Pets, with poll: Instant messaging for dog owners: Color-coded symbols could help keep the peace on walks
Photo by Jerry Buffman
With regards to your dog, it goes something like this:
You're strolling down Cambridge on a pleasant afternoon. Bowser, anticipant of getting over to Burns Park (popular canine meeting place), is compelled to “log on” and check some recent posts. His hovering nose peruses the content. Suddenly he stops. Having landed on something interesting he chooses to further investigate the profile. It reads: I am an unattached (except by a leash, LOL!) 2 yr old Afghan/Borzoi mix. Physically fit and fixed, but still active on the dating circuit. My walking schedule is 9-10:30 a.m and 5-6 p.m., mon-fri. Until we become true friends, I am unavailable on weekends. If interested, message back!
Now, Bowser would really like to put some care into formulating his reply to this one, but your beckoning leash tugs only afford him the chance to shoot off a quick response: Let's hook up!
In communities and neighborhoods with high density dog populations, like we have here in Ann Arbor, this incessant primal desire in dogs to network will eventually and inevitably evolve to the next level, posing the question:
After all the texting, tweeting, messaging and such, when we do finally meet in “person” during one of our prospective outings, are we gonna date?
For the dogs this suggests some sort of physical interaction and brings a lot of variables into play/questions to be answered, for them and their owners as well. Did I read your message right? Are you really who you said you were? You don't look like a Borzoi. Does you-know-who know?
Now it's time for the parents to step in... That's you.
All cutesiness aside, many dog people do confess that it is difficult, at best, for them to discern why their dogs react certain ways with certain dogs, and so differently with others. They admit that despite their careful considerations, they are never 100 percent sure if a prospective “date” is going to flourish or flounder — a familiar scene with people too! So it goes, that when you enter into the public domain with your dog: although you may think you have a clear sense of the status of your relationship and how you expect things to go, the neighboring dogs, their owners and possibly your dog as well may propose an altogether different agenda. This is where a little communication can make a big difference in the outcome.
Here's the dilemma...
In order for you and another dog walker to establish any kind of rapport about the “dating” status of your dogs, it requires you to be in close enough proximity to communicate verbally, then devote the necessary energy needed to convey your message. It may be that you just want them to know that Fifi, who is elderly and arthritic, really isn't interested in the advances of their gregarious Golden Retriever. The problem is that by the time you're close enough to touch base, the dogs are already convinced that a date is imminent and their respective opinions are beginning to manifest, possibly with agitation against the leash, barking, whining or growling.
Here's the question...
Do you find this to be an issue for you and your dog or observe it as an issue for your neighbors/their dogs? If so, do you think a method of instant messaging that conveys the basic theme of your personal status with your dog during a walk, could be helpful?
Here's a possible solution...
I have been mulling this idea around in my mind for quite a while now and, if only for the purpose of giving it a place to go, I think it is time to publicly let the cat out of the bag.
Modeling the basic premise of traffic signal communication, it works like this...
Step 1) All neighborhood participants would, by scrounging around the house or visiting the nearest thrift store, obtain three bandanas. Solid bright red, bright yellow and bright green.
Step 2) Next, before heading out on a walk with your dog consider your current status.
Perhaps your dog is indeed elderly, arthritic and prefers to not be bothered by the advances of an exhuberant pup. Or, you've had a long, exhausting day and are looking forward to an uneventful hoof around the neighborhood with your buddy. Simply tie the red bandana high up on your leash in plain sight to signal to the immediate world that for whatever reason, right now, “we need our space respected.”
In turn, a yellow bandana could pronounce that your dog is a youngster in training and although you are “open to a greeting, you could use a moment to, for the sake of consistency, get her under control before allowing contact.” Or it could mean something as simple as “my dog is timid at first.”
The green would of course indicate a status along the lines of, “my dog is good with greetings and we welcome them. He/she is calm, friendly, and there are no concerns with aggression.”
You get it?
Step 3) Give some thought to how this enhanced ability to communicate your basic position in the moment could help advance your and your dog's comfort zone. Be creative. Whether you are working on a training issue, or with a dog who is extremely shy because of previous experiences, the ability to communicate the basic situation expediently could serve as an aid to broadening versatility and the overall enjoyment of your walk!
It's that simple.
I've often thought that the Burns Park neighborhood would be a great area for a pilot project!
I would truly be interested in some community feedback on this idea, so please comment or take the poll below.