My dog invaded a picnic in the park and I was mortified! Now all he wants to do is eat picnics. I've resorted to keeping him on the lead. Is this cruel? Elizabeth May, London
Oh dear – how embarrassing! But just count yourself lucky that you live in a city where you are allowed to let your dog off the lead. If you were living in New York, you would not have the luxury of letting your dog run freely in the park. The park is obviously for everybody, not just dogs and their owners, and we need to be respectful of that. Some owners think it is cruel to keep their dogs on the lead, while others would never dream of letting their dogs run free.
You need to make the walk fun for both of you but remember, different dogs need different amounts of exercise – make sure you don't over-exercise them. You need to have a balance. What you don't want is your dog to keep practising this behaviour, so for the summer months you should avoid going near picnics. I would invest in a long, retractable lead and try not to go at peak periods to the park. If you have time at the weekends, you could take your dog out to the countryside or to one of the larger London parks, such as Richmond. As he clearly loves his food (he is a dog, after all), take some treats or dried food with you and keep him regularly rewarded. This should keep his mind off the picnics! Anyway, if this summer is anything like last summer you won't have many picnics to worry about.
Send your queries to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember that if an animal shows signs of distress or discomfort, an early visit to the vet is always recommended.