Back in London, I had my Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Matilda. Matilda has a great temperament, is very friendly and intelligent – she even once featured on Channel 4’s TV show about the most intelligent dogs in the UK.
It was normal for me and Matilda to go walking together in parks, cemeteries, playing fields, where she would roam off the lead. Going for a sniff here and there, and going to say hello to any other dogs and people out walking.
The interesting paradox in the UK is that dogs get a lot more freedom in a city like London because dogs can walk freely in almost any open public place. In the English countryside there is always the concern over livestock – dogs can’t worry farm animals, and many beaches have dog restrictions.
Here in Brazil it’s all different for dogs.
Many people have pet dogs and there are not a huge number of strays wandering the streets – like India where stray hounds are all over the place. But it seems the dogs fall into one of two camps. They are either guard dogs or toy dogs with very little in between.
So, you can walk past a house and an aggresive Rottweiler or German Shepherd will do it’s best to attack you. Making you fear that the gate might open and a dog resembling the one in the Omen might get you. Or you walk past someone in the street who has a couple of tiny toy dogs that are so aggressive, it’s impossible to get close to them.
And it’s not possible to let them off the lead in parks. In fact, it’s not possible to even enter the park, because most parks ban dogs. Given the way most dogs here behave, that’s understandable, but it compounds the problem because what most of these dogs really need is socialisation with other dogs and people. Banning them from parks, banning them from being able to run free anywhere, and encouraging them to remain locked up at home all day, or walked around the block for just ten minutes each evening means most of the dogs here are neurotic and anti-social.
I sense an enormous business opportunity. Not kennels or training, just offering a safe place for dogs to play and socialise together in a place where leads are not required and owners can chat together and allow their mutts to meet. I’m sure I could earn a fortune for setting up something that’s available in every single park in London.