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Dogs around the world: Greece

By Dimosthenis Moumiadis

Having been a dog owner for many years, and also a dog trainer and a pet hotel owner, gave me the advantage of having a more clear view of what is happening with dogs in Greece. More or less, I realise that the same stands for the rest of the world.

As dog owners, we all fall in the arms of our nature and act almost the same way. We misinterpret the instincts and needs of our pets and react as our own instincts command us. That means that some of us are more tolerant, some oversensitive, some more strict, and some cruel to them.

When we choose to adopt a dog, we either choose a breed that we like or choose to save a stray dog, either we want one or this one has just crossed our path.  The least we can do is to train ourselves to understand and help this new member adjust to our family.  So we end up confused and distressed by the difficulties and make our lives, in many cases, unbearable. We then choose to find a dog trainer or just let the dog out on the streets.

In an attempt to train a dog, one has two choices: either train the traditional way or train with no force (positive training).  Usually dogs with aggression towards people or other dogs or both, are hard to train with traditional training methods, so they end up, as their last shot, with a positive trainer. In many cases the aggression is caused by the wrong methods of training. If the owner really wants to help, he will try hard to succeed. But I have met a few who didn’t have the patience and just gave up hope for their dog. Once someone said to me, ”I give you one week to fix my aggressive dog.  If still nothing happens, I will skin him alive”.

As dog owners, we all must follow the law of our state. No dog is allowed to walk free on the street. Every dog should walk on the leash, near his owner and may wear a muzzle if the dog shows aggression. Still some believe that they know more and decide to ignore this; they walk their dog without a leash and advise others to do the same. They force all the rest to put up with their dog’s misbehaviour. In an attempt to “socialise” their dog, they gather in dog parks – or any park – and let them play unattended. Small, big, puppies or youngsters, older or forceful. Only huge problems come out of this. But they claim they know better.

If you walk in the cities, you will find too many stray dogs lying here and there. Most of them are harmless but there are some showing great signs of aggression towards people or dogs, or both. How come there are so many?? Well, there are people who just let them out, there are those who choose to  let their dog reproduce and let out the unwanted puppies who are not given to someone, and of course there are those stray dogs that the state hasn’t castrated or spayed and they reproduce on their own.

In the countryside the problem seems even worst. People who choose to let their dog out on the street; they drive out into the country, find a place where other dogs are straying, or a spot in the fields where many people pass, and just abandon them there.

Dogs form groups. Those who survive, may spread  around and make the territory their own. They guard these territories against other strays or, even worst, dogs that live with families. To be honest, it is very difficult to walk your dog because of all those stray groups and sometimes it is difficult even for us to walk  on our own.

In the case of a dog on the streets, I must say that there is no State planning on how to manage their fate.  Only in the recent years, the State has introduced a law that says that every stray female should be neutered  and set free again in the place that she was found. Only if a dog is very aggressive should it be picked up and sent to a shelter. What will happen to it will be decided by “experts” in the field.

There are no shelters for stray dogs and if some exist they are in the worst of conditions. The work of taking care of the strays is in the hands of  simple people who care for them. Their care is to find the resources to vaccinate, castrate and feed them. They also keep and nurse them. Their “job” is also to find new homes for them, inside or out of this country. Many devote their lives to this cause but many lose their way in their attempt to care for the strays. Many choose to keep more than one in their own homes and may end up with eight or ten or more, as they are not willing to let any of them find new homes with the excuse that no one will love and care for them better than they do. Many pay from their own money for vaccinations, food and pet hotels to keep stray dogs until they find a new home for them.

Steps forward have been made and many things have changed already, but still much needs to be done.  For all of us who work with dogs every day, there is hope for the future to make the world a better place for man’s best friend.

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