Recently, Deck & I took a detour for some adventuring in a new spot that we had never been to before. We found the beautiful Kiltennel Bay & forest walk, with a beach, lots of forest trails, streams and pond.
When we go to an unfamiliar place, I take care with Decker’s access to water until we better understand his swimming comfort. And we also take care to get to know the dog walking and handling culture in a new area.
Decker is very environmentally sound and super-neutral with other people, dogs, animals and goings-on, so that’s not really my concern. But I want to advocate for his comfort so that we can maximise our enjoyment of this natural beauty spot.
We don’t approach or harass anyone else, and don’t allow anyone else do that to us. We just want to fun in our world together!
As we wandered around for a couple of hours, we met lots of dogs out with their humans. And who could blame them?! Such a wonderful adventuring destination!
When another dog, person or anybody appears, that’s a cue for Decker to return and engage with me.
To help maintain the comfort of others, when another dog appears, he returns and we leash up. And then we politely move aside or make it as easy for the other dog to pass by in peace.
Some of the trails were just a couple of metres wide so making space wasn’t always possible.
As a group of walkers approached with a little dog, Decker returned to me and they leashed their dog. I cued “Go Find It!” and tossed a couple of treats into the ditch, turning Decker’s back so the dog could pass.
The little dog’s owner commented, in surprise, that her little dog didn’t make a sound. The little dog quietly passed, glancing at Decker’s back end, and their human continued to marvel at her dog’s performance.
I cheered them on and wished them well, and was happy that our polite-dog-routine helped this little dog out.
And we can all help one another out!
By developing some awareness in how we can help one another out, without judgement, we can maintain everyone’s comfort.
Behaviour isn’t “good” or “bad”; behaviour is information from the dog telling us about their experience of the situations to which we expose them.
Judging other pet owners is a go-to in real life and online. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The notion that “there are no bad dogs, just bad owners” is inaccurate and damaging.
Dogs, and their people, are responding to environmental conditions and other dog walkers and passersby are part of that too! By changing our own behaviour, and attitudes, toward other dog walkers, we can help everyone experience improved comfort while out and about.
There are lots of ways to help, be polite, and most of all, be kind.
Teach your dog these behaviours when there are no distractions around, so that your dog learns the patterns when they’re most comfortable.
Practicing lots to establish “middle” and “Go Find It!“, and then cueing those games each time a distraction appears, will have your dog orienting to you cued by the appearance of another dog or distractions.
We can be polite even when out without our dogs. Our behaviour can have a big impact on other dogs’ comfort.
With a little compassion and less judgement, plus some behaviour change, we can support and encourage other dog owners. We’re all in this together and, we never know when we might need that same compassion, support & kindness.