A short leash

Dog owners need to be responsible for the behaviour of their pets

There have been far too many aggressive encounters between people and dogs — and dogs and other dogs over the last few weeks.

A woman and her dog were beset upon by two other dogs while out walking — both suffering serious wounds. In another case in the area, an otherwise friendly dog got loose and killed another dog — and paid the ultimate price for it. And in yet another, someone shot a dog that was off leash near the Little Qualicum Fish Hatchery. It was lucky to survive.

Reaction has been swift in the community. Not only are people lamenting the treatment of the dogs, they are taking aim at the owners — who many people say should be taking more responsibility for the actions for their animals. If nothing else, readers are thinking dog owners need to keep their pets on  a leash — no matter where they are.

The outcome of dog and people encounters depend upon one thing only: the people. And it’s the people who need to be on a short leash.

Owners have to know how to control their pets, (and actually do it) no matter how loving and peaceful they might be. Animal dynamics cannot be predicted — even in the domesticated dog. Owners must be aware of other people and their potential reactions to your animal as well. Saying, “oh, he/she’s friendly, don’t worry,” doesn’t help and it doesn’t absolve you of your responsibility.

Pet owners need to learn to handle themselves first, and then the pets will follow. It could very well save their lives, and their owners a lot of grief.

Incidents such as these have the potential of chilling relationships between dog owners, but that solves nothing and prevents positive pet interactions. A responsible pet owner secures their own yard, learns the best way to handle their animal and tries to properly socialize their dogs — if they plan on ever taking it outside. But remember, even doing all of that guarantees nothing. Dogs, like people, can disagree and even fight. If owners take reasonable steps to prevent it, it’s less likely to occur. Other dog owners and the dogless will thank you for it.

— editorial by Steven Heywood