Monday, 15 September 2008

a war on dogs?

During the weekend I read a feature in The Age newspaper's Good Weekend magazine. It was by Frank Robson, who with his partner is sailing Australian waters, accompanied by their dog, Lucky. I've previously posted about the book he wrote about Lucky. I enjoyed it and recommended it as a light-hearted read for any dog lover.

In this feature article he's mainly recounting the misadventures they had while sailing, but Lucky gets a mention once again; I was struck by the following section:
Twice a day, whatever the weather, we take Lucky ashore for toilet breaks. We always clean up after him, but refuse to be cowed by Australia's official war on dogs: if all the no-go zones were observed, dogs wouldn't be seen anywhere except sulking in backyards, which is crazy.
I'd say, from reading blogs from around the world, that the question of no-go zones for dogs isn't just an Australian issue. It seems as if the whole world has begun to believe that the only safe dog is one on a leash, walking at most half a metre from her owner's leg.

I think this is partly due to the increase in motor traffic, but to me it's also a result of the culture of over-protection.

When I was growing up, it was usual for dogs to ramble around the streets with groups of children, all having fun together. Nowadays, you're not likely to see either the children or the dogs. The kids are 'safe' inside their houses, cocooned in a sedentary lifestyle that is probably going to cause massive health issues in the decades to come. The dogs are lying around waiting for the magic moment when their people take them on an outing, all too often a boring promenade over hard street surfaces in a haze of car exhaust fumes

There seem to be two issues: one, keep the dog on lead to save her from danger; two, a dog on lead will be less of a danger to passing humans.

Vilmos Csanyi, in If Dogs Could Talk, says,
Dogs are very conscious of having a leash, and for them this is not a form of restraint or a symbol of slavery as is believed by enthusiastic liberals who know nothing about animals.
To a certain extent I can see what he means: Penny loves her lead and seems to think it's her way of making sure she's got her person coming along behind her.

But I also see how she quivers with joy when we reach the part of the park where she knows she can go off-lead.

Terry Ryan and Kirsten Mortensen, in Outwitting Dogs, discuss the leash from a dog's perspective:
To a human, a leash is a device to manage a dog - to keep a dog nearby; to prevent a dog from running off after (or away from) a car, bike, or critter...for a dog a leash is a sensory experience - it's what causes pressure on the dog's collar or harness...this leash sensation doesn't mean anything inherently.
One thing I'm sure of - I get more exercise if Penny is walking off-lead beside me, because she races to keep up with me. But if she's on lead she wants to investigate everything we pass.

I don't think she's deliberately being contrary, because dogs just don't think that way. But it sure seems like it at times.




We can kind of see where some dogs need to be on a leash. Mom was walking Scuba once and had her on a leash when a big Rotweiller came out of nowhere and attacked Scuba. It took both Mom and the Rotweiller's owner to get the dog off of Scuba. Mom was so angry and used a lot of bad words. Luckily no one was seriously hurt but Scuba moved a little slow for a couple of days.

Desert Pups

Scuba here, I would of kicked that Rottie's ass if Mom wouldn't have got in the way.

curator said...

I think there are getting to be way too many "no go" zones for dogs. I can see it in busy urban and suburban areas, but let's face it, those areas need to plan better for dog residents. Daily life is getting too controlled anyway.

parlance said...

curator, I agree with you. If our communities have a large number of people who choose to live with a dog, then we need to think laterally about how we are going to deal with this issue.
On the question of busy urban areas, I've had a real lesson today, as I'll post when I've replied to these comments.

parlance said...

Scuba, I'll bet you are a real hero. But all the same it must have been good to have a big human to help you out!

I've had a big scare today on the issue of dogs on leads in urban areas, and now I'm quite convinced about the value of leashes on busy streets. I'm going to write about it in my post right now.

Vincent said...

Yes, I prefer this post to the post-scare one above. It is the traffic which is out of order, not the unleashed dogs.