I apologize (two days in a row, wow!)… this blog entry is really discombobulated and … eh, I don’t like it but at the same time I want to put it out there. So, pardon the not completely put together and well-thought-out post…. I tried and failed, and tried and failed, and tried and failed… and gave up… it is what it is!
As dog handlers (and as humans in general), we take risks each and every single day–whether that is walking across the street or letting a dog off-leash in the woods. When you think about it, there are very few, if any, truly risk-free activities–nearly every activity has some thing that could go wrong in some way or another. I feel like I’m seeing more and more risky behavior without any regard for the dog (or it doesn’t seem like there is any regard for the dog)–off leash dogs with no supervision, under-socialized dogs being brought to large and loud events, dogs being forced into very uncomfortable situations (any number of these), prong collar on a 70lbdog attached to a flexi leash, etc . Although risk is inherent in many parts of life, what we must do is weigh the risks we encounter and make choices on behalf of our dogs and ourselves–and if we choose to risk-it, we must be willing to accept the consequences of those decisions. Hopefully most people are making choices that they feel are in the best interest of their dogs and not just convenience or appearances.
In my everyday life, there are many things that are risky and could easily result in the loss, injury or even death of either of the pups (or myself for that matter). I used to walk the dogs after midnight when I lived in NY and although the dogs wore blinky lights and I wore a reflective vest, there was still a reasonable chance that we could get hit by a car while walking across the street, could encounter less than savory people on our walk or any number of things could happen while walking in the dark. But, the benefits of the walk far outweighed the risks of loss, injury or death–we encountered fewer dogs, it was cooler in summer, it was late enough that the dogs wouldn’t need to get up early to potty, fewer cars, fewer people, not as many squirrels (or not as many seen), and no other dogs in my building were out at that point (no getting caught in the hallways together). It was a risk for sure but one that I mitigated enough with lights, a set path that kept me close to homes and occupied areas, and carried a loud whistle to make it, well, less risky. I really did have to think about those walks and decide if they were worth it or if a short potty trip would suffice.
I’ve also had to really evaluate the off-leash time my dogs get, especially since bringing a young Rio into the family. Every time I unhook the dogs and let them race around the farm and the woods, I’m taking a risk. But, I’ve thought about the benefits, consequences and quality of life for my dogs and deemed off-leash experiences to be low enough risk with ample rewards to make it an easy choice. I’m also well aware that things could absolutely go wrong (I mean, Shayne is so very injury prone!) and I would have to cope with vet bills or worse. I do what I can to limit the risks but it is certainly not risk free and I’m aware of that during each off-leash adventure.
The ‘riskier’ behaviors I either engage in, or not, are all, at the least, thought about before going forward. What frustrates me is seeing dog handlers either not aware of the risks they are exposing themselves and their dogs to or that they actively choose to ignore the known risks (and also refuse to take responsibility if things go wrong). I know many of the things I do with my dogs have risks… but I do make sure the well-being of my dogs are first and foremost in the decision making process. I love having Shayne next to me while I drive… but it’s not safe for me and not safe for her… the benefits do not outweigh the risks so I don’t do it.
While, you can’t live in fear of unlikely risks (or shouldn’t), you also need to be aware of the risks involved with various activities and, with the dog’s best interest in mind, make a choice whether or not that activity is worth the risk. I guess I just wish people would stop and think about the choices they are making for their dog and how they may affect the dog’s well being.