Showing posts with label off lead. Show all posts
Showing posts with label off lead. Show all posts

26 February 2012

Dog Control Orders - Who is really in control of our dogs?

Earlier this week I was asked to participate in a radio interview about whether dogs should be kept on leads at all times in public parks. The interview came about due to some press coverage of Hull City Council's proposed Dog Control Order for East Park, which would mean all dogs would have to be kept on lead whilst in the park.

Dog Control Orders, which are powers that councils can exert under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 ss55-68, allow councils to:
  • ban dogs from designated areas, 
  • issue fines for dog fouling and failure to remove faeces
  • enforce keeping dogs on leads in designated areas
  • restrict the number of dogs one person can take on to any land

Many parks and beaches that were once happy haunts for dog lovers now have Dog Control Orders in place - either restricting access to certain times of the year, or all-out year-round bans.

The main reasons that the restrictions or bans are enforced seem to be down to a minority of dog owners...

...those that still believe in the elusive dog poo fairy - that magical being that cleans up after dogs and disposes of their poop - or those who are completely oblivious to their off-lead dogs and believe in the power of mind control, or some invisible bond, when it comes to recalling them! 

The Radio Interview
The radio interview was on the Peter Levy show on BBC Radio Humberside and Lincolnshire. Of those interviewed, the overwhelming opinion was that dogs do need time to be dogs, to have off lead time and that it's a minority of dog owners who spoil it for the majority.  You can listen to the interview below.

If you're interested in finding out more about Dog Control Orders, KC Dog is a useful website providing information on dog control consultations and if, you're interested to know what legal obligations all dog owners have there's a great Information Guide - Do You Know Dog Law? - available on the Kennel Club website.

Man's Best Friend?
The interview got me thinking even more about how less tolerant society has become towards dogs in general.  To me, it seems that there are less and less opportunities for our dogs to be dogs and that dogs are fast losing their "Man's best friend" status.

Even in the small village where I live there has been talk of banning dogs from the playing field (thankfully this hasn't materialised).  This would leave the village with no green space to exercise dogs on and would be greatly missed.

Maybe I'm painting too bleak a picture but there don't seem to be many good news stories in the press and media about dogs.   The news seems to be full of stories of 'dangerous dogs', dog attacks, cruelty cases and corresponding pictures and dognappings, all coupled with stories of overflowing rescue centres and record numbers of dogs being abandoned.

Who's To Blame?
One thing's for sure - the blame for this lack of tolerance certainly can't lie with our dogs. We're responsible for their care, well-being and training.  If blame is to be apportioned it has to lie squarely at the feet of unthinking and irresponsible dog owners.

Those who don't clean up after their dogs, let them off lead without having a reliable recall, let their dogs roam or simply can't be bothered to train them, not only let their dogs down but let the majority of responsible dog owners down too.

So, what does the future hold for dogs in the UK? Will we see the introduction of dog parks like those in the USA? Will microchipping be made compulsory? Will the dog licence be brought back? Will the laws affecting dog owners become more stringent?
Mina on Perranporth beach in 2005

Whatever the future may hold, I hope that those places and venues that are dog friendly remain so.  Most of my favourite memories stem from holidays and days out with my hubby and the hounds: I'd like to build on those memories - not lose them.

PS Don't forget, every comment left on my February 2012 posts gets entered into our Countdown to Crufts giveaway to win* a pair of Crufts tickets.

*Terms & Conditions:
Giveaway is open to UK residents only. Prize consists of one pair of tickets to Crufts for each of the two winners (tickets are valid for the day of the winner's choice).
The winner is responsible for arranging their own transport to and from the NEC.
Closing dates for entries is Tuesday 28 February 2012
Winners will be notified by email and/;or via my blog posts

28 November 2010

The First Snow of Winter

It's true - us Brits like nothing more than to talk about the weather.  As we live on an island where extremes of weather are fairly rare, any type of weather that is either too cold or too hot tends to make headlines.  This year, we've had very early snowfall in November meaning the roads grind to a halt, schools close, children dust off wellies and under-used sledges and us adults don our best snow-garb and get out there with the other 'big kids' and our dogs!

The hounds' favourite playing field

The hounds also seem to like the snow and the early snowfall this year has coincided with Mina becoming cone-free after the tail incident (see: previous post - Mina the canine catastrophe).

We've only had a few inches of snow, so it's not too deep for the hounds and they can enjoy a bit of a run and frolic in the snow.  I always worry that deep snow and icy pavements could mean broken bones, so I'm very careful where I let them walk and run.

I still want to enjoy the cold weather and want the hounds to enjoy their walks too, so here are my top tips for keeping the hounds safe and warm on winter walks:

Well wrapped-up against the cold
Coats -  Greyhounds have thin skin, very little fur and very little body fat and tend to feel extremes of temperature, so make sure that they have a waterproof, warm, fleecy winter coat to keep them protected from the elements. I like the coats that have a turn up to protect the neck. Alternatively a greyhound snood helps keep their necks warm.

Salty paws - Rock salt and grit may keep the paths and roads snow and ice-free but left on our pets' paws it can be a real irritant. When I get home I wash and dry the hounds' paws to make sure no grit has got stuck and that they can't lick anything that might be toxic.

A happy & cone-free Mina, enjoying the snow
Deep snow - Greyhounds have fairly delicate bones (in rescue we often come across cases where an owner has let their hound run free over uneven ground and the poor hound has ended up wtih a broken leg), so running in deep snow and on icy surfaces could be a recipe for disaster.

Dark nights - The old addage "Seen and be seen" really does ring true for winter walks - both for me and the hounds. I wear a reflective jacket and carry a torch. The hounds each have an Ancol Safety Halo (available from £3.99 at PetPlanet ) although I am saving up for the rather fab Leuchtie LED light collars available exclusively from Collarways 

Steaming hot mug of tea and open fire - When the walk's over, there's nothing better than putting my feet up with a good mug of tea and watching the hounds snooze by the open fire.

So, time to put my feet up and enjoy that cup of tea. Wherever you may be when you read this, I hope that you're safe and warm with your dogs at your side.

11 May 2010

A pocketful of treats... a diversionary technique

This Sunday, my last dog walk with the hounds before leaving to travel back down South, turned out to be quite eventful and got me thinking about how little us humans sometimes 'think dog' and expect so much from our canine companions.

Me, hubby and hounds had decided to stretch all 16 legs and take the hounds for a bit of off lead time, recall practice and a run in the local playing field. When we got to the field there was another dog - an off lead German Shepherd (GSD) - playing with its owner, so we decided not to go in as Mina can be unpredictable with other dogs.

We carried on walking for a bit and then turned round to head back this stage I could hear screaming and shouting coming from the field, accompanied by loud barks and yapping. We ran back to the field and when I saw what was happening, I handed Stevie and Jasper to hubby and went into the field to help... was quite a sight. The German Shepherd was half lying down, being held and protected by his owner, and was being attacked by two off-lead terriers (a Jack Russell Terrier and a Terrier Cross). The owner of the terriers was frantically trying to catch them, and the owner of the German Shepherd was desperately trying to (a) stop them biting her dog and (b) keep her dog calm, preventing it from biting the terriers.

I know that getting involved in a dog fight isn't the most sensible option, but it did look I could help and the attack hadn't escalated into a full blown fight.

I always carry a pocketful of food treats when I'm walking the hounds, and remember reading somewhere that if a dog starts to attack your dog, try and throw food, a ball or an object to get the attacking dog's attention. The terriers were running around barking and nipping at the GSD, who thankfully was long haired - as it appeared that the terriers were mainly biting out chunks of hair.

The terriers' owner was struggling to catch either of them, so I went across and started calling to them and throwing food treats - in their direction, but away from the GSD. Food can be useful diversion and both appeared to be food motivated. Somehow the lure of the food worked its magic and got them away from the GSD, allowing me to hold one by its harness and the other by its scruff (their owner had taken off his collar/harness).

Thankfully no-one was hurt - human or dog. The terriers' owner clipped them both back onto their leads and the GSD owner was keeping her dog calm.  What made it even more unbelievable was that the owners and their dogs were neighbours...

...and this got me thinking to how much we really know our dogs and just don't think dog.

Just because you may be neighbours, and even if you don't like your neighbour, the chances are you're polite to them - you say hello and exchange niceties about the weather and know how to act socially around them.

But, what if you're a dog and all you see/hear of your doggy neighbour is barking, growling and jumping at the other side of the fence when you're out in the garden? What if that 'big dog next door' is always trying to jump over the fence, or the 'little dog next door' is always poking its nose under the fence barking and trying to nip you?

Just because us humans know how to act when we meet a neighbour, we shouldn't expect our dogs to know what to do. All too often we expect our dogs to be mini doggy etiquette experts, doing what we would do in a strange situation, minding their doggy Ps & Qs, but dogs don't think human; they think dog!

We all want well behaved, well socialised and well mannered dogs but this takes time, patience and training. Next time you think about letting your dog off lead - think dog!

22 October 2009

To be, or not to that is?

One thing that seems to divide dog owners, especially sighthound owners, is whether to let their dog off lead or not.

I'm lucky as the village we live in has a great and fully enclosed playing field that is ideal for letting my 3 dogs off lead to have a good run. The playing field is completely flat and it's easy to see if other dog-owners are coming, giving me enough time to get all my 3 back on their leads.

Jasper enjoying some off lead fun
I've worked hard on developing and training all my dogs' recall but would never dream of letting them off lead when on a general walk or in a park full of other people and dogs. Their speed can be quite startling to other dog owners and people and unfortunately, there are huge misconceptions about greyhounds off lead.  Despite my dogs' recall being good, a park with lots of new sights, sounds & distractions would not necessarily make me 100% sure they'd come back immediately. So, I never let them off lead in these situations.

However, what about other dogs that are off-lead when mine are all on leads?  Is it acceptable for another (usually small or toy breed) dog to come up to my dogs, yapping and then snapping and weaving in and out of their legs?  I've lost count of the number of times other dogs have come running up to my three, barking, jumping, weaving in and out of legs, all the time ignoring their owner's attempts at recalling them.

Unfortunately, this happened whilst my Mother-in-law was walking the dogs. An off-lead border terrier came running at the dogs, yapping and snapping... Stevie & Jasper weren't bothered, but Mina was.  Despite my Mother-in-law shouting at the dog's owner to call his dog away; he didn't. The dog kept coming and Mina lunged and bit it.
Practising recall with Mina
I'm not making excuses for Mina's behaviour, but the tirade of abuse that my Mother in law was subject to was unacceptable. The terrier owner's view was that it should be acceptable for his dog to weave in and out of my dogs legs and that as "hunting dogs" (?!?) mine should be muzzled as they're bred for hunting and being aggressive.  (I'm sorry, but aren't terriers traditionally ratting dogs, known for their tenacity and snapiness?)  To add insult to injury, the story now doing the rounds in the village is that "the greyhound pack all attacked his dog and that his dog was at death's door."

Most people I've spoken to have said that they wouldn't have paid the vet's bill for the terrier as it was off lead and warning was given to its owner. However, we live in a village and I don't want any animosity. We paid the bill, which was for £36.  Looking at the bill it was for an antibiotic jab + antibiotic tablets - hardly treatment for a dog at death's door surely?

The analogy I often use when speaking to people about dogs reactions to other off lead dogs is 'Imagine you're walking down the street, enjoying yourself and suddenly you see someone you don't know running at you... You suddenly realise that they are running straight at you...What do you do?  Run away, stand your ground or punch them?

Stevie coming back when recalled
Why is this scenario any different for dogs?

If they know the other dog and owner, there's rarely a problem. If they don't know the other dog, I usually take the time for on-lead introductions - gauging their reactions and taking it slowly - which leads to happier dogs and happier walks all round.
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