Though the “unspoken rules” of dog walking are as common sense to many of us dog owners and dog walkers as knowing what to do with our bottles and cans (recycle please!), or used Kleenex/other trash (garbage!), there are, of course, some people who may be ignorant of or actively choose not to follow the etiquette of dog walking. If one were to ask a “Miss Manners” of the dog world what the “rules” entail, here are five simple tips on dog walking etiquette that will make your neighborhood much more pleasant, for you, your neighbors (some of whom may not be as accepting of dogs and their “lovably quirky” behavior as the typical dog-lover), other dogs, and, of course, your dog:
1) No trespassing! When walking your pet around a residential neighborhood, it is universally accepted as rude if you allow your dog to walk on people’s front lawns, into their gardens, snack on their landscaping, or urinate on their mail boxes, garbage cans, or lawn decorations. Best to keep him to the sidewalk, street, and encourage him to eliminate on the strip of grass that’s between the sidewalk and street.
2) Pick up the Poo! Obviously, dog walkers should be prepared, under all circumstances, with a plastic bag (or several) for picking up doggy doo… and simply toting them isn’t enough: don’t “forget” to use it! I’ve seen dog walkers make an elaborate show of getting their bag out when another person or car passes by, and then stuffing it away, still empty, as soon as the other person is gone (for shame)! Even if your dog was kind enough not to “go” on a lawn, but instead used the street, sidewalk, city planter, or grass strip between the sidewalk and street, it’s unacceptable to leave the “poo to stew” (or another more colorfully descriptive rhyming phrase… use your imagination)!
3) Your dog might be friendly. But other people might not be. Does your dog want to say hello to everyone that passes, are inspired to jog alongside runners, or chase down roller bladers and bicyclists? Not everyone may be as much of a dog lover as you are, and even if they are, they may be otherwise occupied (trying to beat their personal best time on their daily run won’t happen if they are waylaid by your well-meaning social butterfly of a dog!). If a passerby is interested in your dog, you’ll know it. Best to assume that no one is as interested in your dog as you are (or as your dog is in them), and act accordingly. Some people are afraid of dogs, don’t care for dogs (I know, who ARE these people?!) or simply may not be in the mood to be sniffed, licked, or (worst of all) jumped on. Your objective on a walk should be: keep walking, calmly and purposefully, and not to let your dog run your walk!
4) Other dogs might not be friendly either. Rule #3 also applies to other dogs. Don’t assume that other dog walkers (or dogs) are as interested in socializing their dogs as you (or your dogs) might be. Not all dogs are as happy-go-lucky, social, or calm around other dogs as your perfect Polly is… and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to change that behavior by being the recipient of an aggressive snap or bite from an unsociable dog. On the converse side of things, if your dog is a “barker,” most people prefer to err on the side of caution and stay away. Best to ask the other owner, particularly if you are going through a puppy socialization stage: “Is your dog friendly? Is it ok if we let our dogs say hi to each other?” and gauge their response, and the dog’s response/behavior when you let the two meet. Make sure you have a tight hold of your leash, and also check to make sure the other dog walker seems in control of his/her dog as well to prevent any unfortunate unpredictable encounters.
5) Best to keep the leash on. Really. Even though you might feel very confident in how “good” your dog is in his ability to walk calmly by your side off-leash and obey all of your verbal commands, his behavior could be unpredictable, depending upon the unexpected (and exciting) nature of a given stimulus (e.g., a darting cat across the street, a tempting squirrel running up a tree, another exciting looking dog, a rushing car, a kid chasing a ball), and the worst thing that could happen while walking a dog is, of course, to lose your dog. Even if you have the utmost confidence in your dog’s off-leash ability, make sure that you acquaint yourself with your city’s leash laws in the area(s) you will be walking. You don’t want to get a ticket, or worse.
As holds true for all parents, pet parents hold a significant amount of responsibility in their hands, and every time you and your pet hit the streets, you both are acting as “ambassador” for dogs, dog owners, and responsible behavior all around. As dog lovers would all agree, the presence of all of the sweet, funny, quirky, silly, wise, protective, placid, loving dogs in our lives all contribute to enriching our neighborhoods and parks, when they listen to Miss Manners, of course. Now… who wants to go for a walk?!!