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Ireland Goes Dog Friendly on 21 June

Dog Friendly Ireland Day is coming up on Friday, 21st June. Dogs Trust is busily encouraging all sorts of businesses to welcome dogs into their premises and help make Ireland a great place to be a dog. This is the second annual event, and Dogs Trust is working to encourage all sorts of businesses to allow dogs into their premises.

Last year, about 500 businesses and individuals participated in Dog Friendly Ireland Day. Organizations welcomed dogs, and owners shared their photos of their adventures with their best friends on social media. According to research publicized by Dogs Trust Ireland, 40% of us are dog owners and a similar number of us have said we have no objections to sharing public spaces such as restaurants with well-behaved dogs on leads. It looks like Ireland is ready for dogs in our social spaces, but what about our dogs? Are they ready?

But Is Your Dog Ready?

Dogs Trust is focusing on getting businesses ready to welcome dogs, but dogs need to be ready too. Dogs do not instinctively know how to behave at the café or the barber shop. Some become nervous or overly excited in new environments, while others can be defensive when they meet new dogs. For the day to go well, dog owners need to prepare their furry friends to socialize in new places.

Obedience training is critical here. While formal classes with a qualified dog trainer are a great way to train your dog, they are not necessary for all dogs and owners. As any trainer will tell you, the human is the real pupil. Dogs don’t need to know tricks to visit the pub or cinema, but they should know basic commands such as sit, down and stay. They should be able to walk calmly on a lead, and they should be kept on a lead in any public area.

The most effective method for training your dog depends on your dog’s personality and life experience. It’s easier to train a German Shepherd puppy than an adult terrier you’ve gotten from a rescue in most cases, but every dog can learn new tricks – regardless of their age.  Some are eager to please and make eager students, while others may have had life experiences that make them anxious or easily distracted. Patience and tasty dog treat rewards are the key. Whatever your dog’s temperament or life experience, negative approaches will confuse and frighten him. Avoid punishments for failures and focus on rewards when your dog gets it right.

Social Skills for Dogs

Once your dog has mastered a few basic commands, it’s time to get him socialized. To enjoy an outing with you, your dog has to be calm around other dogs. Canines are naturally social, pack animals, but they do like to have a clear, established hierarchy and they can be defensive of what they see as their own turf. It’s great if your dog is friendly and wants to sniff noses with other dogs, but if he is rambunctious and wants to play that’s not going to be welcome in a restaurant or shop. Many dogs are defensive around other dogs, particularly dogs who have been stray and had to compete for scraps of food. So before you head out for this year’s Dog Friendly Day, you should be confident that your dog will be friendly… but not too friendly!

If your dog reacts to other dogs, the goal is to desensitize him to them in safe, controlled situations. This is one real bonus of formal obedience classes; dogs learn to be calm around other dogs. While it is easiest to socialize a young pup, dogs of any age can learn to relax around other dogs – regardless of their history. It takes a patient, gradual approach and a pocket full of healthy dog treats.

How to Socialize Your Dog

Start by taking your dog for a daily walk. You’ll probably encounter other dogs and he’ll definitely smell that others have been there. Remember that your dog takes his cues from you. If you tense up in anticipation of his reaction, he will feel there is something be anxious about and respond defensively to the other dog. Greet other dog walkers with a calm and friendly hello. If your dog is barking or snarling, don’t scold him or tighten the lead. Instead, start walking in a different direction and offer him a treat. This is not rewarding him for bad behaviour; it is distracting him and teaching him to associate encountering another dog with something positive.

Take him a park popular with dog owners, but don’t dive right in. On your first visit, walk your dog around the perimeter so he can smell and observe without feeling threatened. Praise him lavishly while he is calm and give him a treat. Start with short visits, and gradually work your way up to longer visits where he can meet other dogs, whether in an off lead park or on his lead where other dogs are being walked. Let your dog sniff and greet other dogs, but watch their body language closely. Wagging tails and relaxed ears are good. But if you see tails or ears sinking down or lips curling, it is time to move apart. If another dog owner seems to be avoiding you or asks you to keep your dog back, it is important to respect that. Their dog might have had traumatic experiences with other dogs and not cope well even if your dog is calm and friendly.

What to Bring for Your Dog

Having a positive experience at a café, cinema, shop or pub with dog involves some preparation. In addition to making sure your dog adequately trained and socialized, you need to bring a few things. Obviously, you need to have your dog on a lead and to carry bags to scoop any poop. But it also makes sense to bring a water bowl for your dog. You can find lightweight, collapsible ones that come with water bottles and a clip to attach the bowl to the bottle. It never hurts to bring some dog treats. Not only are they are powerful distraction if you need one, if you’re having a snack it’s only fair to have one for your best friend to enjoy too. And of course, you want to bring your camera so you can take some selfies to share to help promote Dog Friendly Ireland Day.

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