Flashpoints for cyclists, joggers, walkers and dog owners – Part 1

With spring in the air, whether we are humans or animals, those first rays of spring sunshine tempt us all to get out and enjoy the countryside. While we all hope our experience will be pleasurable, there are some situations which might spoil our enjoyment of the great outdoors.

When I take my two dogs (who are both rescue dogs) for a walk, I am acutely aware of many situations that could be problematic. Some situations I am prepared for, others I am not. If you own a rescue dog, you accept that you have no idea what happened to them before they were adopted by you. You need to be on your guard at all times – not on the phone!

As humans, we know that fear of any kind is not a pleasant experience and can make us act in an unpredictable way. Our whole instinct when experiencing fear is for self-preservation – and dogs are no different.

Zazie is a terrier bitch, adopted from a rescue when she was ten months old. During her short life, it was obvious that she had been beaten by someone wearing a baseball-type hat and carrying a stick. Whenever she saw someone approaching wearing the hat and carrying a stick, she started to bark in a threatening manner, ‘keep away from me’. She is now in her 14th year and despite training, she will still react to this trigger at times. If she sees the person approaching, I reassure her she is fine, but if the person suddenly appears (either in front or behind her), she is terrified.

The unsuspecting person, wearing the hat and carrying a stick in all innocence – is suddenly confronted by a terrier, running towards them and barking. Their instant reaction is also fear. They usually start by shouting or waving the stick to keep her away – and this makes the situation even worse. From the dog’s point of view, this is threatening behaviour.

Another trigger, for all dogs, is cyclists, motorcyclists and now electric scooters. Dogs have acute hearing and the high-pitched whirring sound created by these is much louder to a dog. And, therefore, much more threatening. All too often, the cyclist is travelling too fast or, even worse, approaching from behind. Both these situations leave me no time to control my dog. Once they are upon us, I immediately spring into action – out of fear for what might happen. Zazie senses my fear and she is also afraid. It is a dangerous situation for everyone concerned. A situation so easily avoided by just slowing down and warning us in advance by the use of a bell or shouting. As simple as that.

There are other very common ‘flashpoints’ which I will mention in a later article. After all, human or animal, we all want to enjoy our countryside visits. 

Anne Hodges is a volunteer for Cadela Carlota, which is urgently trying to raise money to ‘Own the Land ~ O Nosso Terreno’ to ensure that 80+ abandoned dogs don’t lose their safe refuge. If you can help, go to gofund.me/966c6018


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