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How to... walk your dog (not everyone's a fan)

Pay attention to what’s going on around you and obey public space rules – and pick up the poop

I love walkies
Walkies are great. The goal isn't necessarily tiredness, says Vonna Nolan, head dog school coach at Dogs Trust. "Walking is essential, but there is no set amount. Dogs need mental stimulation too and games are as necessary as a walk."

He wouldn't touch you
Dog owners think their dog is the best thing since sliced bread, and rightly so, says Nolan, but be mindful of others. "It's really about keeping close to your dog and obeying [public space] rules," she says. "Realistically, dogs should predominantly be kept on a lead and under control and not be allowed to run around and be disrespectful to everyone else. A lot of people think my dog is friendly, it's fine, I've got control. But there might be that one time when you don't. Reinforce them for walking nicely by saying 'good', giving them a few treats and making sure they are focused on you."

I want to let him off the lead
First, be sure that the public space rules allow it. "Think about what's appropriate and what you can manage as a dog owner," says Nolan. "Can you guarantee you can get your dog back? There is never really a guarantee. It is up to you to intensely supervise your dog at all times. You never know what is going to happen." Pay attention to what's going on around you too, she says. "Watch for people crossing the road. Maybe that's a good time to say, ok I'm going to clip you on the lead."

But he loves children...
For families with a child with sensory difficulties or anxiety, a walk in the park or beach trip can take herculean effort. An unexpected approach from your pooch, no matter how friendly, can send everyone home and make it all the harder to try again. Not all disabilities are visible. If your dog is excitable, be considerate of buggies and people with unsure footing too.


Children should get used to dogs…
Other people's children are not your project. You do you.

Dog poop is natural, what's the fuss?
Dog poop is dangerous and can spread campylobacter, tapeworm, hookworm, roundworm, giardia, E.coli, and even salmonella. That's the fuss. It smells, and it's hard to pick out of shoes, buggy and wheelchair wheels and children's hair.

So I hang the poop bag on a railing?
Nope. Scoop and pop the poop bag in a bin, just not your brown bin. Use bags made of recycled content. Public bin contents go to incineration so compostable or biodegradable bags aren't necessary.

My dog loves other dogs
Great, but other dogs may still be practicing their social skills. "If you notice a dog who is quite nervous or who is wearing an indicator to say they are, cross the road," says Nolan. "Just like you wouldn't let a child run up to every person they see, don't allow your dog to do so.If a dog is allowed to say hello to everyone, that becomes their expectation. It can be a real nightmare if you have an over-friendly dog – you will be trying frantically to tell people 'he's ok' but they may not feel the same way."

Can we greet other dogs?
If your dog wants to go in for a sniff, make sure he is on a lead and keeps some distance, says Nolan. "Parallel walk them or arc them around each other, but it's up to you to read your and the other dog's body language. If my dog is bouncy and the other is cowering, I wouldn't let my dog say hello, it wouldn't be fair," she says. Sniffs should be done "nose to bum, nose to bum".

He's so cute!
Watch out for "dog face". "These are people who make a beeline for you and their look says, 'Yes, I've got a dog too. I love dogs. Do you love dogs?' And that's fantastic," says Nolan. But not every dog is keen. "If someone is struggling, it's not the right time to go up and pat their dog. In public spaces, it's a two-way street. Everyone has to have respect and do their best."

You can't teach an old dog new tricks
You absolutely can. You can teach their owners too, says Nolan. Science is changing all the time, she says and some things like dominance theory, or letting your dog know who's boss, are outdated. It might be time for dog school.