Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Pet Expert: Keeping Meaford Pet Friendly By Being Respectful

In 2019, Meaford was listed as one of only 25 North American towns to achieve a pet friendliness certification by the Better Cities for Pets Organization. Many in our community, from pet-related business owners to pet owners themselves, take great pride in this designation of distinction.

As tourist season inches closer, it’s important we all do our part to keep our beautiful waterfront community friendly for pets that live here full time, as well as those who are visiting. This can be done by following some basic rules of etiquette, whether you’re a pet owner or not.

Don’t Approach Other Dogs Without Permission

Some pet owners love to socialize while allowing other humans and/or dogs to interact with their pooch. This can be a source for great social experiences, and provides much-needed stimulation to the daily lives of pets, too. However, a great many dogs are reactive on leash, making this type of interaction potentially very stressful for themselves and their owners.

Leash reactivity is a fear-based behaviour, and is among the most common behavioural issues among dog owners today. When an on-leash dog becomes overwhelmed by a stimulus in their environment (another dog, skateboards and bicycles, unfamiliar people, etc.), they may react in unpredictable ways. From pulling uncontrollably, to barking, to growling and lunging, these reactions are a dog’s way of dealing with the frustration of being on leash while overstimulated. Thankfully, with the help of a qualified dog trainer, these unwanted behaviours can be improved, and potentially eliminated altogether.

Even when a dog looks friendly, there is a very good chance their owners would prefer to be left alone. For appropriate canine social interaction, it’s best to go to an off leash space, where dogs are openly playing together.

It is also important to refrain from allowing your dog to approach others, even if they aren’t with a canine companion. Not everyone wants to say hello to your dog. In fact, many people are uncomfortable around dogs, or even flat-out afraid of them.

Respect Leash Rules

Dogs are required to be on leash in all beaches other than the designated leash-free dog beach, even while swimming, and are also required to be on leash on all hiking trails and parks.

Aside from your own private property, there are two places where dogs are permitted off leash in the warm months; Beautiful Joe’s leash-free dog park on Aiken Street, and the leash-free dog beach at the far end of the Memorial Park waterfront.

No matter how friendly your dog may be, having them off leash in any other public space can be a recipe for disaster for other pets and their owners.

Stoop And Scoop

This should be an obvious one, but it seems common sense is not always so common – even in Meaford! Every summer, crews in our community parks clean up an overabundance of pet waste leftover from the winter. The summertime can be much the same, especially if individuals feel content that their dog did their business in the bush, or off to the side of a trail, where it is mostly out of sight.

Unfortunately, aside from being litter, improperly disposed pet waste creates a health risk for other pets and local wildlife in our community. Dog feces can be loaded with potentially harmful pathogens, bacteria, and parasites. Not only does this pose a public health risk to anyone in close enough contact, dog waste may very well end up polluting our fragile local waterways, too.

Being respectful of our community and following proper etiquette with your pets and while around other pets will go a long way towards keeping Meaford a wonderful pet friendly place to visit and to live.

Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.

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