My feisty pooch Bailey's just got a new leash of life
A debate has been rumbling on for the last few weeks about whether or not dogs should be allowed off their leads in certain Belfast parks. Personally, I think this decision should be down to the owner’s discretion based on a number of factors.
The first and most important should be the typical behaviour of the dog. I have three dogs, each completely different in temperament than the other, and I treat each of them differently in public places.
For example, Walter, my youngest, is friendly and affectionate yet nervous and excitable and so he is great fun off the lead with adults and other dogs, but I do have to re-attach him when there are young kids around.
This is because his joyous enthusiasm means that he sees every living thing as a potential playmate and would try to jump up, or try to lick them all over. Although he doesn’t have an aggressive bone in his body, this enthusiasm could easily scare a young child.
If the dog is self-absorbed and placid — like my middle one, Heidi — then they will happily run off and explore without bothering or posing a threat to anyone, so I always let her off the lead automatically without a concern.
She’s also extremely submissive and obedient, so the moment that I want her back on the lead she comes immediately without a fuss.
However, if your dog is territorial and protective — like my oldest, Bailey — then it is best to keep him on a lead for most of the time in case he is startled by a passer-by, in which case he may snap.
Another factor is to consider the environment itself on that particular day. In a crowded park, for example, I think it is always a good idea to keep dogs on a lead to prevent the three Fs — flight, fright or fight. There is also the possibility of your dog getting disorientated and lost or, even worse, stolen.
So, that’s my view on the matter. But now, as always whenever there is a story about dogs in the news, Bailey wants to have his say, too. It’s been a while since I allowed him to put pen to paper (or more specifically, paw to keyboard) in my column, so it’s over to you, Bailey the Bichon Frise:
“Thank you, Frances, for that somewhat
narrow-minded approach to the question ‘Should dogs be allowed off their leads in Belfast’s parks?’
As an actual dog myself, I have little compunction in disagreeing with almost every point you have made.
What you and your human co-conspirators fail to grasp is that the leash is an evil contraption designed specifically to condemn and reduce our race to dogged desperation. It represents spirit-crushing submission at best and downright inhuman slavery at worst.
In order to prove my point, let us look back on the evolution of the dog through the ages. (Unfortunately I cannot show my PowerPoint slides charting the history of the dog through to modern times, as I usually would at this stage, because there is no actual projector.)
Before the dastardly domestication of dogs, it was in our nature — indeed, it was our very raison d’etre — to run wild in packs, to guard our territory with relentless vigour, to hunt for food and to defend ourselves and our litters against attack. The way dogs behave is a result of primordial instinct and, for that very reason, the human, who considers himself the master race (slides here of Hitler and Ceasar Milan) was determined to stamp out and destroy that instinct by any means necessary.
To me and to all my fellow canine compadres, the leash symbolises all that is wrong with today’s society. It was introduced primarily to sanitise dogs of all that is normal and natural; to crush their spirits until their so-called ‘behaviours’ resemble those of house-inhabiting humans.
I believe that it is morally wrong to reduce feisty and spirited characters into grovelling automatons whose lives revolve around the worship and idolatry of their so-called ‘masters’.
I have a dream, my friends, that one day we will return once more to our natural state and roam freely from park to park without fear of the shackles of human intervention. And to that end I will fight tooth and nail, paw and claw until the lead is outlawed forever.
So, yes, in answer to your question: I do think that dogs should be allowed off their lead in Belfast parks.”