Follow the leader

Much like you would in the Milnerton lagoon close to my house, when you raise the topic of doggie beach etiquette, you begin treading in murky waters.

Before I got Jackson, I was slightly more intolerant of random dogs excitedly running up to me with their wet, sandy bodies as I enjoyed a leisurely stroll on the beach. After I got Jackson, different story. Because now I have a better understanding of the internal workings of a dog.

Take Jackson as an example. He is…inquisitive. Excited. Boisterous. He is what all one-year-old puppies are: playful. And he absolutely loves the beach. He has abundant energy and is not particularly good on leash, so I prefer to take him where he can run free and play in the dunes and chase birds in the waves. But here is where those murky waters start trickling in.

I am fortunate to live near a leash-free beach, and while I always adhere to the general rules of conduct, there are certain grey areas that I struggle with. If someone is walking their dog on a leash, should you put yours on theirs? Apparently so. There is a reason why they do it, so to avoid a potentially nasty situation, rather err on the side of caution. But what if someone is walking with a pack and only one or two pooches are leashed? What do you do then?

That brings me to the next conundrum: What if your dog wants to play with an unleashed dog, but the owner seems less than pleased by the interest shown towards his or her furry companion? My take is, dogs will be dogs. If there’s a scrap, they’ll sort it out themselves. If teeth are bared, you intervene. But I have a fairly casual attitude towards life in general and perhaps that doesn’t translate that well into the K9 world?

And then there is, perhaps, the most contentious issue of all: beach walkers. I’ve had many a stroller cast a dirty look my way or had a pretty severe tongue-lashing when Jackson goes to say “hello”. My question is, if you’re walking on a leash-free beach, shouldn’t you expect some kind of interaction with a dog or two, whether that be a sniff, a lick, or some jumping? I try my best to keep these exchanges to a minimum, but you can’t control every move your dog makes. Especially if he or she is not on a leash. So what do you do?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


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