I, like every other dog owner around the world, look forward to getting home from a long day’s work, grabbing the dogs and heading out into the wilderness. The peace and quiet of being out and about with the dogs in the middle of nowhere is hard to beat. A time where your with your thoughts and have time to clear your head from the everyday stresses and worries that you face on a daily basis. It’s one of the few times that many get to have a bit of down time and are able to fully focus on their dogs and spend some much needed quality time with them.
My dogs jump with excitement from their bed as soon as they hear me picking up their leads and putting on my walking boots. On this occasion, I was heading out with only three of my dogs, a male and two bitches who all get on really well. I have to admit that apart from when people come to the house, it’s the only other time that my dogs act like wild hyenas. I have always been very strict with all my dogs from the moment they first set foot in my home. I have always been of the opinion that inside the house it’s “down time”, in the garden it’s “play time” and out on our long walks in the wilderness it’s “run wild like a pack of lions” time.
My walk always starts with a 5-10 minute walk through a relatively built up area and then a 15-20 minute walk through some quiet country roads before reaching the place I always go. Where I have fields upon fields to walk through, this is where I let them off loose so they can stretch their legs. I don’t ever see anyone where I go which is exactly how I like it however, I have to be vigilant at all times as every dog owner should be. Dogs will be dogs and just like humans they don’t all get along especially when you own fiery breeds who were bred to work for many years.
The walk to my stomping ground in itself is an eventful one. I have to walk pass a few of my dogs nemesis who for years have barked profusely at my dogs behind their owners garden gates and fences. There is the normal suspects, a show bred German Shepherd with legs like a frog, two sausage dogs, a black overweight Labrador and the short fat blue Staffordshire bullterrier which looks like one of the hippo extras out of the lion king. I am sure many dog owners out there can sympathise with me and will know what I’m talking about when I say that walking pass certain houses can be quite interesting. Whilst all of this is going on, my dogs will look and stare but not a peep out of them as they keep on walking. They simply aren’t interested in anything that they cannot see.
Once at our stomping ground, I release the dogs and they run around like headless chickens for 10-15 minutes before settling and going into snooping around mode and seeing what they can find. I mainly keep an eye out for any wondering horses, cattle or sheep as you can never be to safe. I also keep a look out for any dog walkers in case I have to quickly call the dogs back and put them back on their leads. I do not take any chances, it’s not worth the hassle or headache that such incidents cause. Sometimes, it’s not so much my dogs but other dogs, owned by owners who don’t have any control over them. I can’t stand people who will let their dogs run at full speed barking and growling towards other dog owners and their dogs whilst they are a mile down the road talking on their phone. This is nothing more than poor dog ownership and poor training. I can’t emphasise how important a good recall is in any dog. I appreciate that there are times where situations present themselves where no matter how good of a recall the dog has that it’s to late to call the dog back as he has already made his mind up that he is going to do what he wants to do. This is where you have to know your dogs, be one step ahead of them and read certain situations with an air of caution and not put yourself and your dogs in volatile situations. This ultimately comes from experience with having dogs that require you to have eyes on the back of your head.
We were coming to the end of our walk after almost two hours. When in the distance I could see someone walking towards me, they were approximately two football pitches away from me. I did think it was odd, as it was getting dark and I had never seen anyone walk them fields by themselves. So I knew that they would have a dog or two with them but I couldn’t see them anywhere. I immediately called my dogs back and placed them all on leads and carried on walking towards this human figure that was getting closer and closer to me. When this walker was about 100 metres from me on the other side of the field, the famous hippo blue staff appeared from behind a hedge on my side of the field. I immediately clicked on that it was the same dog from behind one of the garden gates that I had met with his owner once when I didn’t have the dogs.
I knew straight away that this situation was not going to be a friendly encounter as this fat staff ran towards me from out of nowhere. I pulled my dogs close to me by grabbing their leads further down, closer to their collars. My dogs by this time had seen the travelling blue hippo heading towards them and I’m sure had been able to identify him as the nemesis behind one of the houses we walk pass. The dog’s owner had finally seen what was about to happen and began running across the field like a mad man, I remember thinking to myself “well it’s a bit late now isn’t it pal, your mistake for being on your phone and not knowing where your dog is”. As this blue hippo continued to bark and get closer to me, my three were getting more and more hyped up.
I pulled the dogs towards the edge of the field where there is some thick brush near a large hedge that runs along the edge of the field, in the hope it would give me some cover. The blue hippo finally got within two metres of me when it stopped in its track and ran side to side growling and barking at my dogs without coming any closer. It had a good long hard look at us before tucking its tail between its legs and running to his owner who was now 10 metres away panting out of his backside. The owner instead of grabbing his dog, leant over and placed his hands on his knees to try and catch his breath. The blue hippo once again came running back towards me and my dogs just when my three had begun to settle down again. This time the blue staff came closer and was once again barking and growling but wouldn’t dare come any closer but continued to try to antagonise my three. At this point, my young male who is only 15 months old, lunged at the intruding hippo as he got to close for comfort and almost within biting distance. The blue nemesis very quickly ran back to his owner where his owner finally got hold of his dog and put him on the lead.
These kind of ordeals can be very easily avoided if dog owners paid more attention to their dogs and not their phones when out walking their dogs off the lead. This blue hippo clearly had no recall, was dog aggressive and has an owner who was more worried about a work call than watching their dog whilst off lead. The owner apologised profusely and asked for me to check my dogs in case the blue blob had bitten them, I didn’t have to as I knew there hadn’t been any contact between the dogs. My dogs quickly settled after a few tugs on their leads and a few calming words to bring them back down to normality. Once they had calmed down, they were no longer interested, unworried by the blue blob who was now hiding behind his owners legs whilst looking at the ground. I told the owner my two pence of what I thought of the situation and politely suggested he may wish to take a more active role during his dog walks when his dog is off the lead.
I walked away happy that things did not escalate any further and the incident had been merely a close shave caused by a distracted owner. I wasn’t impressed but felt that I had said my peace and managed to do what every responsible dog owner should do in that situation. It’s a shame that these incidents even happen and they can very easily escalate and get owners and their dogs in all sorts of trouble when they go badly wrong. In the most serious of cases, the owner may get a ban or a fine but it’s the dogs that pay the ultimate price. I dread to think what would have happened if it had been someone else as distracted with their dogs off the lead with no recall. A perfect recipe for disaster…
A few days later on our way to the usual stomping ground we walked pass the blue hippos house, me and the dogs saw him and could hear him moving around behind the gate whilst sniffing but not a peep or bark out of him. That will make for a more quiet start to our walks going forward. There is a positive in every negative…