…Why it’s a good idea!
Te’re Melrose Founder DDNSW
I am going to talk honestly here and really hope all our members read it. I know I can appear bossy and on occasion I have had to make the difficult decision to ask people to leave the group. Never to this date because of their dog but because they have been unable to follow and maintain our guidelines which are essential for the safety of all members and their dogs.
Social distancing was a bit of a catch phrase, everyone seemed to be saying it but we didn’t take it seriously. Then it was serious. Now we are easing up but in the few dog walks I have done with just a myself and one other and a few dogs, I have come to realise that social distancing DOGS is actually what I strive for at our Doggie Dates meet ups, especially at the start when all the dogs arrive.
The current 1.5 m rule of social distancing for people is a good way for us to carry on at Doggie Dates long term. It is how we should be meeting up with our dogs. I feel like I am always talking about “space.” Now we will be referring to it as “social distancing” as everyone understands this.
We have our formal walks so that dogs and owners can meet in a non-training environment, feeling (hopefully) at ease and not judged by their dog’s behaviour. We always say that we don’t mind if your dog is friendly, scared, loud, growly, social or antisocial, as long as you have FULL control of them and as long as you give them SPACE/SOCIAL DISTANCING. In other words, when we meet up, people stand with a metre (or several) between each dog and work on settling their dog prior to the walk.
As time goes on, dogs and people get to be friends which is fantastic, and those little groups start to be comfortable with each other and know each other’s dogs. A newer member comes along with a dog still learning the ropes, assumes the dogs are all friendly, comes right up and a bit of a situation can arise. Those dogs standing in that group weren’t necessarily friendly to all dogs, but they had gotten to know each other over a long period of time.
It is extremely important for new members to stand at a distance and for ALL members to ask, “is your dog friendly,” and, “may they meet”. I have (horrors) in our own group heard people say, “but my dog is friendly” after someone has said no, they don’t want their dog to say hello. In five years, we have had one incident on a formal walk and this was because an owner insisted on taking her dog over to another dog even though the other owner had already said no. If both owners agree for the dogs to meet, then 3 seconds! Yes! 3 seconds! End on a good note. Sniff sniff hello hello move along. We don’t become best friends with people on first meet, why should our dogs.
I have noticed people in general, (not just our group,) find it difficult to accept that some people are nervous of their breed of dog. Using your observation skills as well as listening skills is so important. I observed someone take a large dog up to a person recently who was holding a small dog in their lap. They clearly did not want this person to bring the large dog up. But unfortunately, the person coming up did not read the body language of the person or the small dog and came up anyway forcing the person to have to say something. I have heard people say, “my dog doesn’t like big dog’s” and response from big dog owner, “oh don’t be ridiculous, he is a softie.” It doesn’t matter what he is, you have been told. This morning I was walking my labrador and walked straight around a corner into a little chihuahua. Instantly I saw both the owner and the dog fearful so I naturally moved as far to the side as I could, quickly moved Dolly along and said a quick hello as I passed. I did not stop or encourage them to say hello.
Besides making sure you give your dog’s space at Doggie Dates to feel comfortable and to get to know the dogs and people, they MUST always have leashes on the formal walks. Not AFTER they get out of the car. No they can’t be unleashed DURING the walk to jump in the lake while all the other leashed dogs walk, it’s not okay because they are a good dog either. Your off leash dog makes most of our members feel uncomfortable.
Final tips before starting up our walks again:
- Don’t give other dogs treats (as tempting as it is) – I used to on occasion myself but have now completely stopped this.
- Always bring all your dog’s gear, water, bowls, their own treats if required for training.
- Wear a backpack if you can so that you have free hands for your dog and their leash.
- Finish your coffee/food before your walk so you are totally focused on your dog.
This will mean you are both ready for a successful walk with our lovely group.