Since writing that first column about responsible pet ownership, I have had input from readers and discussions with dog trainers. There are interesting points to consider.
So many people think their dog is friendly and eager to visit with all the other dogs, but not all the other dogs want to visit. Besides, it can be very dangerous. Someone who might be a little unsteady on their feet could easily be knocked over by a very friendly dog. (I have one of those!)
One gigantic problem is the retractable leash, also known as a flexi leash. Most everyone is familiar with these. Some roll out to 12 or 16 feet or more. They are great if you are walking all by yourself away from traffic and other walkers and dogs, but they can also be extremely dangerous. People have lost fingers and had severe bruises with the whiplash of these leashes. People trip over them, get them wrapped around their legs and arms and even lose their grip on them. Dropping the handle and having the leash go crashing to the ground, it then retracts and is totally alarming to the dog as he starts to run and the leash is noisily in hot pursuit. Very frightening and dangerous.
But the other problem with these retractable leashes is that many of the innocent dog walkers who use them are not totally in control of their dog or not paying attention. Their dog can venture across the road or get tangled in a tree. Oncoming cars might not see the dog. But also, the dog might get in the face of another dog and severe consequences might result.
Certain courtesies should be standard for all dog walkers. You always want to keep yourself between your dog and those dogs passing by. You want to be in control of your dog and be able to control the situation if a problem should arise. If a dog and walker come heading your way, it might be best to cross to the other side of the road. If the approaching dog is on a flexi leash and is not close to his person, move up into a driveway or safe place and have your pup sit while the other dog passes by. (This offers a great training opportunity!)
Dog walkers should always carry a pouch around their waist with valuable contents. Clean up bags are essential naturally. I use small
fold-top sandwich bags for the cleanup and deposit these in a little larger bag with handles to carry the contents home. (I walk with two fairly large dogs!) The transport bags are emptied and used again. It is disgraceful that some people do not pick up after their dogs. What an insult. But then there are those who toss out their cigarette butts - totally disgusting and dangerous!
Another thing to keep in this pouch is a card with your name and address and the name and phone number of the police department or whomever you might call if you see a loose or injured animal or if you need immediate help.
I carry a container called Pet Corrector which simply makes a loud air noise. It is great for frightening off a frightening animal, whether it be a javelina or loose dog. I also carry an animal deterrent called “Spray Shield.” It is said to stop aggressive dogs but will not harm the user if the fumes happen to be blown back toward him. Neither of these have I ever needed to use, but if I have a concern, I keep my hand on one of them.
Responsible pet ownership comes in many forms. It is the responsibility of each one of us to be a best friend to our pet while also being responsible to our fellow pet owners and our environment. Whatever would we do without our pups? They keep us out there walking and communicating with our neighbors. What can we do to make their lives more fun? They do so much to enrich our lives.
Let’s be responsible to our pets and to our neighbors!
Christy Powers is a freelance writer whose passion is studying and writing about pet health, nutrition and training. She can be reached at email@example.com.