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Meeting the Neighbors
Thank you canine family members!

When we moved to our first house in Wisconsin after years of being students and renting, we were very excited about our new life as homeowners. We couldn’t help feeling that life would be just a little easier, and just a little sweeter in this new place—820 square feet of “Well, at least we own it!” And it was true—life was good there. Of course, the reason wasn’t so much that we owned the place as that we met the most wonderful neighbors and the sense of community was so strong from our very first day in the house.

 
And how did we get to know people so quickly that it made our lives better? Because we walked our dog a couple of times a day, and so did most of the people living near us. In my experience, there has never been a better way to meet your neighbors than walking your dog. As soon as we pulled up and before we unloaded the truck, we took Bugsy out for a walk, and immediately ran into a couple and their dog who I had met as my clients. Half a block later, we met another woman walking her two dogs—both black mutts like ours, and we walked together for a bit until we got to her house, all the while discussing the possible breeds that our dogs might have in them. Forty-five minutes later, we had met half a dozen more of our neighbors and their dogs, and felt incredibly welcome.
 
By the end of the week, we had met a dozen more families that included dogs, and many of them had stopped by with wine, cookies, flowers, and from one kind neighbor who was clearly no stranger to moving, giant trash bags, some picture hangers and a magnet listing important local emergency numbers. That guy also brought over some dog treats—can you ever say you’ve met a more thoughtful person?
 
Of course, many nice people who welcomed us into the neighborhood did not have dogs, but I’m convinced that having a dog was a key reason we met people quickly and that they were so good to us. I realize that dogs can often be a source of great tension between neighbors, such as when barking is an issue or dogs destroy a neighbor’s garden, or other property, or worst of all, if a dog is frightening another neighbor (especially children). But I still think more good than bad neighborhood relations result from having dogs. Has anyone else found that their dogs were excellent social facilitators when they moved to a new house?
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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.

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