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Etiquette for dog owners

As pet owners, we have a responsibility to manage our pets and ensure good behavior in public.  Gentle, pain-free methods are essential to training dogs and helping them bond with their owners.  Being gentle, though, doesn’t mean allowing or sugar-coating bad manners (“He’s so excited to see you!”  “She doesn’t know her own strength”).  Cultivating appropriate behavior in our dogs paves the way for pleasant relations and peaceful coexistence among dog owners and non-owners alike.  Read on!

  1. Teach appropriate dog-to-dog introductions.  It is not appropriate for dogs to “play” with other dogs while on leash.  It may be cute when two 10-pound puppies do this; it’s not so cute at 60 pounds!  Dogs must learn that there is a time for play, and a time to pay attention to you.  If both dogs are well-behaved and focused on their owners, you can allow a walk-by so that they can greet appropriately, sniffing each other for five seconds.  Allowing your dog to jump all over other dogs can result in injury (to either dog) and a bad reputation in your neighborhood!   It also may erroneously teach your dog that all other dogs enjoy this kind of on-leash interaction…and many don’t.
  2. Always leash your dog.  It doesn’t matter how friendly Fido is:  leash laws exist for a reason.  Not everyone is comfortable around dogs, and dog owners must anticipate this and be respectful.  Only let your dog approach a stranger if that person asks.  The same rule applies to strangers walking their own dogs.  If you see another dog and owner approaching, ask first (“Can they say hi?”) and honor the other’s response.  Don’t shrug off their objection because “he’s such a nice dog”:  if he or she doesn’t want your dog to approach, no more explanation is necessary. 
  3. Prevent barking.  Practice the Attention exercise so as to easily redirect Fido if he barks at people or other dogs.  If you know your dog behaves this way, allow her in the yard only when supervised.  If she barks at passers-by and other dogs from the car, close your side windows and cover them.  Consider using a Calming Cap to reduce her field of vision, and – if there is room – crate her with a chew toy.  Allowing her to bark through an open window appears inconsiderate and careless, and can frighten both people and dogs within earshot.
  4. Be aware of other peoples’ space.  Keep your leashed dog close to you and stay alert to others using the path/park/sidewalk, etc.  Your leash should be slack but short enough to prevent Fido from contacting or jumping on passers-by.  Even if people say, “It’s okay,” your dog needs to learn to behave appropriately in public.  Some people dislike dogs, others are frightened of them, still others may simply prefer well-mannered dogs!    A well-trained dog and a considerate handler set a great example of responsible ownership to their communities, and ensure that dogs will continue to be welcome there.
  5. Be aware of other peoples’ feelings.  If your dog does something that upsets someone else (jumping up, running after them, barking at them, etc.), apologize to that person and take measures to prevent the situation from re-occurring.  Do this even if your dog’s behavior appeared benign in nature.  Shrugging it off as an overreaction or a personal slight will not improve your dog’s behavior and may negatively impact your reputation in the community.
  6. Scoop your poop!  No excuses:  few things sour dog-to-human relations more than poop left where others can step in it.  Bring an excess of bags on each walk to be sure you have enough.  If you run out of bags, either come back and clean it up or ask another walker if they have a bag to spare.  Cleaning up every time will set a good example for others and promote an image of dog owners as caring, responsible citizens…a good thing all around!

This material is copyright of Animal Humane Society and can only be used with written permission.

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