5 steps for keeping your dog safe in public

These past 2 weeks have been insane.

I narrowly avoided a dog fight, then, two days later, I was nearly attacked by another dog because his elderly owner had him on a retractable leash made for dogs a quarter of his size(he was ~60lbs).  Not 5 minutes after that happened, I encountered an off-leash, full grown Doberman walking about 10 yards in front of his owner. I was on my bike and, as soon as he saw me, he was on a bee-line straight for me.  He ignored his owner and almost got hit by a car as I high-tailed it out of there.  A day after that, I was walking around the block with the little one, and someone had both their dogs tied to trees in their front yard.  Both were ultra-reactive and were standing themselves up at the end of their tethers as we walked by.  In other words, they were an accident waiting to happen.

I’m officially worn out emotionally! But…

These experiences made me feel compelled to share a few of the rules by which I abide to minimize the chances of myself or my dogs being thrust into a disastrous situation with another dog.

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My Rules

Avoid dog parks

I have seen some of the most idiotic, jaw-droppingly stupid behavior at dog parks.  Owners that are completely oblivious to common sense, allowing their dogs to engage in all sorts of aggressive, rude, or otherwise problematic behavior.  I’ve never been witness myself, but I have heard multiple stories of dogs being seriously injured or killed at these parks.

My reason for not taking my dogs to a dog park can be boiled down into one word(which, you will notice, is a theme for my rules), CONTROL.

If I am unable to control, or at least manage, the what, who, when, and how of my dog’s interactions with other dogs…it ain’t happenin’.  Dog parks are the, absolute, worst for lack of control.  There are so, so, so many owners who are utterly clueless, it will never be worth the risk for me.

Know your route

The current set of laws regarding who can have a dog are woefully inadequate.  In my mind, allowing any joe off the streets to own an animal is akin to throwing away the whole “you need a license to operate a motor vehicle”.  Because of this, I make sure that I am, at least somewhat, aware of any dogs along my planned walking/running/biking route that may cause us issues.  I then avoid those dogs like the plague.  If I’m going somewhere that I know many people go to walk their dogs, I make sure that my line of site is sufficiently far enough ahead that I have plenty of time to react in the event of a bad owner.

Expect and Plan for the Worst

I mentioned that I nearly avoided a dog fight with my Boo a couple of weeks back. The only reason that it was avoided is that I had planned for the situation thousands of times, in my head, before it actually happened.  I’m a natural optimist, but when it comes to my dogs, I see every little possible danger that could be imagined.  It is exactly like being a parent to our little girl, we have a natural inclination to protect that which we love and part of that is recognizing threats to their safety.

I like the saying “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” when it comes to my pups.  Having a plan in the event of the unthinkable is, often, going to be the deciding factor between safety and harm.

NO RETRACTABLE LEASHES

These are the worst dog-related invention in history.  Let’s go through, just a few, of the reasons why:

1.They can and do get wrapped around people and cause severe burns and cuts

2. They get tangled in other dog’s leashes, causing fear reactions ,when stuck, that often lead to very violent, very hard to break up, fights.

3. It is impossible to control a dog with that kind of grip.  Without a loop that wraps around the arm that acts as an “oh crap” safety, a dog can, and will, surprise their owner in a mad dash and pull that plastic thing right out of their hand.

Be Prepared

Sometimes, avoidance isn’t possible. Despite our best efforts to keep our dogs out of harms way, it will eventually happen.  The best tool that I found so far, to combat the unthinkable, is a foghorn.  The sheer volume of the thing is enough to bring most dogs back over their threshold and give me time to remove my pups from the situation.  Other good options are mace or a break stick, but I prefer the horn because it doesn’t punish the dog for the mistakes of it’s owner.

These are the big rules that have, thus far, kept us from any serious situations that threaten our dog’s safety.  But, as a overly protective, worry-wart of a dog owner, I’m always receptive to hearing more or improving the ones I have.

What precautions or rules do you have in place when taking your dog out in public?