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Crowded Outdoor Events Through The Eyes of a Dog

Posted on 16/07/2014
Filed under: Responsible Dog Ownership Dogs & Other Animals It's a Dog! Common Sense How Your Dog Thinks

dogs outdoorsThere is nothing unusual about horse owners also having dogs and both can become very familiar and comfortable with the presence of the other. Many of these dogs travel happily in horse lorries to these events, stay in the special parking area and soon learn how to behave there and enjoy something which becomes a part of their normal family activity. 

However, this ideal situation is far from the reality for most of the dogs that are taken to these events by some owners who come as spectators. These dogs are swept along with the vast, dense, crowds and are expected to simply behave in what, for them, is an unnatural and stressful environment. 

Dogs have no understanding of the future only “the now” and accept that wherever they are at any given time requires that they establish their place within this present situation but how can they do this when there are human legs, pushchairs and endless streams of other dogs everywhere? Every few minutes some form of potential ‘lunch’ races past, accompanied by the heightened emotion from the owners, demonstrated by cheers and applause. The ‘lunch’ I refer to is, of course, the horse out on the course. 

What owners see as a nice day out in the warm sunshine is in fact, for all of the dogs,  a huge challenge and they will experience some degree of fear.  Some will quietly walk past everything, hoping to go unnoticed, adopting a semi freeze attitude, the same as people do on a train or plane. Most will pull their handlers from side to side, roaming many yards in front, courtesy of their lethal flexi leads. The dogs have no idea what to do, where to go or what to think and confused dogs are extremely unpredictable dogs. 

Many dogs will whine, bark even scream and are often punished for doing this by embarrassed owners but this will only make the whole situation much worse, as the dog will only associate the situation with pain and anger, not to mention the fact that correction applied here is very unfair on the fearful dog. 

I spent just three hours at a trial a few weekends back and caught on film some very sad dogs with angry owners and listened to commentators asking dog owners to please ensure that their dogs are on leads, as dogs will chase horses (not rocket science). Then there is the inevitable call for the owner of a particular car to return to their vehicle as their dogs are suffering in the heat. 

The problem really is that we recognise stress in our dogs when it’s accompanied by loud whining and barking but most quiet and withdrawn stress is overlooked.

We assume because we are having a great time and fully understand the event that our dog must somehow be able to do the same; they can’t.

I would advise owners who attend these events to think carefully about how the situation appears to the dog’s eyes and maybe re-think the decision to take them in the first place, avoiding placing them under unnecessary and unfair duress. 

Looking around at some of the misery I saw that day, I for one was totally relaxed and contented, knowing I had left my own dogs at home.


Jan Fennell

uneasy dogs

There is a tendency to ignore this sort of behaviour in our dogs.  To us it may seem silly (some even find it amusing) because we know that if a problem develops, we will separate them immediately so nobody gets hurt. The problem is; the dogs don't know that!

I personally feel it demonstrates a total lack of care to subject any dog to this level of completely unnecessary stress, just because we have been thoughtless about where choose to have them accompany us.