Dogs in the City: Why All the Problems on Leash?
September 18, 2014
I’ve been out of the loop. So thoroughly and completely out of the loop. As a result, the blogging has been as rare as date night. I’m deep in mommy land and definitely loving it, but also feeling as though doggy land is a place that I once lived and now only visit with wistful remembrance. RIP.
However, consider this post my way of dipping my toes back in! Feels good…maybe we moms can have it all?
While I’ve been away I’ve been getting emails-lots of them. They all seem to be about the same thing. Can you guess what it is? Anybody?
Problems on leash!
It seems that this is the plague of every city-dweller’s existence. Either your dog barks at every passing car, lunges for unsuspecting joggers, or perhaps is such an enthusiastic greeter that he drags you down the street to say hello. What is it about being on a leash that makes our dogs so crazy? In fact, a huge number of my clients claim that once they get into the off leash area their dog is an absolute angel. So, yes, they end up resorting to driving to the dog park and just opening the door for their dogs to make a mad dash for freedom.
Firstly, there are a LOT of dogs in the city.
I spent a good year and a half living in Taiwan as an English teacher. The streets were way more crowded than I was used to, growing up in rural southern Ontario. I bet you can figure out what happened. Over time, my easy going extraversion quickly mutated into some terrifying combination of a reclusive Hulk. I bristled at every brush on my arm and being stared at sent me into the stratosphere. I imagine some version of this happens to the majority of our dogs. We travel hours outside of the city to an idyllic farm where our puppies have been raised with a group of siblings and have been handled by mostly only the family that whelped them. Then we wonder why they don’t want to move when we plop them down in the middle of Queen street and try to force an hour-long walk! I’m not making excuses for your dogs. What I am saying is that is makes SENSE that they might not want to be forced to say hello and have their bums sniffed by every dog they pass on the sidewalk. If they’re constantly forced to do so, you might see a sensitization process happen. Instead of becoming more used to the number of dogs and people, they slowly become less tolerant. Make sense?
Secondly, your leash rules are usually not very well defined.
Life happens. Sometimes you’re out walking your dog with the express purpose of “fixing” every problem he has. You’re dedicated, patient and almost militant for an entire hour. You head home feeling like you’ve really made some progress. Then the next day you’ve just gotten home from work and have three kids that are starving so you rush out the door and let the dog drag you around for 15 minutes while you reply to all the texts you haven’t had a chance to answer. See what I’m getting at? I think the average person needs to settle on some type of realistic middle ground. Pick some non-negotiables that will actually work for you and stick to them. For example: We won’t head out the door until you’re sitting; or you won’t be allowed to say hello to Rover across the street unless you can first offer me a decent “watch me” to ask permission; or we’ll ALWAYS cross to the other side if we see another dog because I’m not going to risk a failed attempt and have you practice that behaviour. Get the idea? If your dog knows clearly what to expect then he’ll be much less likely to push the boundaries.
Thirdly, most dogs aren’t getting walked on leash enough to make any headway.
Confession time. I’ve been so busy and preoccupied that my dogs haven’t been getting the amount of walks they’re used to. It’s been an interesting study for me (sure, sure, that’s why I did it…for the purposes of the blog), because I’ve noticed SUCH a drastic change in my dogs’ leash skills. The less I take them out, the more reactive, yappy, pull-y, and generally agitated they are. When I take them out for their good long hour walk every day they are genuinely fabulous dogs. It makes sense. It’s sort of how when I finally do get a night out with my friends, I’m sure I’ll turn into a booze-fuelled, aggressively fun, mom-monster.
The point of this post isn’t to solve all of your leash problems with a few “simple tips”. Dog training doesn’t work that way. It’s usually long, frustrating, and complicated. It’s even more complicated when you’re trying to navigate the realities of life in the city. I guess my point is to take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember that you can only deal with one problem at a time. Oh ya, and don’t forget to focus on the things that your dog is really good at! Even the most difficult dogs shine at something 😉