In some ways the COVID lock down has been a bonus for our dogs. We are seeing so many more dogs out on walks with their family. This is great for exercise, socialisation, enrichment and relationship building between our pets and their people.
Going for a walk in the park, to the beach or around the block should be enjoyable for everyone. If we respect other people and animals when we are out walking, we can all enjoy our time outside.
In the City of Greater Geelong there are many great places you can walk your dog. Check out Dogs in Public Places to see where you can go. Remember that all public areas are considered 'on-leash' for the purposes of dogs, except where otherwise signed or specified. If there is no signage to say the area is off leash, then keep the leash on.
Whether your dog is on or off leash, they should always be under your supervision. You should always be able to see your dog and call them back to you. Train your dog to come back to you when called. If you are not sure they will come back, then keep them on leash and seek the help of a qualified trainer. This will help keep your dog safe.
Other owners may choose to keep their dog on lead in off leash areas for many reasons – they could be anxious, like to chase rabbits or birds, be recovering from an injury. It is respectful to put your dog on lead if you are passing someone with their dog on lead. Once you have walked far enough away you can let your dog off lead. A dog restrained on lead may feel threatened by an approaching off lead dog and feel it has no choice but to protect itself by showing aggression. We can easily avoid this if both dogs are on lead.
You may have noticed on your walks some dogs wearing yellow leads, bandanas or jackets. The colour yellow is used to identify dogs who need more space from other people or dogs. Please be considerate of these dogs as they are usually anxious and are uncomfortable with unfamiliar dogs or people getting too close. In any situation, you should not let your dog rush up to other people, dogs or wildlife. Your dog may be friendly but the person or dog they are approaching may not enjoy the attention of your dog.
Dog walks can be a great social opportunity to connect with other dog owners and dogs. If you want to meet another dog on your walk always ask the other owner first. If the owner agrees, keep the greeting brief – no more than 3 seconds. Watch the body language of both dogs and if either dog is not interested or uncomfortable then avoid the greeting. If the dogs are happy to greet, keep it short, then keep walking rather standing still. If the dogs are happy you can walk along together. If the other owner says no to the meeting, then politely respect their decision. Of all the people we meet, we don’t like them all. Remember this is the same for your dog – your dog will not like every other dog.
Make the most of your walks and make them enjoyable for you and your dog. If your dog wants to, let them sniff rather than dragging them on a power walk. Dogs explore the world with their nose and sniffing provides a much more enriching walk – it’s like social media for dogs.
Be engaged with your dog on your walks – walk together. Don’t spend the time on your phone ignoring your dog. See the walk as a chance to spend quality time with your dog and strengthen your bond. Walks are a perfect opportunity to do some training, get your dog to work with you and use their brain as well as getting physical exercise. Your dog will love you for it and will get much more out of the walk if you are truly “present”.
Lastly, walks are better if you are prepared:
Make sure your dog’s walking equipment (collar, lead, harness) is in good condition and fits correctly and securely. This will help prevent any unexpected escapes.
Take some yummy treats or a favourite toy with you to reward good behaviour.
Take poop bags and pick up after your dog and put it in a bin.
Looking forward to seeing you out having fun with your best friend.
While you are at it, make the walk even more wonderful and Walk For Us.