While hiking yesterday we had an "interesting" encounter with a dog owner with 5 dogs that reminded me of all the things one SHOULDN'T do when out enjoying a walk with one's dogs. In this case all 5 dogs were way ahead of the owner (who only appeared 5 minutes later, casually strolling along ) and none had collars, harnesses or any form of identification. While they were initially friendly when they charged up to our dogs, once Rosie and Cruz had greeted them and lost interest, choosing to focus back on us, two of the dogs appeared to become frustrated at the lack of interest and became a little aggressive, barking, charging and snapping at our dogs to try and provoke a reaction. These were large strong bull breed mixes and I started feeling quite uncomfortable as they followed when we tried to walk off. At this point the owner appeared and observed her dogs' harassing ours and ours completely ignoring them and said "Your dogs are so well-behaved!" in a really surprised voice. This amazed me more than anything else - this person was surprised that our dogs were tolerant and didn't retaliate, so in other words expected them to get upset and yet was doing nothing to prevent any of this in the first place! I will never understand this kind of thinking!
But anyway, it reminded me of some things we should all be doing to keep our dogs and the public safe:
1. ALWAYS have a harness or collar on your dog so that you can grab hold of something in an emergency. It is actually a rule for walking dogs in Table Mountain National Park.
2. ALWAYS have your lead ready to hand so that you can leash up your dog if you are unsure of a situation to keep them and others safe.
3. NEVER allow your dog to wander ahead where you cannot see them.
4. NEVER allow your dog to interact with strangers unless they have indicated that it is okay or they show interest in your dog.
5. Be respectful of other dog walkers and if a dog is leashed do NOT allow your dog to have contact with that dog unless the owner indicates that it is fine.
6. DO NOT walk overly reactive or stressed dogs in popular off lead dog walking areas. If you are in an area where you cannot create a distance from others where your dog feels safe, this is setting them up for failure and increased stress.
7. ALWAYS have some form of identification other than a microchip, so that if your dog is lost in an emergency someone can contact you easily if they find him or her.
We are fortunate in that our dogs are very tolerant and put up with a lot. But this encounter yesterday could have ended very differently if our dogs were less tolerant. Do not rely on the good behaviour of other people's dogs to keep your dog safe and avoid problems. This is really not wise! Don't expect other people to look after your dog - that is your job!