Jana worked in animal welfare with abused and unwanted pets. She loves sharing her hands-on experience regarding domestic and wild critters.
6 Dog Walking Safety Tips
The other day I took my Alice for a walk. She's an elderly—but lively—Bull Terrier cross. The route we took was new and it was our first outing in months. We returned in one piece, rejuvenated by our morning exploration near a lagoon with wild flamingos. However, I couldn't help but notice danger in the wings—to me, as a walker and lone person, as well as to Alice.
Here are some tips for walking your dog safely:
- Make Sure Your Walking Gear Is in Working Order
- Be Mindful of Traffic
- Be Careful When Walking in Grassy or Forested Areas
- Make Sure Your Dog Is Vaccinated
- Be Mindful of Your Surroundings
- Have a Plan for Possible Encounters With Aggressive Dogs
Tip 1: Make Sure Your Walking Gear Is in Working Order
I purchased a reflective collar a while back. There were never any plans of walking at night (that's just foolish). I bought it because the collar's pretty pink suited Alice's red coat. I should've shopped with safety in mind. Once we were out the gate, the canine got very exited. She adores walks but between flu, work and laziness (ahem), her owner let months slip by without a stroll. So, Alice strained forward while I struggled to close the ancient gate behind us. The moment she felt the leash tighten, Alice bucked. Thankfully, only once and when I looked, that single buck had pulled the collar from her neck. It now ringed her cheeks like some face-jewelry statement. The horrifying part was that a busy road streaks past our home. Had she gotten loose and bolted, a bad or even fatal accident could have followed. Not wanting to take any chances, I removed the collar and made one from the leash, a fail safe loop that would prevent her from slipping loose.
The same counts for harnesses that are a bad fit or a leash held incorrectly. A sudden jerk can pull the leash from your hand. If the dog is celebrating its new freedom at full speed, things can get scary real quickly.
Tip 2: Be Mindful of Traffic
Remember this old road safety rule: look left, right, then left again? Well, it matters when you are walking your dog! We crossed not only the street in front of my house but two others to reach the lagoon. I chose the morning because generally, it should have been quieter. Most people are at work but I forgot it was a long weekend and cars were frequent. One pickup truck had dogs on the back and they went nuts when they saw Alice. I braced to grab her should they jump off. Once they were gone, I looked to see if she was scared (helicopter owner), and found she had better things to do than worry about a pack baying for her blood. The dog was head-deep inside some bush. Which brings us to the next point.
Tip 3: Be Careful When Walking in Grassy or Forested Areas
During the entire walk and the closer we got to the lagoon, we encountered grass. Not the manicured green stuff that grows in the garden. I'm talking a more wild variety that grows up to two hands high. Of course, Alice insisted on browsing the bushy areas. She might have enjoyed picking up new smells but in reality, such clumps are tick motels. Tick bite fever is a serious disease not preventable by vaccination. Most flea and tick products cannot protect a pet a hundred percent either. At home, Alice got a thorough tick check.
Tall and thick vegetation can also hide other things that could be detrimental to your dog. I noticed pieces of glass, broken ceramics, wire and food wrappers. For some reason, there was also a sole without a shoe and a lens without a camera. Other dangers could include snakes, rodents, needles and rusted objects.
Tip 4: Make Sure Your Dog Is Vaccinated
A sick dog often sheds infectious traces wherever they go. Two of the deadliest bugs that can survive for some time without a new host is parvo and canine distemper. The first is particularly lethal to young dogs and the second has no cure. Survivors are often handicapped because of brain damage. Luckily, both diseases can be prevented by vaccinations. Not every owner is a fan of vaccinating their pets but if you want to walk where there are other dogs, such as a park or beach, it's a necessity. A few years ago, a friend walked her dog on the beach and it caught distemper. Before she realized what was going on, the disease had spread and killed both the dog and their new puppy.
Tip 5: Be Mindful of Your Surroundings
We made it to the lagoon. Alice wanted to go down the slope towards the water and since I wanted a better look at the flamingos, I allowed the dog her wish. Don't worry, the flamingos were far out and I didn't bother them. The slope was short but hairy. Grass hid its contours, which is just the perfect way to sprain an ankle or step on a beer bottle. Luckily, every ankle involved made it to the rocky “beach”. That's because I carefully monitored our progress throughout the unknown pathway.
Then I made a deadly mistake. I was so enthralled by the pink flock that by the time I snapped out of it, we were in a lonely place. Sure, some bad characters might avoid a dog with obvious strength such as Alice, but what about three or four people? We got back up the slope and urban area real quick.
This was perhaps the thing that hit home the hardest. We enjoy walking our dogs. Our dogs enjoy being walked. But criminals enjoy things too and one of them must be lone walkers in isolated places. Don't make my mistake of being lulled by a beautiful nature scene most people will never get to see up close. Always stay alert. Watch who is approaching and catch them as far away as possible. This allows ample opportunity to get away, if necessary.
Tip 6: Have a Plan for Possible Encounters With Aggressive Dogs
Alice ignored the rowdy pack that performed a drive by in the back of a pickup. But not even her legendary tolerance with other dogs could ignore the creature that charged us. While on our way back home, somebody's gate was now open and this thing bounced out. It resembled a small but angry mop. For a few seconds, both Alice and I were transfixed but then I dragged my dog away, knowing that if there was an altercation, her breed was bound to get the blame. Never mind that she was on a leash and the other side of the road. The righteous mop trotted back into its yard, but it got me thinking. What if it was a big dog that didn't halt its attack past the front gate? What if it were three? Sure, picking up Alice is a choice but it won't solve anything when dogs are determined to fight.
The only advice is to stay alert on what's happening a good distance ahead of you. It may not be new terrain but a street situation can change quickly. Gates open, kids appear and want to pet your dog, a cat runs past, a drunk driver skids the corner, another dog walker can arrive but with an off-leash dog that doesn't know the meaning of manners. Unfortunately, a lot of people allow dogs to run ahead when they walk next to a road and worse, owners who think it's funny when their dogs molest another person's pet.
Enjoy the Experience
Don't let possible dangers spoil or stop walks altogether. Vigilance and a leashed dog keeps most dangers at bay. As a responsible owner it's important to stay mindful, but don't forget to frolic with your four-legged friend and to savour the sights.
© 2018 Jana Louise Smit
5 Tips on How to Fend Off Aggressive Dogs
According to the USPS, more than 4.5 million people are bitten annually– and it can take less than 10 seconds for a dog to attack. Over 12,000 (pets, pet owners or both) suffer from dog bites each day. Tragically, the AVMA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report that small children, the elderly, and letter carriers, in that order, are the most frequent victims.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), dog attack victims now suffer up to $2 billion dollars annually and dog bites make up a third of all home owners’ liability claims. It’s extremely unfortunate but true a nice walk in the park can turn into one hundred stitches, a week of intensive care and thousands of dollars in hospital bills for you, a family member or your pet.
Man’s best friend is considered by most pet owners to be a member of their family and most will do whatever it takes to protect theirs. Unfortunately, many give little thought to protecting their lovable friend until it is too late. In addition to attacking humans, dog on dog attacks happen often and these dangerous attacks leave panicked owners searching for any means possible to separate and deter the attacking dog. 2x4’s, sticks, purses, their own hands and sometimes even weapons have been used to stop attacks. Unfortunately, these situations often result in serious injuries to the attacking dog, the pet and the owner.
So how can you prevent Fido from even getting into these harry situations? And what should you do if he does? Here are 5 tips on how to handle or prepare yourself and your pooch in case he or any other dog becomes aggressive:
- Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog. If a child seems frightened by your dog, steer clear while on a walk, either speed up and pass them or consider rerouting to avoid contact.
- If you recently purchased a pooch, spay or neuter your dog, this often reduces aggressive tendencies.
- Immediately report a stray dog or dogs displaying unusual behavior to the authorities in your area to keep your surroundings safe.
- If you are approached by a vicious dog, remain calm and still, avoid eye contact, try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
- Carry an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered dog attack deterrent spray. For example, carry Protector® Dog Spray with you while walking with or without your furry friends. This product was designed specifically as an environmentally friendly, safe and effective option that allows pet owners to keep their best friend safe by deterring attacking dogs at a safe distance.
In the unfortunate case that a dog does attack, EPA registered dog sprays provide an all-natural food grade pepper spray formulation which stops the attack safely. With a range of up to 15 feet, Protector® temporarily stings and closes the eyes of the attacking dog. All effects reverse in just a few minutes leaving no injuries to the attacking dog and the necessary time for you and your pet to escape to safety.
While we like to think our four legged furry friends can do no wrong, it’s always best to remember that any dog can become vicious, no matter the breed or typical temperament. With these simple tips, you can reduce the likelihood that you, your family, and your pet will become a part of the aforementioned statistics. And as always… Be Smart – Be Ready – Be Safe!
Though the “unspoken rules” of dog walking are as common sense to many of us dog owners and dog walkers as knowing what to do with our bottles and cans (recycle please!), or used Kleenex/other trash (garbage!), there are, of course, some people who may be ignorant of or actively choose not to follow the etiquette of dog walking. If one were to ask a “Miss Manners” of the dog world what the “rules” entail, here are five simple tips on dog walking etiquette that will make your neighborhood much more pleasant, for you, your neighbors (some of whom may not be as accepting of dogs and their “lovably quirky” behavior as the typical dog-lover), other dogs, and, of course, your dog:
1) No trespassing! When walking your pet around a residential neighborhood, it is universally accepted as rude if you allow your dog to walk on people’s front lawns, into their gardens, snack on their landscaping, or urinate on their mail boxes, garbage cans, or lawn decorations. Best to keep him to the sidewalk, street, and encourage him to eliminate on the strip of grass that’s between the sidewalk and street.
2) Pick up the Poo! Obviously, dog walkers should be prepared, under all circumstances, with a plastic bag (or several) for picking up doggy doo… and simply toting them isn’t enough: don’t “forget” to use it! I’ve seen dog walkers make an elaborate show of getting their bag out when another person or car passes by, and then stuffing it away, still empty, as soon as the other person is gone (for shame)! Even if your dog was kind enough not to “go” on a lawn, but instead used the street, sidewalk, city planter, or grass strip between the sidewalk and street, it’s unacceptable to leave the “poo to stew” (or another more colorfully descriptive rhyming phrase… use your imagination)!
3) Your dog might be friendly. But other people might not be. Does your dog want to say hello to everyone that passes, are inspired to jog alongside runners, or chase down roller bladers and bicyclists? Not everyone may be as much of a dog lover as you are, and even if they are, they may be otherwise occupied (trying to beat their personal best time on their daily run won’t happen if they are waylaid by your well-meaning social butterfly of a dog!). If a passerby is interested in your dog, you’ll know it. Best to assume that no one is as interested in your dog as you are (or as your dog is in them), and act accordingly. Some people are afraid of dogs, don’t care for dogs (I know, who ARE these people?!) or simply may not be in the mood to be sniffed, licked, or (worst of all) jumped on. Your objective on a walk should be: keep walking, calmly and purposefully, and not to let your dog run your walk!
4) Other dogs might not be friendly either. Rule #3 also applies to other dogs. Don’t assume that other dog walkers (or dogs) are as interested in socializing their dogs as you (or your dogs) might be. Not all dogs are as happy-go-lucky, social, or calm around other dogs as your perfect Polly is… and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to change that behavior by being the recipient of an aggressive snap or bite from an unsociable dog. On the converse side of things, if your dog is a “barker,” most people prefer to err on the side of caution and stay away. Best to ask the other owner, particularly if you are going through a puppy socialization stage: “Is your dog friendly? Is it ok if we let our dogs say hi to each other?” and gauge their response, and the dog’s response/behavior when you let the two meet. Make sure you have a tight hold of your leash, and also check to make sure the other dog walker seems in control of his/her dog as well to prevent any unfortunate unpredictable encounters.
5) Best to keep the leash on. Really. Even though you might feel very confident in how “good” your dog is in his ability to walk calmly by your side off-leash and obey all of your verbal commands, his behavior could be unpredictable, depending upon the unexpected (and exciting) nature of a given stimulus (e.g., a darting cat across the street, a tempting squirrel running up a tree, another exciting looking dog, a rushing car, a kid chasing a ball), and the worst thing that could happen while walking a dog is, of course, to lose your dog. Even if you have the utmost confidence in your dog’s off-leash ability, make sure that you acquaint yourself with your city’s leash laws in the area(s) you will be walking. You don’t want to get a ticket, or worse.
As holds true for all parents, pet parents hold a significant amount of responsibility in their hands, and every time you and your pet hit the streets, you both are acting as “ambassador” for dogs, dog owners, and responsible behavior all around. As dog lovers would all agree, the presence of all of the sweet, funny, quirky, silly, wise, protective, placid, loving dogs in our lives all contribute to enriching our neighborhoods and parks, when they listen to Miss Manners, of course. Now… who wants to go for a walk.
10 Hot Tips To Keep Your Pet Safe This Summer
Summertime means sun, beach, and lots of play outdoors with your dog or cat (did you know that adventurous cats is a growing trend?). Summer can be a great time to bond with your pet. But higher temperatures also mean higher risks for our furry companions - more injuries, more skin and ear infections, and a possibility of a heat stroke.
Pets do not sweat in the same way humans do and can easily become overheated. To avoid this problems and enjoy the summer season with your pet, here’re the tips to keep in mind.
When to Walk Your Dog
You should take your dog on a walk at least once a day. The breed and age of your dog will determine if your dog needs more exercise. It’s best to try for five walks a week of at least 30 minutes or more. Regular walks are important to your dog’s overall health.
Your dog may need to go out to potty 3 or more times a day. Don’t rush their potty breaks: deciding where to go is a big part of how your dog communicates with the world. Sniffing around also alleviates anxiety and helps them explore their surroundings. Letting them take the lead, safely, is important during these outings.