Monday, May 23, 2016

Let's go for a walk! Dog walking etiquette

Our dogs love to go for walks. We enjoy spending time out with our four-legged companions, and they love the sights and sounds and smells. It should be a pleasant and safe experience, but like anything else, there are rules. Follow them and all is well. Ignore them….well, things could get ugly.

What sort of rules, you ask? Just what is proper etiquette when walking your dog in a public area? Let’s take a look at the guidelines we all should follow when walking with our best friends.

First of all, most communities require two things: 

  • 1.       Your pet must be on a leash at all times
  • 2.       You must clean up after your pet when they leave “presents” behind.

Those two should be easy, but you’d be surprised how many dog owners don’t follow those basic rules. Even those of us who love dogs don’t want other people’s pets leaving messes on their lawn. Make sure to always carry an adequate supply of plastic bags to pick up the poo. 

Most cities have leash laws, requiring all pets to be on a leash when out in public. This serves a couple purposes. It keeps your pet under control (or should) at all times. Even the most obediently trained dogs can react to something sometimes that might make them leave your side. You certainly don’t want your dog running up on people. You risk your dog biting someone, or at the very least, scaring someone or knocking them down. If they run up on another dog, a fight could ensue. The leash not only protects people from unwelcome contact with your dog, it also protects your dog from situations where he might be injured or lost. An unleashed dog could bolt into traffic, with tragic results, or run away and become lost. 

Always, ALWAYS leash your dog.

If your dog makes a mess, clean it up. It’s that simple. Many cities have regulations regarding this as well, but, even if they don’t, it’s just common courtesy. No one wants to walk out in their yard and step in dog poo (especially on your front lawn where your own dog does not go). 

Some of your neighbors might take issue with your dog going potty on their yard even if you do clean it up. Always be considerate of those who don’t welcome strange dogs on their lawn, and keep to the sidewalk if needed. 

Those two issues aside, there are other things to be aware of.

One of the most important things is, simply, know your dog. Know what he or she likes and dislikes. Does he hate the mailman? Does she go bonkers over squirrels? Does he want to pick a fight with other dogs he sees? Knowing your dog’s behavior is essential. Don’t put your dog in a situation that causes you to lose control of him. Don’t walk your dog in areas that might be trouble spots for him. A properly socialized dog is crucial. Otherwise, you will spend the whole time trying to control an unruly pet and the experience will be stressful and unpleasant for both of you. 

If you notice another dog walker approaching who does not have their dog under control, it might be best to change course or step aside and allow them to pass at a safe distance. Even if the other dog is under control, be cautious. If it is a dog you aren’t familiar with, avoid letting the two run up on each other. Even the friendliest dog can have a negative reaction to another dog at times.

Don’t forget, not everyone loves dogs. Don’t let your leashed dog run to or jump on other people you pass. They may not welcome the contact. Keep your dog close to you. If they want to pet your dog, be sure your dog is welcome to the attention of strangers before allowing it. Never risk your dog biting someone. 

Lastly, if you don’t have the time or energy to walk your dog, consider hiring a dog walker. There are many services out there. An Internet search for dog walking services in your area should turn up quite a few options. Do your research and make sure it is a reputable service before hiring a dog walker. 

Following a few basic rules will create a safe and enjoyable experience for both you and your dog.

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