Updated: Mar 18
By Lauren Bau from Madame Leash and Emma Bartram from 3D's Dog Training At a local dog park the other day a very high profile Aussie celebrity was spotted avoiding every other dog and person. With steely intent Eric Bana marched forth, walking laps of the off-lead park, his Standard Poodle dutifully followed, head held high unaware that The Hulk (or perhaps more famously Full Frontal’s Poida) was picking up his poop! Contrast that to the common sight you’ll find all across Melbourne; people standing in the middle of off-lead parks gas-bagging whilst their dogs interchange between bully and victim depending on who is the most bored and frustrated with this ‘outing’.
Over the years you’ve probably seen trainers recommend all manner of absurdities in order to reign in a dog’s behaviour; everything from throwing buckets of water at them when they’re fighting… ‘Oi, Spot keep attacking that dog for five mins, I’ve gotta dash home and fill a bucket, you bad dog’ to those who have dogs in so many training contraptions they’d make the writer of 50 Shades of Grey blush. We all want pretty basic things from our dogs when we’re out; for them to behave. So how do we achieve this?
This post concentrates on taking our dog’s to off lead parks; we’ll assume your dog is of stable temperament and has good recall…
One thing is a certainty; we have to change this water cooler culture of using the dog parks for our own needs; namely gossip, catch-ups and standing around. You actually can gossip on the move; in fact let’s go out on a limb and say that gossip is even more salacious when the gossiper can’t see your stunned face when you’re walking side by side.
Dogs don’t follow stationary objects. Why would your dog respond and come to you if you are standing still, when they themselves are getting chased, roughed up and hyped up? That’s heaps more fun than boring old you standing there yelling. Keep moving; dogs don’t need to ‘play’ with other dogs to be exercised and stimulated. Walk with your dog, run with your dog, but don’t just stand still and expect your dog to be ‘good’. Visit your local park at peak time and just watch the pack in the middle- whilst initially they may look like they’re having fun it’s like that saying ‘It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.’
Learn how to read your dog’s body language. ‘Don’t let them do it and they won’t do it.’ If your dog loves children don’t just hope that one day they’ll learn to either ignore them or (with invitation) approach them gently without jumping, pop them on lead as soon as you see a child and calmly walk past.
Work with your dog daily on things like learning their name, coming when you call their name followed by a command (remember their name is NOT a command so don’t just scream it like a banshee!), staying close to you and ignoring distractions. BBQ chicken will greatly assist with all of this! When you start seeing your dog respond to you you’ll feel a sense of pride and that bond you share will get even stronger.
Accept that not everyone likes dogs… Hard to believe but true! It’s important that your dog sticks with you and doesn’t charge up to every Tom, Dick and Harry at the park. Assuming you wouldn’t let your child approach complete strangers, so best not to let your dog.
Be calm; our dogs know us and know if we’re not bringing our A-Game. If you’ve had a less than awesome day then avoid the dog park and perhaps take your dog on-lead around your local streets. This is a great way to reinforce their loose-lead walking and following your lead.
If you find yourself confronted with a dangerous situation involving your dog take a deep breath and remove your energy/emotions. Move away with your dog as safely as you can.
It is a privilege to have so many great dog friendly spaces to take our dogs; let’s keep these by being responsible owners, following the local laws and raising our dogs to be good doggy citizens.
If you need any help with the exercise and stimulation needs of your dog contact Lauren Bau from Madame Leash 0407 857 115 and for all training requirements contact Emma Bartram from 3D’s Dog Training 0412 183 167