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Posted on 19/01/2015
Filed under: Responsible Dog Ownership Dogs Outside

dog pulling on long leadThe other morning I was returning home from a lovely walk with my dogs. Zac had the blackest of noses from sticking it down every hole he could find and Pru was all pottered out but as we approached the sharp bend in the lane that leads to our home, I saw two loose dogs come rushing towards us and my heart sank. Fortunately they stopped in their tracks when the realised that we were there, choosing instead to furiously bark and leap about, which naturally forced Shamook, Zac and Rio to give voice too. I thanked them just as a very excited woman raced into the picture yelling at the dogs. 

The woman had another dog with her, which was on a long flexible lead, so I stood still allowing her to gain her composure and collect the dogs only to hear a second woman shouting at her to get control of the dogs. By this time the second woman came into view accompanied by a man I could see that between them they have two more dogs also running loose. 

The scene that followed resembled a farce with adrenaline pumped dogs dodging to avoid capture, and excited people loudly shouting orders to one another,  all totally unnecessary. It took a few minutes for these three people to gather up the dogs and while this was happening I calmly moved my dogs onto the corner of a field to give the group room to pass, as a good leader avoids negative encounters. 

As they came nearer their dogs were leaping at my dogs, who were less than impressed with this, and I heard the man tell the woman, now hanging on for dear life to three pulling dogs, that she really must get them under control. 

It took this group quite a time to actually get past us, made worse as one of the women kept trying to address me with phrases like 'Oh aren't they naughty?', 'typical, isn't it' and other embarrassed  comments and whilst I just smiled and said nothing, she was still making verbal excuses as she dragged her dogs away from us. 

Once they had passed, I returned to the lane and made my way home, had a cup of tea and considered the sad reality of the impossibility of 'getting control' of an excited dog but this is what I hear people say all of the time, which is exactly like those who choose to slam on the brakes of a car after it hurtles out of control on a sharp bend. 

There are only two types of effective control. The first and most obvious way to stay in control is to anticipate potential threats, based on what you see, just like a good car driver does. When visibility is blocked or something or someone comes into sight simply think safety and although there is no guarantee that nothing will ever happen, we are able to reduce the risk of chaos by recalling our dogs to us at that stage, putting them on their leads in a calm and matter-of-fact manner. This enables us to assess the possible danger and take appropriate action, without panic all round. Whenever the situation has got out of hand, it’s then too late to regain control as no matter how much you scream and shout at your dog, the adrenalin flowing through its veins will override everything. 

The other real control is 'self control' and this is where AB comes into the picture, as 'self control' is only possible when the individual is calm and able to think clearly following any natural reaction to any situation. Just as my dogs (who initially reacted to the potential threat by barking), once I thanked them for their warning, were happy to remain calm at my side. This is the result of a dog that is able to put its trust and safety totally in the care of the person with them, then the dog will listen to the owner when faced with a situation and respond in a calm and educated manner and the owner would have taken control of the situation long before risking any direct encounter  or difficulty for the pack. 

I can assure you that even though my dogs are able to show self control and respond to my requests quickly and happily I would never dream of taking chances with their safety or trust by leaving any normal situation to chance, in the same way that when I am driving my car I never speed at a bend, slam on the brakes and hope that I remain on the road. This is why, when we encountered the other pack coming around the bend in the path, all of my dogs were already on lead, as I never assume that there will nothing coming toward us (even though it rarely does). 

Once we take control of the situation and are living with dogs who have learned self-control we can keep our own pulse rate down, which is so important when we are wanting to convince our dogs that we are capable of being the leader of the pack. We also increase our own enjoyment of this time with our dogs, avoiding the horrible feelings of embarrassment experienced by many and most importantly; we enable our dogs to really and safely enjoy investigating the world with us. 

Jan Fennell