Dog’s Eye View: Gangtsa’ dogs in the ’hood
Everything is OK until it’s not. Loose dogs in the ’hood mean things ain’t so good. I can’t take a walk without looking a lot. There’s something here, there’s a pack hangin’ out. I know if I run, that’s what they want. They’ll chase me down; they’re out for the hunt.
OK, that was my very poor attempt at composing a rap song. I don’t have a lot of experience with rap music; I’m more of a classic rock kind of girl. But I hope you get the point of the title of this article.
Every week. I’m in Steamboat working with clients. More and more, I’m hearing complaints by clients that they can’t even take a walk in their own neighborhood without being accosted by off-leash dogs. For puppies, this can signal the onset of defensive behavior. They become frightened, their owner becomes concerned and that sets up a perfect storm for a lifetime of bad experiences with other dogs.
On occasion, a client’s dog has reactivity issues. I encourage those people to put a red bandana on their dog as a visual signal that this dog should not be approached. These dogs can’t be off leash around other dogs, but that doesn’t mean they should not be allowed to walk peacefully with their owners through the neighborhood or on the trail.
Things are usually OK. and other dog owners who walk their dogs on-leash seem to really respect that reactive dog owner’s request to give them space. The major complaint from these clients is that they can do nothing to protect their dog from loose dogs roaming the neighborhood. With those dogs, whose owners lets them loose, you are rolling the dice. You can’t protect your dog if you don’t know where they are. The more these dogs are allowed to roam. the more territory they can guard.
Territorial aggression is rampant in inner-city neighborhoods. Gangs stake out their territory, and bad things happen to those who cross that invisible line. A dog’s sense of territory grows with how far he as able to roam. And if you think they stay in your front yard all day, I have some rain forest property just outside Tucson I’ll sell you. Steamboat is unique in that this city is a “dog town,” but by what definition does “dog town” mean free for all?
For those people living in housing developments where fences are not allowed, loose dogs are very problematic. A dog tied out is an easy victim for loose roaming dogs. A perfect storm is setting up for defensive aggression behavior. The tethered dog in the yard can’t get away.
A small dog run built behind a privacy fence can save the day. Your dog doesn’t need the run of your half-acre lot. His exercise should happen with you, not without you. A dog run can provide a safe place for a dog being kept outdoors while unsupervised. Underground fences might keep your dog in, but they don’t keep loose dogs or bears or coyotes out. A fence is a safer choice.
The bottom line is that dogs should not be left to roam the neighborhood unsupervised. It’s irresponsible, and it’s against the local laws. A neighborhood walk with you or a romp in the dog park is a good alternative. You have to love your dog enough to protect him from the unknown. If you aren’t teaching and training him, the environment becomes the school with no rules.
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with more than years of experience. She has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, as well as Certified Nose Work Instructor through the National Association of Canine Scent Work. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado.
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