30th April 2007 - No man to protect us

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We have only had small dogs for a couple of months and up to date any walks I have done with the little ones has been with my husband. I’ve always felt confident walking my Boxers alone, as no other dogs seem to bother them. It has been in the back of my mind though, how I would go when confronted by off-leash dogs when I am walking the Cavaliers. Well today I decided Sonny (our adopted 2 year old Cavalier) and I should venture out on our own and build up our confidence about walking without a big man beside us to protect us.

I decided that down by the river on the walking/cycling path would be a good spot to go as there would be some people around and it is a lovely place to walk anyway. As it turned out, being a week day there wasn’t really anybody about except for a fisherman tending his boat here & there.

We set out at a nice brisk pace, and Sonny being a great little walker made it very easy for on me. I even tied his leash to my belt, so with my bum bag on, had my hands free to stride out. About 15 minutes into the walk a large, muscular cross-bred dog in the distance came striding out of his yard, off-leash of course. We kept walking but I noticed as we got nearer he started walking faster towards us. This was the moment that I had been apprehensive about. As the dog had the stereotypical aggressive look (I know we shouldn’t stereotype) I decided it might be prudent to quietly turn around and walk back towards the car. About 30 seconds later, I thought to myself “No hang on a minute! If we turn around & walk away every time we are confronted with an off-leash dog, we are going to end up with nowhere to walk. And if we walk away now, this outing will not have been a positive one, at the best it will be a neutral one”. So we turned around and headed back in the direction that we had intended to travel. Far in the distance I could see the dog looking at us, his attention renewed because he were heading back his way again. I quickly ran my mind through to all the things I had read about dealing with off-leash dogs. I remembered about not staring at the dog as a challenge, and yet not avoiding his gaze. I remembered about looking confident, thinking confident, but being prepared.

I reached into my bum-bag and got out my little lemon ball. I’d read that if a dog attacks, you just squirt it into his eyes & he will hopefully run off yelping. The lemon does no damage to the dog, but does sting like hell. Ever squirted yourself in the eye with a lemon when you’ve been cutting or squeezing one? I have!

So remembering all that I had read, I drew my entire 5’4” frame up as tall as I could make it. I jutted my jaw out in my most arrogant stance and I puffed my chest out with all the pride I could muster. Thank the gods there was nobody around to see all of this. Sonny & I strode out as if to say “We are so confident, you are no threat to us, and because of our confidence we are no threat to you. Our confidence is so great that you are not even worthy of our notice, you are not worthy of a challenge”.

The dog stood his ground for a bit, walked towards us some more and then stood his ground again. To my amazement, once we were about 20 metres from him he turned around, tail between his legs and ran back into his yard.

Who knows, maybe he is a really nice, submissive dog. Maybe he would have liked to have come up and say hello. Maybe some time up the track he’ll be a dog that we greet on our walks; then maybe not. He might even get bold & have a go at us another time. I don’t honestly know. All I know is that I am really glad we went back & continued our walk as I found the outing to be very confidence building.

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