Having a dog gives you a sense of connection to other dog people within your community. It can also lead you to assume that all dog-walkers have the same goal, whether it’s to make friends or just to allow dogs to do their business and be done. If you use dog walking for socialization but keep finding yourself curbed by others, you may be committing a canine etiquette faux pas. While everyone walks their dogs in their own ways for their own reasons, following a few ground rules will help you stay on good terms with your neighbors and fellow dog owners.
1. Use a leash.
This is a cardinal rule. If you are not in an off-leash area, such as a dog park, you should always have your dog on a leash during your walk. While your dog may have excellent recall, there’s no telling what might trigger him to bolt or involve him in a contentious situation with either another dog or a person. At the end of the day, not everyone wants to be approached by your dog, no matter how cute he is. Keeping him on leash is an easy way to maintain peace. (Recall training is best done in a contained area such as your backyard or a dog park, places that offer space without the risk of cars, joggers or evil mailmen.)
2. Be respectful.
This goes for people and property alike. When it comes to other people, don’t let your dog run up to or jump on them—frankly, it’s just rude. Also, refrain from clotheslining your fellow pedestrians: keep your dog close so others can pass you without fear of falling.
And while we understand how specific dogs can be about where they potty, keep them off neighborhood lawns. Landscaping is expensive and time-consuming, and dog pee is a lawn killer.
3. Pick up your dog’s poop.
Seriously. Just do it. It’s not fertilizer, it’s damaging to the environment and nobody wants to step in it. People who fail to pick up after their dogs give all of us a bad name. Don’t be that person.
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4. Be cognizant.
You are responsible for your dog, so be aware of his behavior and interactions. If he’s jumpy, gets in another dog’s face, barks or wraps his leash around others, stop him. Know when a situation is getting unfriendly and act accordingly.
Basically, when it comes to being social, try to keep other people’s prerogatives in mind. Don’t let your dog approach other dogs while they are eliminating—it’s distracting for the dog and frustrating for the owner, who’s no doubt keen on her dog completing this function. Keep meet-and-sniffs brief, and don’t take it personally when people keep their pace, since you don’t know what kind of schedule they’re on.
While walking your dog might not be the time to socialize, there are other places to mingle with fellow dog lovers. Keep on keeping on, social butterfly, just keep your dog on a leash.