Is this vision possible?
I am writing this just a few hours after returning from a mountain hike with Pax that had a truly healing effect on us. Getting out of the city and experiencing the mountains, crystal clear streams, and blossoming alpine meadows has an indisputable uplifting effect, but today was even more exceptional.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece about the intolerance of people who do not like dogs, as well as, dog laws that are overly restrictive, limiting, and unfair to those of us who live with dogs.
I pondered the paradox that most people consider themselves to be more important than animals and insist that dogs should be disallowed completely from sensitive natural environments or confined to a lifetime on a leash so they don't damage them. The irony is that reckless human behaviour is at the core of almost all kinds of environmental destruction, not dogs and their paws.
The lack of dog access to beaches and parks is likely the result of the intense pressure applied by those who don't like dogs or at least have not experienced the joy of living with canines.
These individuals are loud and influential enough to get their way with lawmakers. I sometimes hear them argue that some dogs are aggressive, therefore no canines should be allowed. It’s like saying that everyone’s freedoms should be restricted because of a small percentage of criminal offenders. I also hear them saying that dog feces is a potential health hazard, but most dog lovers are super responsible and it is quite rare to see an “abandoned dog No. 2” these days. Also, in case a poop goes unnoticed in the bushes, it feeds plants and trees unlike plastic wrappers and soda cans I often come across when hiking.
Sadly, the shrinking number of dog beaches and parks leads to the rise of “dog ghettos”, overcrowded dog zones that are the breeding ground for disease, parasites, and behavioural problems due to unnatural congested conditions.
The anti-dog sentiments are in stark contrast with books, movies, and research that confirm dogs are, and always will be, loved. The viral dog videos with millions of views are clear proof.
Today has been a special day because we were able to find dog paradise! A mountain region with NO DOG RESTRICTIONS! 🐶 Dogs and people hiked together, having fun, saying hi, sniffing butts (dogs only 😆), while respecting each other's space. Everyone got along just fine without bylaws and restrictive signs. No fights, no aggression, just happy dogs and people in a little slice of paradise!
Unlike dog restricted areas, where I usually find wrappers, cans, and plastic, today the meadows were pristine, the water was clean, and there were no signs of trash anywhere.
Is it possible that fewer rules and the sight of happy dogs makes people feel freer, happier, and therefore more respectful, caring, and considerate of one another and their surroundings?
I know that it would still take a lot of effort to convince some people that allowing dogs in more parks and beaches would disperse their presence more evenly and solve the problems we see now.
With some rare exceptions, dog guardians are responsible and most dogs are friendly and well behaved. It may happen that a puppy learning the ropes may jump up and make a paw print or two on someone’s T-shirt or pants, but no one died from a little muddy puppy-love, and we can apply the same level of tolerance as we do when we are on a long haul flight with a crying baby on board.
I am writing this blog with the hope that it may land on the screen of a city council member, or park official, who is influential enough to pioneer an experiment in a progressive city, town, or a park. Here is what it could look like:
🏖Allow 40% of beaches and safe parks (away from traffic) to be leash optional (40% is the proportion of families with dogs.)
🏞Let dog lovers visit national, state, or provincial parks, with dogs and give them the freedom to decide when to let their dogs off-leash. You will see that nothing much will happen and the environment will not suffer under the soft canine paws.
🙂😞Survey people in the "dogs allowed" and "no dogs allowed" zones to see what their happiness index is.
✋Give people who don’t like, or are afraid of, dogs an option to visit dog-free zones, or if they want to come to “dog-friendly areas” it would be a good opportunity for them to get used to dogs and see how wonderful they are.
- 🤓Municipalities and officials could connect with top behaviourists using positive and gentle training methods to create free or inexpensive dog training classes to help eliminate some problems such as jumping up, barking and lack of social skills. Most dogs love to learn and their people do too.
Today's hike made me feel hopeful and happy! I met about two dozen lovely dogs and well over 100 people. The mood was happy and uplifting, and the dogs got along just fine.
For decades we have been taught that to achieve order in our society strict law enforcement is necessary, but allow me to disagree. The word ‘enforcement’ originated from the word ‘FORCE’, which makes most people uncomfortable.
I am convinced that when we have the freedom to make sound decisions, without being forced, we act more responsibly and hold higher respect for one another. Research shows that dogs make us happier, healthier, and live longer. Are these good enough reasons to try and find a way to create a more dog-friendly and tolerant world?
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM