when a safe distance past. No, you’re not rewarding impolite behaviour, you’re rewarding walking away; ‘coming away with you’.
- When your polite dog has said hello and walked on, say, ‘Leave it’ and reward him when you are a safe distance past. ‘Leave it’ means, ‘come away a safe distance with me for your reward’. Let’s all do it and make the world a more polite place for dogs to walk.
- You are very welcome.