Dog Walking Incidents and How to Deal With Them
Updated: Oct 16, 2019
We’ve all been there. You’re out for a lovely walk. The sun is shining, your dog is to heel beside you and everything seems right with the world.
All of a sudden you’re faced with Growling George who’s come at you from nowhere; off his lead with the owner shouting ‘He’s friendly, honestly!’. You politely ask them to call back their dog and put them on a lead because your dog is nervous and then things change. Suddenly you’re on the end of a vicious mouthful of expletives and your dog is in the wrong for being lily-livered and quivering. You’re a pathetic dog owner who should be ashamed of themselves and the other person is – of course – normal.
So what should you do to avoid or deal with dog walking incidents? Most of us hate confrontation, but we will go to the ends of the earth to defend our precious dogs from harm’s way.
Dog Walking Etiquette
Believe it or not, dog walking etiquette does exist and it’s not an antiquated thing – it’s common sense really. If a dog isn’t on the lead and it’s an enclosed space where others are on the lead, then the owner – especially if asked – should put their dog on a lead too.
If your dog doesn’t have good recall, they should also be on a lead in public places (including wide open spaces).
It’s also worth familiarising yourself with lead/collar colours and their meanings and even buying one for your dog if they are fearful, reactive or have a disability. They're much more than personalised dog accessories! The picture below is a useful guide that we’ve put together for you.
Reacting to Incidents
The best way to deal with a verbal altercation is simply to say words to the effect of ‘I’m sorry if I or my dog have offended you, but my request was reasonable’ or ‘Please don’t be rude to me, there’s really no need’. Never get into a mud-slinging match. No-one comes out of those well and there is absolutely no point in it. If the other person is exceptionally abusive, or if their dog has reacted very badly and you have ongoing concerns, follow the guidelines below:
1. Report to Your Local Dog Warden
Dog Wardens are a fantastic community resource. Not only do they enforce the ‘Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005’ which requires owners to clean up and remove their dog’s waste from public land, but they visit schools, find refuge for stray dogs, provide advice to the public on problem dogs and even do re-homing visit assessments for rescue charities.
Your local Dog Warden wants you to feel safe walking your dog. They will log the details of your complaint and – if they already know who the offender is – will go and speak with them, referring it to the police if they feel it is warranted.
2. Involve The Police
If you are threatened either verbally or physically, or if you are injured by either the other owner or their dog, you must report it to the police, giving as much information as possible - where you were, description of the owner, time of the incident, breed of their dog, etc.
It’s the right thing to do because the next time, this could be a toddler or an elderly person – someone less able to deal with the situation.
It’s a myth that dogs reported to the police are usually destroyed. There are lots of options open to the police to deal with aggressive and threatening dog owners which penalise the owner and not the dog. If the dog ends up being re-homed, then that is probably what’s best for the dog. And sadly, there will be a small proportion of dogs who have to be put to sleep because their behaviour has been allowed to become so aggressive that they are a danger to everyone.
The key is not to feel afraid of the means at your disposal to deal with situations like these. We should all be able to enjoy walking our dogs without fear of being attacked by humans and/or out-of-control dogs.
Dog Walking Groups
If you have had an incident and feel overwhelmed by it, why not try joining a local dog-walking group? There is strength in numbers and it will enable you and your dog to regain confidence that may have been lost. You could both make new friends!
Search online or on Facebook for a local group. Or you could try finding a 'Meetup' here: