We live on a minuscule rock, with a gargantuan amount of people packed onto it. This could be a recipe for disaster, but there’s always a solution to human-hating. That solution is dogs. But it’s not fair to get so much from our fluffy friends, and not even consider their wellbeing. So here ar are some doggy dos and don’ts to follow in Malta.
1. Do take him swimming
We may be short of land, but we definitely don’t lack sea. Most dogs love swimming, and it’s excellent exercise. Another plus is that you won’t look like a creepy voyeur if you go alone to the beach with your dog.
A few rules: besides the “official” dog beaches, it is legal for your dog to swim at any rocky beach outside bathing zones (which are not to be confused with swimming zones which are normally marked by buoys, bathing zones are normally not marked and apply all year round) unless there’s a sign specifically prohibiting it.
Make sure your dog is under control, he’s not annoying anyone and that you clean up after him. Sandy beaches are generally a no-no for the pooches, but one notable exception is L-Imġiebaħ in Selmun. Also, unlike us wussy humans, dogs don’t mind the sea being a bit cold. Most beaches are dog-friendly during the winter months (although the ban on sandy beaches is year round).
2. Don’t put him in danger
Malta has an abundance of sandfly, the insect that transmits canine Leishmania, which is an ugly infection your dog doesn’t want to get. Try and avoid sunrise and sunset excursions, but if you must take him out at those times, try and keep moving, since sandfly is less likely to attack a moving target. Also, use appropriate repellent collars, apply monthly repellent drops and spray your dog with Citronella or Neem oil before going out.
And please, don’t take your dog out for long walks in August at noon. Tarmac is scalding and Rex can’t take off his fur coat. Needless to say, never leave your dog in the car in the sun. In summer, dogs, especially short-faced breeds like pugs and boxers, are prone to over-heating, and this can be lethal. Make sure your pooch has lots of water to drink and shade to cool down in.
3. Don’t leave him stuck indoors
Dogs should go out regularly, and so should you. Make sure that you take your dog for some outdoors time once, preferably twice a day. Peeing on the neighbour’s garbage bags doesn’t count as an outing, make an event of it.
4. Do let him off-leash
But make sure it’s an appropriate area. Streets, playgrounds, shops and cathedrals are not the right place for Fido to frolic free. Dog parks, valleys and the countryside are. Make sure your dog is controllable and that you have a good recall command.
5. Do clean up after him
Dog do is annoying, smelly and unhygienic. Poop bags are cheap. Always carry one more than necessary, since wardens can book you if you don’t have one, even if your dog has already laid his brown eggs for the day.
6. Do get physical
Take your dog jogging with you. It tires him out, but a tired dog is a happy dog. It also decreases your risk of heart disease and makes you a better overall human.
7. Do take him out for dinner
Most outdoor restaurants take dogs, as do some indoor ones (Café Jubilee is an example), so eating out doesn’t mean being away from your canine companion. However, always ask before entering, always keep him leashed, don’t let him eat out of your plate (not everyone appreciates your dog’s butt-taste second hand) and try and keep him quiet.
8. Don’t be a nuisance
You may think the sun shines out of your pup’s bottom, but the feeling isn’t mutual. When walking your dog, be on the alert. Don’t let him sniff crotches, children or other dogs unless it’s obvious that he’s welcome. Some people are afraid of dogs and some cultures not entirely accepting of their slobbery love. Keep your dog restrained in public places and learn to read the signals. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and keep Butch at your side, rather than at the heels of a panicked old lady.
9. Do get a dog
Life is better with a dog. Adopt one if possible. Having a scruffy, smelly, noisy mutt is just as rewarding as having a sleek purebred Samoyed. Check out SPCA, AAA or Noah’s Ark Sanctuary for dogs available for adoption. Join RUBS Puppy Love on Facebook; you’ll find puppies, advice and righteous indignation in equal measures.
This article has been updated to better reflect the laws of dogs on beaches.