Tuesday, July 5, 2016

5 dog walking etiquette rules everyone should follow

Sinead the Boston terrier and hydrangea

What's the best way to help your dog make good decisions in your home day in, day out? A walk. A dog-walking habit helps to reinforce your relationship with your dog. A walk helps your dog to burn off energy. And, a walk helps to expose your dog to new sights, sounds and smells, and that can help your dog to think, learn and grow.

So everyone should walk dogs (and I even have tips about dog-walking gear you can use to get started).

But not everyone walks their dogs in the right way.

In fact, there are plenty of people out there who make poor dog-walking decisions that impact my ability to walk my dog safely.

We're talking etiquette here. These are my top 5 rules all dog walkers should follow.

1. Keep the dog leash on.

Many cities (including mine) have rules concerning leashes in public places. Those rules are designed to keep dogs out of private yards and out of the roadways. In short, they're rules that are made to keep your dog safe. And, they are rules that make dogs a little more appealing to non-dog people.

Every walk should begin with a lead clipped to a harness or a collar. And that leash should remain clipped until the dog is inside the home again. If you're not a fan of using leashes, walk your dog on your own property. Or head to a designated area (such as an off-leash dog park) to exercise your dog. But don't assume that all public places are great spaces for off-leash work. They are not.

Sinead the Boston terrier on a leash

2. Do not expect a meet and greet.

I've written a little about this before, but my dogs are not prepared to meet your dog (or any dog) while we're out on a walk. This is especially true of Sinead. She is small, she has some fear issues and she cannot handle the idea of a stranger dog running at her face when she is on a leash and she cannot get away.

It doesn't matter to me that your dog is friendly. Mine is not. Yelling "He's friendly!" doesn't help. Keeping your dog away from mine certainly does help.

If you'd like your dog to hang out with other dogs, head to the dog park. Meet other dog-friendly people at the dog park and have your own at-home play groups. Or schedule group walks with another person who has a dog you know and trust.

But please. Do not use your walk to socialize your dog with other dogs.

3. Pick up the poop. 

This one should be obvious, but often, it's something dog owners neglect to do. When your dog leaves something behind on a walk (and most walks are at least a little bit about pooping), it's your job to pick that up and dispose of it in an appropriate trash receptacle. This isn't optional.

4. Yield the right of way. 

Pedestrians have the right of way, and often, pedestrians are moving pretty darn fast when they're unencumbered by a dog. Sadly, I've seen many dog walkers who block the entire sidewalk with leashes and dogs and bags and more, while they're scanning their phones and not looking around them. Please be kind to the humans you share the road with, and be aware of how much space you're taking with your dog. If you see a person coming up behind you, head over to the parking strip with your dog and let that person pass. Stepping aside is easy, and it makes loving dog walkers much easier too.

Keep dog treats on hand

5. Keep dog treats on hand at all times.

Notice the rapt attention Sinead is giving me in this photo? It's due, in part, to the treats I have in my hand. It's much easier to make looking and me and listening to me rewarding for her when I have something delicious in my hands. That's true both at home and out in the neighborhood.

When you have treats on hand during a walk, you have a secret weapon you can use if your dog is about to do something dangerous, like run after a squirrel, jump up on a person or pounce on another dog. Your treats can help to pull your dog's focus back where it belongs: On you. 

Bonus: Treats are private. People yelling "Sparky! No!" over and over again are bound to rile up my dogs, while having no impact on the Sparkys of the world. But a person with a cookie can just hold up that cookie. My dogs might never know it's there. So the whole episode doesn't escalate. 

So these are my top tips. And I know there are tons more. So do you have a few tips I've missed? I'd love to hear them. Hit me up in the comments!


  1. Oh me cats and kittens we so wish da peeps who lived in our 'pawrtment complex had furiends and/or mentors like you. We don't have anythin' against doggies, but sometimes da humans they belong to can make you sooooo mad. Fanks fur visitin'. Sinead be lookin' gawjus.

    Luv ya'

    Dezi and Raena

  2. These are all great tips and ones I follow.

  3. He has such a cute and funny face ! Good tips for dog owners !