Have you noticed lately, the growing number of places people are taking their dogs, places that in the U.S. have traditionally not been considered especially dog friendly like stores, airports, airplanes, even brewpubs and some restaurants? While at the same time, areas which have been more welcoming to pets such as beaches, city parks, hiking trails, camping areas, even state and national parks are becoming increasingly restrictive in allowing pets and particularly unleashed pets? It seems very “bi-polar” to me, a little manic on one hand and little depressive on the other, an inconsistent pattern, at best.
I personally find it challenging to navigate in these changing times. The natural places and habitats where pets should have freedom to run and play, to release pent up energy and enjoy the outdoors (sniffing and exploring) are becoming less and less available to them as more and more people seek their own enjoyment in those natural areas. Whereas, the places where once pets were not welcome at all have become more pet friendly, making it critical that pets be well mannered and behaved. We have a local brewery in our town which now allows dogs, both outside and inside. Any day of the week, you will find several locals in there, enjoying a brew with their pet in tow.
Recently, I flew on a small prop airplane from Portland to Boise. It was one of those small Horizon flights with two seats on each side of the plane. Not much sitting room and even less leg room. A woman sat next to me who had on board with her a full sized Boxer. (She claimed he was a "service dog", though the merits of that could easily be debated and he had nothing to identify him as such.) Regardless, he was well behaved, though she expected him to somehow lie at her feet for the duration of the flight. Unfortunately, this poor dog did not fit "at her feet". He needed the space in front of both our seats and part of the aisle. So he lay across her feet and MY feet with his paws creeping into the aisle. This unfortunately continued to draw notice from the flight attendants who repeatedly had to ask that his paws be moved so as not to obstruct the aisles (safety regulations, you know.)
Luckily for my seat mate, I happen to love dogs and especially nice dogs like this one. There was really nothing the poor guy could do to better the situation. It wasn't his fault that his owner overlooked the fact that she didn't have a lap dog. Or maybe, she just didn't care. This sense of entitlement on her part is a bit hard to swallow, but a reasonable person cannot take it out on the pet. Perhaps his owner should have had the courtesy to at least purchase two seats, one for her and one for her pet, so she would have had ample space(even if it was on the floor) for him to travel, comfortably.
I share this example, because it is easy to see that had she been sitting next to someone less tolerant or if her pet had been less well-behaved this situation could have easily escalated and turned ugly, fast. And one or two of those types of unpleasant events lead to complaints and result in more and more restrictions for everyone.
So as responsible pet owners, it is up to us to be pro-active and considerate of not only the comfort of our own pet but also of other people (as well as their pets) if we want to continue to take our dogs into new places and hopefully, slow the growth of restrictions on those areas which have traditionally been freely available to dogs.
It is more important than ever to assure that your dog is well socialized and behaved. And that requires time, patience and training. This begins in puppyhood, if you are lucky enough to have your pet during this stage of life. In our town, we had a wonderful program called, "Puppy Kindergarten". It was a "train the trainer" type of puppy training, but it also incorporated opportunity for the puppies to socialize with other dogs as well as with other people. It was a great way to start, and I would recommend it to anyone.
Of course, there are many other opportunities and resources for obedience training and socialization offered for more mature and adult dogs. Your local Humane Society and your veterinarian can help you find local resources. There are also some terrific books and online resources. One of our favorites is Dr. Sophia Yin's website, https://drsophiayin.
And let's not forget the Buddy System. The Buddy System is the perfect accompaniment to many of these new social opportunities for our pets. Not to mention, it's the ideal solution to that extra security needed for those less friendly outdoor areas. It provides the optimal solution for having your pet on a leash while your hands are free to carry luggage, shop, or enjoy that cold beer. Add the Race-lite Go Pocket accessory and you have the perfect place to store your ID, phone, credit card or cash so they are easily accessible. The Snap Pod Module makes it easy to take along and distribute treats for good behavior.
It all comes down to us as dog owners. New found freedoms involve more responsibility on our part if they are to continue and flourish. Curbing the tide of more restrictions means stepping up and being responsible, aware, and considerate even in areas where traditionally we could be more relaxed. The right training, the right socialization and the right equipment all contribute to more positive experiences and more opportunities for everyone involved.