When it comes to being a considerate dog parent, most owners follow a set of unspoken rules while out with their dogs. These assumed guidelines help avoid conflicts or awkward moments between owners and their dogs. It’s most commonly known as dog walking etiquette.
It can be uncomfortable when you’re confronted by another owner for something your dog did. But a little common sense goes a long way to keeping the peace in your neighbourhood.
The rule book may not always be obvious or straightforward. So to help you grasp those social graces, here’s a little insight into the etiquette most dog parents respect and follow.
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Respect other’s space
You should always be aware of others and respect their needs while out and about. If your dog is friendly, don’t assume that other dogs and people are the same.
Sometimes dogs like their own space. They could be aggressive or fearful of other dogs. But if your dog is eager to play with another and they’re not keen, this could start a fight.
So if you see another owner stop and pull their dog off to one side while on lead, chances are their dog is reactive and not comfortable with a greeting. Just give them both ample space and walk by swiftly.
Same goes for people – some children are scared of dogs and need gentle introduction. And naturally, some dogs are inquisitive about tiny people. When walking by children hold the lead closer to give them plenty of space to walk passed.
Keep your dog on a lead
It’s good manners to keep your pooch on a lead while walking the streets. And in most places, it’s required by law that you do so. But you’d be surprised by how many owners feel it’s unnecessary.
No matter how well lead-trained you feel your dog is, they could still react unpredictably in certain situations. Which could put your dog, other animals or people in danger, or cause a nuisance to your neighbours.
Nobody wants an unknown dog rambling through their front garden. Nor do they want an unrestrained dog bounding up to greet theirs. If something catches your dog’s eye, there’s no way you can control them if they run into the road.
Keeping your dog on a lead ensures the safety of you, your dog and others around you.
Pick up your poop
It infuriates me when people leave their dog’s mess in the streets! And I’m sure it ticks off other responsible dog parents and the people in your neighbourhood. It gives the dog loving community a bad rep. It downgrades your area’s appeal and stops owners and their dogs from entering desirable parks and walking routes.
If you own a dog, you have a duty to care for their needs. Your dog’s habits should never impact the lives of others. I’m sure you know how annoying it is to deal with dog mess on your shoe. It’s up to us as responsible dog parents to take pride in the places we live.
Every time you leave the house, ensure you take a handful of poop bags with you. Should the inevitable happen, you’ll be prepared to clean up. Oh, and don’t just put the mess in a bag and leave it hanging from a tree or on the floor. Why some people think that’s ok is beyond me – you’re still littering the streets people! Take it to a public bin or carry it home with you.
Do as others do
If you’re in a field and you spot another dog parent putting their dog on a lead, do the same. That owner could be trying to tell you their dog needs space. Their dog could be aggressive, scared or even overly friendly with people or dogs.
If your dog runs over to their aggressive dog and your pooch is injured, that could be your fault. They made an attempt to get their dog under control. It’s advisable to teach your dog not to run straight for other dogs without getting the go-ahead from the owner, for this very reason. You never know how the other dog will react.
They may also put their dog on a lead because their dog is a boisterous player. If their dog runs over to play with yours, this could be overwhelming if you have a small, timid pup.
Either way, they’re making an attempt to control their dog’s behaviour, which means you should return that same courtesy. Call your dog back to you and put them on the lead until the other dog moves on.
Teach them not to beg or jump up
Even the biggest pooch lovers dislike having a bouncy dog all over them. And if another owner has treats in their pocket and your dog begs excessively, that can be a nuisance.
Especially if your dog follows them around or shoves their nose in the person’s pocket!
It’s basic dog parent decorum. Keep an eye on your pup and make sure they’re not harassing other owners. Teach your dog the ‘off’ command to ensure they keep all four paws on the floor.
To keep begging in check, use the body block method. Stand between your dog and the other person, then scooch fido back slowly with your body. Or use distraction by calling them over to work on training with your own treats.
Monitor play time
Those doggy play sessions should be fun and safe for everyone involved. Most owners love to see their dogs playing with others, but when that turns into something other than harmless play, this could spark conflict.
If your dog gets too enthusiastic and starts overwhelming the other dog, call them away to calm down for a minute or two. Inappropriate play could mean they’re pinning the other dog down, nipping at their face, chasing or even humping excessively. If the other dog is noticeably uncomfortable being on the receiving end of your dog’s antics, it’s time to break it up.
It’s ok to chat with the other owner if they make conversation, just ensure you’re keeping one eye on your dog at all times.
Some dogs are problem barkers as soon as they step out the front door. For some dogs, being outside is an exciting time and they’re pretty vocal about telling everyone about it.
Maybe your dog barks at others when you’re walking the neighbourhood, or they excited bark when playing with dogs. But all that noise can be frightening for some people and a bother for others.
One way of getting your dog’s barking under control is with the ‘quiet’ command. This will give you a reliable way to silence your dog on demand.
Another way is to use distraction. When you see they’re about to bark (my Loki usually shows obvious signs with a low grumble or heavy breathing) put a treat under their nose. This should draw their focus to you where you can follow with a few commands, such as sit, paw, lie down or touch.
There are many more etiquette rules for dog parents to follow, but listed above are some of the most important. This undeclared rulebook can feel like you’re navigating roadblocks at times, but really, it’s easy if you keep your eyes open and adopt a little common sense.
We all want to avoid upsetting encounters and create harmony in the neighbourhood, right… Other dogs and their owners will surely thank you for it!
Have you had an experience where you were grateful for the way the other owner reacted? Or maybe you were unexpectedly thrown into an awkward situation?
Let me know in the comments below…
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