Walking your dog safely during lockdown

7th May, 2020

By Trisha Pratt, Animal Behaviourist

 

Lots of people are stuck at home now, so they have more time to walk their dogs. Also, a lot of wonderful people have adopted dogs from rescues and shelters, so there has been a huge increase in the number of dogs in parks and walking tracks. Unfortunately, there has also been a 300% increase in reported dog fight incidents.

Here are some tips to safely walk your dogs and understand the signals your dog is giving you.

Not all dogs “like” other dogs, just like humans. Personality clashes happen!

It’s important to understand what your dog is telling you. When a dog feels threatened, it has 3 options – fight, flight (run away) or freeze. When we have a dog on a lead we take away its option to flee (flight), so we leave them with the options of fight or freeze. Most often in adult dogs, instinct tells them to fight (ie. bark a lot to warn the other dog to stay away).

When walking your dog, look out for signs that he/she is not comfortable.

  • Barking at other dogs is a simple one. Keep your dog at a distance where he is not feeling the need to bark at the dogs. It’s not always possible to give others dogs a wide berth so you may need to move off a track until the other dog has passed.
  • Yawning is a sign your dog is stressed. Dogs do not yawn when they are tired so any time you see a dog yawning, it is uncomfortable about something happening in its environment. Move your dog away from whatever is upsetting him.
  • If your dog stops and freezes, this can mean he is really not comfortable, particularly if his tail is raised. This needs to be acted on immediately, move your dog away now as this could be a sign that a fight is imminent.
  • If you have an anxious dog, a good point to remember is keep moving, dogs do not tend to get into trouble if they are walking.
  • Ask other owners if their dog is ok to say hello before allowing your dog to approach.
  • If another dog is on lead and yours is not, do not allow your dog to approach it, no matter how friendly your dog is – the other dog may be on lead for a reason.

Dog socialisation is extremely important but that doesn’t mean your dog needs to play with every dog it sees. Socialisation means your dog is comfortable with dogs being around him. Dogs don’t need to interact with other dogs, so do not force them.