Jayne Dawson: Here’s an idea – don’t drug your dog, just look after it

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There are things you don’t see on the streets anymore: children playing out, flocks of sparrows, packs of dogs.

I’m glad about the dogs, they were always terrifying, but there they were.

That’s how dogs were treated - like children, they were let out to “play” for the day.

You and your little friends would be playing hopscotch, or skipping, or whip and top and along would come Ben the Alsatian from that house on the end, with his raggle taggle of mongrel pals.

Their idea of a good time was to barge into your fun, growl into your face and nip your legs. Honestly, that’s how it was, happened all the time.

That Alsatian used to terrorise me. It would wait at the end of the street for me to come home from school, so it could terrorise me some more. Terrorising me was its main source of pleasure. I used to have to take diversions and sneak in our little-used front door while it wasn’t looking.

Strange as it seems now, no dog owners were ever part of this scenario: not the barging into the games, the growling, the nipping, the threatening waiting. For some reason, it wasn’t considered anything to do with them

Occasionally, if it tipped over into a proper bite, my mother would march on the street in a fury and shout, because that’s how we did things and that’s how dogs were treated - like children, they were let out to “play” for the day. And mess. And fight. And terrorise.

You don’t see that now - praise the Lord. These days dogs are only seen out with their owners, which is entirely as it should be. Yet this has created a problem too - because it is estimated that 80 per cent of dogs now suffer behavioural problems, for which many of them are receiving medication.

The trouble is that their owners don’t walk them, and then leave them alone for long hours while they are out working. Some 250,000 dogs in the UK are never walked at all.

The dogs, trapped in the house and unable to go out and fight with other dogs or frighten children and old people, get depressed and anxious. And eat the furniture.

I know about this, and it is an expensive businesses. Only last week a friend divulged that the anti-anxiety medication for her pet - who has developed a fear of all noise - costs £70 for each ten-day pack. She is desperately playing him desensitising recordings of ambulance sirens and hoping for the best.

Other owners, unable or unwilling to fork out the cash, are feeding their pets their own anti-depressants in a bid to cheer up their miserable mutts.

So what can be done? Well, let’s not go back to the days of letting your dog out onto the streets to play for the day. That was a terrible idea even before breeds of dogs that are little more than killing machines began to appear on the streets, dogs that make even Ben the Terroriser look like a gambolling bundle of love.

Here’s an idea. How about not buying a dog unless you are actually able to properly care for it?

It’s drastic but, you know, big problem, big solution. Because having a dog is very much like having a child. They require the same level of commitment. We need to keep saying that.

Just as it is totally against the rules to leave a child alone at home, it should be be similarly wrong to leave a dog alone.

That would cut down on the number of dogs as pets considerably - but that would be a good thing.

And there are modern-day solutions. Some people dog-share, some use dog walkers, there are even dog creches. Of course none of it is cheap, but then the drugs aren’t cheap either.

And it would help if life was a bit more friendly towards well-behaved dogs. Does every shop really need to be a complete no-go area?

If I had to choose between dogs wild on the street and dogs at home on medication, I would choose the drugs, but there is a better way - it’s called being responsible.