Last month while walking my Labrador on leash in my suburb on the Central Coast a roaming dog approached us seemingly out of nowhere. It was a large dog and my girl became nervous and jumpy. I immediately turned the other way as I always do as this is a very common incident unfortunately. Alas this dog would not leave us alone and to cut a long story short began throwing himself at both of us, rushing us and running around us. I had my girl on leash, and she was jumping, screaming and growling. I noticed a man standing nearby and asked him if it was his dog. He said no and continued watching. I was yelling NO at the dog and pushing the dog away to no avail. The dog would not give up and I was frightened for my dog – first what this dog may do to my dog and secondly what my dog may do to this dog as she was scared and reactive. I asked the man if he could help but he refused. I begged him to enter his property and initially he refused but then allowed us. I fell over and he made no attempt to assist us at all. He would not let us into his home and his backyard was not fenced but we were able to go up his back stairs and the dog retreated.
As an ex full time pet minder I have experienced numerous situations with off leash roaming dogs. I have made more reports to council than most people would want to know. This most recent situation I found more upsetting because someone was there that refused to intervene however I know that many people are reluctant to intervene in situations involving dogs. When I posted up on some community pages later I received a message from the possible owner saying that his dog was friendly. I found it interesting that he would know with absolute certainty that in a situation where his dog was lost and found itself in a situation without his owner present – that his dog would be friendly.
Can we really guarantee our dogs are always friendly, that they “wouldn’t hurt a fly,” and that they are always predictable?
Worse still is the owner with their dog off leash in the on leash area calling out to you as their dog runs at your on leash dog, “it’s okay, my dog is friendly”, as I yell back, “but my dog isn’t, and it may kill yours.” Truth is, my dogs are friendly and do really well when off leash at the beach BUT they do not appreciate being on leash and having off leash dogs run at them.
Since moving to the Coast, I have been absolutely appalled at the amount of people thinking it is okay to have their dogs off leash in the neighbourhood, in local parks, wherever they feel like really. Council regulations are that dogs must be on leash unless otherwise stated. I had a run in with a lady recently at Long Jetty. Walking with my dog minding my own business when her dog ran at us upsetting my dog. I moved well away and her dog kept following us. She was oblivious. Coming back I did a huge loop to avoid them but her dog did the same thing. I yelled out to her that this park is on leash. She said that her dog was friendly. I yelled back, “I don’t care if your dog is friendly, the park is on leash”. Then I got the eye roll and she walked on making no effort to leash her dog (I don’t even think she had a leash.)
All Councils have rules regarding this and you can contact your local council or google their information. Here are some links to help you out.
Check out the rules on Central Coast Council:
Check out the rules on Campbelltown Council:
Check out the rules on Camden Council:
You can also check up the NSW Office of Local Government:
The other thing that I hear is that we should let our dogs sort it out when they are having an argument at an off leash park or beach. Really? My dog has the brain of about a two year old I think. I worked in childcare for many years and two year olds fighting never ended well. Dogs like toddlers need redirection. I am not going to wait for a $5,000 vet bill and let my dogs decide what they learned from that experience or be traumatised forever from their fight. Instead I step in, redirect, move on. If my dogs don’t get on with another dog, they don’t get on. I leave the situation. I’m not going to become a psychologist for my dogs but instead end on a positive note and leave the situation. The same goes for on leash meet ups. I believe in the three second rule. Check with the other owners, let them say hello, keep on going. Positive and friendly quick interactions. At a dog park or beach keep moving. It is when you stop that problems arise. Of course, over time dogs make friends just like people and you can let down your guard a little if they get to know each other.
Check out this information from my favourite trainer on the Coast, Louise Harding (Animal Talent) regarding dog disagreements.
One of the most horrifying things I have heard and I have heard it more than once is, “it’s okay, my dog needs a good bite.” I can’t think of a time when my dogs have ever needed a good bite. This will not teach my dogs – your dogs or anybody else’s dogs how to behave. What could result in your dog getting a good bite is that you create an aggressive dog for life. Really? Do you need a good vet bill as well? As Louise writes in her book, Nose to Tail, “once a puppy or adult dog has been attacked by another dog, it can cause on-going problems…”
Does your dog need to spend the rest of his life being traumatised.
The most important thing to remember when you have your dog off leash or when walking your dog on leash around other dogs is that YOU are in control of your dog.
- Do NOT be afraid to leave.
- Do NOT be afraid to say NO to another dog owner.
- Do NOT be afraid to speak up.
- DO watch your own dogs body language and the body language of the dogs around you.
- DO keep your dog moving and active.
- DO be confident
I am the first to admit I am not a huge fan of dog parks because of the behaviour and lack of responsibility by some owners. However if you get to know a group of people and dogs and attend with known dogs and people it is definitely a safer option. Walking on leash *such as with Doggie Dates or walking in off leash areas together (on the beach or in off leash areas) can also be beneficial as safety in numbers prevails.
Safe walking and please be a responsible dog owner!
- I am not a trainer nor do I pretend to be one. I have spent many years walking my own dogs and other people’s dogs and I understand and respect council regulations and hope I have some common sense.
*I am not a trainer – I do not pretend to be a trainer – I do not want to be a trainer. However I have spent YEARS walking my dogs and other dogs almost every single day. I also know council regulations and I have (I hope) just a little common sense.