I remember one summer holiday, when my daughter was young, we were playing happily together on the beach, building a sandcastle. It was one of those special moments a parent has with their child. Together, we were creating a sand palace, decorated with seashells and seaweed.
Along came a little boy who wanted to play too. His parents were sunbathing and he was obviously bored and thought what we were doing looked fun.
Not wanting to be mean and exclusive, I didn’t stop him from joining in but I must admit, I was a bit miffed. When he took my daughter’s spade and started taking over, adding turrets and fortifications, she was upset.
I was reminded of this experience a few years later when I was in the park with my puppy. My puppy saw a man playing with his two Collies and bounded over to join in. My puppy was spoiling the training game he was having with his dogs. He asked me to call her away, which I duly did. I realise I had done the same as the parents on the beach. I had not been considerate of another’s ‘space’. Just because it is a public place does not mean it’s a free for all.
Look at it from another angle – Imagine being in the pub with a friend and a stranger comes and sits too close for comfort and starts joining in the conversation. You might not like it. This can be the same for dogs when an unknown dog or person comes close.
As puppy owners we are encouraged to socialise our young dog which is right, but what is socialising? It isn’t allowing our dog to run up to strange dogs in the park, willy-nilly. Socialising is getting our puppy used to everyday things in such a way that he learns to be at ease.
To let our puppy learn lessons from strange dogs is a risky strategy. The lesson might not have the right effect. As dog owners, it is our role to guide our dog. It is our responsibility to prepare our dog for life and to teach it good manners.
I believe that one of the greatest lessons a dog can learn is that we are the most fun to be with so will want to come back to us when called. As owners, it is recognising when other dogs and owners are entitled to ‘space’ and being able to demonstrate that respect.
So what happened on the beach? What would you have done?