Safety First When It Comes To Protecting Our Dogs On Walks
Protecting our dogs on walks is something we need to be concerned about.
This week, I had the privilege to talk ‘dog safety’ with Veterinary Technician Catherine Koogle, to understand the precautionary measures we need to take when walking our dogs. Dog attacks are unlikely, but they do happen; Catherine tells us, what equipment we need and how to protect our dogs and selves.
Springtime is just around the corner, which means more time outdoors with our dogs. Warmer weather and longer days ahead. Who doesn’t want to get out with your dog for a stroll around the neighborhood?
According to the National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, 68% of US households own a pet. Of that 68 %, approximately 40% of those pets are dogs. That’s a lot of dogs!
The purpose of this article is not to deter you from taking your furry pets out for a walk. Rather, it is to give you some pointers on how to keep your pet safe from the rare occurrence of an unplanned encounter with a loose dog.
Essential Dog Walking Equipment
Catherine suggests, before leaving the house to take stock of your walking equipment. Invest in a good quality harness that has a wider breastplate made of mesh or woven fabric. One with a handle would be ideal. Get a sturdy leash made out of woven fabric that is at least 3/4 inches thick. By all means necessary avoid (never use) a retractable leash. They malfunction easily allowing your pet to get further away from you. The leash part is usually made of a thin rope that is impossible to hold on to. A leash made out of chain or nylon cord will do the same thing. It slips right through your grip leaving a nasty rope burn.
Now that you have the right equipment for your pet you might consider carrying a couple of additional items that might come in handy for you too. Some pet owners are purchasing small cans of mace. You can attach the can to the leash so it is readily available. Mace comes in many different types of spray. However, we only recommend you consider one with a nozzle that shoots up to 15 feet and contains a colored gel-like spray. Since it is more solid it doesn’t blow back into your face. The colored gel lets you see if it has hit the target.
Another smart item to carry with you as you take your dog for a walk would be an umbrella. The umbrella can be opened causing a distracting noise plus it provides a shield between the offending dog and you and your pet. A foghorn can also come in handy if you choose this method to create a loud distracting noise
Let’s create a scenario. Your pet is harnessed and leashed up for their walk. As you begin your walk take a moment to scan the immediate neighborhood. Much like driving a car, you want to be aware of your surroundings. Not to make anyone paranoid but we must always be alert to what is going on around you. Avoid houses that have large dogs lose in the backyard or in the house with open windows. Do not assume that a privacy fence, chain link fence or flimsy screen will hold back a riled up barking dog that wants to meet your pet face to face.
If a chance encounter does occur here are a few suggestions to keep you safe. Since you have kept a keen eye open for anything unusual hopefully you will have several seconds to assess the situation. A loose dog suddenly appears out of nowhere. Usually, if they mean you harm they will come charging and barking. The dog generally wants to greet or harm another dog and not you. Use this to your advantage. No matter if the dog means harm or not it is best to quickly draw your little pet closer to you and pick them up using the handle on the harness and hold them in your non-dominant arm.
Move slowly away from the situation being careful not to make any fast movements. Keep your eye on the offender without direct eye contact. If the dog is still advancing and means you harm, use the mace that is attached to the leash in a figure 8 pattern to cover the space between you and the charging dog. Setting off the fog horn may cause enough of a deterrent to cause the animal to flee. If he gets closer to you open up the umbrella to provide a shield.
Try to refrain from yelling or screaming since this will rile up the dog even more. Talk in a stern voice telling the dog no, stop, and down. Hopefully, the dog’s owner or a neighbor sees you to help you and shoo the dog away. Protect your arms and face from any potential bites.
By all means, enjoy your walks with your little pet. May this never happen to you but being prepared and aware could save your little one’s life.
By Catherine Koogle, Veterinary Technician