I have grown eyes behind my head and ears as sharp as a Maasai spear.
And all this is from my walks with Snowy. What is meant to be a pleasant walk oftentimes has the potential of turning out disastrously if you’re not keen on your surroundings.
Yesterday morning we left for our morning walk as usual. And right there outside my gate was a group of Somalis with a herd of about 50 goats!
Snowy was delirious. He was in such a frenzy. He has never seen this kind of animal. And in such a large flock. All those strange smells really had him excited and not even the treats I had for him could persuade him to relax. I had to take him back in to allow him to relax and for the goats to go away.
This is the reality of most Nairobi areas. You never know who will be herding their goats, cows, sheep, turkey, ducks, or whatever. Check out your compound and the neighborhood before leaving for your walks.
We all know dogs love chasing cats. And when surprised or confronted, cats will attack dogs. So most of us are usually on the lookout for cats. Especially if your dog is not yet well trained or socialized to accept/ignore cats. However, in Nairobi, cats can be the least of your problems.
Stray dogs. They are territorial and can get ferocious on seeing a newcomer. In my hood, there is an adult female with two pups about a year old. They live at a parking lot about 100m from my place. The pups and their mom always charge at us when they spot us.
And that’s why in our house I’m the only one allowed to walk Snowy. If I ever let these dogs get close, I know both Snowy and I will get hurt. And I will have no one to hold responsible. They are strays after all. So always keep your guard up. Spot strays before they spot you and before your dog spots them. Mark where they hang out at specific times, then avoid those areas at those times. Understand that they change positions depending on the time of day. So where they hang out in the morning is not the same place you will find them in the evening.
I love letting Snowy walk off-leash. But you will never see me attempt that within the estates. Maybe Karura or when we go for excursions. Or when we start our dog training classes at the East African Kennel Club and the trainer approves.
Dogs love trash. They love the rotten smells that may put you and I off. Snowy might even find it more delicious than the treats I hold out to him. I will never understand why.
The terrible thing about Nairobi trash is that it is often just dumped at some street corner. Never in proper bins or even in trash cans. And the nature of the trash is extremely disgusting.
For instance, how many Nairobi neighborhoods do you know that have specific washrooms for watchmen? And where do the local hawkers who roam our streets relieve themselves? If you think they hold it in till when they get back to their homes then you are grossly mistaken. The same goes for women’s hygiene products. Enough said!
Aaaaawww, what a cute “chiwawa”!
I smile politely but in my head, I’m screaming out. “Not every small breed is a Chihuahua. And not every large breed is a German Shephard please!” But my wife is my yoga instructor. I have learnt the art of breathing in and out. And smiling genuinely. And not correcting minor mistakes. Live and let live.
There is something about a clean dog on a leash that draws people in. I love that. Nairobians will pay no mind to a stray and dirty dog. But just have a clean dog on a neat leash and we all want a piece. That’s totally understandable.
However, what I still find hard to handle is people who just come over and without excusing themselves start petting Snowy. Then they get shocked and scared when he excitedly jumps up to greet them and lick their face and fingers. He is a dog in training, please give some space.
Worse still, there are those who will spot the dog and start running or cross the street in a rush. What if you get hit by a car sir/madam? What were you running away from? A calm dog on a leash 20 meters away from you? My people, dogs get excited and think its the beginning of a game when you take off like that. So by running, you are in fact inviting a chase.
So if you are walking your dog, learn to spot these people from a mile away. If you are approaching someone and they seem not to have noticed your dog, draw your attention to it and watch their reaction. If they look scared, cross over or command your dog to a sit position until the person passes by. If they approach with intentions to pet, hold, or carry, intercept in advance. Politely warn that the dog might jump to lick (not bite), stand between the person and the dog, and command your dog to sit. Of course, offer a treat for compliance. To the dog, not the human.
Best Tools For Safe and Comfortable Walks
Your primary tool for comfortable and pleasant walks is training your dog. While I am yet to start training with a professional, I always take my time to teach Snowy acceptable behaviour. For some training options within the city, talk to the following:
(Click on the name to get to their Facebook page)
What you next need is a good collar and leash or harness. I would not recommend a choke collar or shock collar. If your dog bites, then you might want to consider a dog muzzle. Andy Davies has some good stuff and will offer great advice depending on your dog’s needs and your preferences.
The third tool you need is inner patience to accept what you can’t change and the courage to change what you can. For that, just play with your dog. You will both be happier and calmer. If that doesn’t work, then find a good yogi, talk to a priest, or sign up for anger management.
What Not To Do
- When strays attack, do not think your brave big dog will handle them. Your dog might get some serious bites and infections from the non-vaccinated strays. Plus, your domesticated pup might start off thinking it’s a game, not a turf war.
- Never use your dog to chase cats and other small animals. It is not funny. And once you cultivate that behaviour, your dog might never stop.
- Never walk your dog off-leash in public areas. This is a no-brainer!
- Never leave your dog under the supervision of kids under 12. And anyone older should first prove they can be responsible. Do not just assume your adult brother can handle your dog responsibly.
- Never take your dog too close to others walking their dogs, unless first there is a mutual agreement to do that.
- Lots of delicious treats and your dog’s favorite toy. This will make your dog focus more on you than other distractions…hopefully (fingers crossed)!
With that, happy walking. Hope to meet you responsibly and pleasantly enjoying your walks.