A Dog’s Eye View: Dogs in the ‘hood
July 11, 2013
Steamboat Springs — Everything is OK until it's not.
Loose dogs in the ‘hood means things ain't so good.
I can't take a walk without looking about.
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.
That was my very poor attempt at composing a rap song, but I hope you get the point of the title of this article. Every week, I'm in Steamboat working with clients. On occasion, a particular dog has reactivity issues. I encourage those people to put a red bandana on their dogs as a visual signal that they 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 a neighborhood or on a trail.
Other dog owners seem to respect a 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. For the owners who let their dogs run loose, you are rolling the dice. You can't protect your dog if you don't know where it is. And in terms of cognitive capability, a dog’s thinking ability equals the cognition of a 2- to 3-year-old child. They might have more sophisticated senses, but their judgment in coping with conflict and reason compares closely with that of a toddler. We never would think of sending a 2-year-old child to have a good time in the neighborhood unsupervised.
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 they are able to roam. And if you think they stay in your front yard all day, I have some rainforest property just outside Tucson that I'll sell you. Steamboat is unique in that there is an underlying handle that this city is a "dog town." From the disgusting number of dog piles across town, I would agree. (But that's another story about how disease is spread through feces).
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 because 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 to run off your half-acre lot. His exercise should happen with you, not without. A dog run can provide a safe place for a dog being kept outdoors while unsupervised. Underground fences might keep your dog in, but it doesn'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 local laws. A neighborhood walk with you or a romp in the dog park is a good alternative. Also, you can really wear out a dog by teaching tricks or playing nose work games. You have to love your dog enough to protect them from the unknown.
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado.
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