Dog Walking Etiquette
Teaching your dog to be a good citizen might sound a little over the top, but actually, it is vital. Not having your dog under control is a prosecutable offence and should a dog attack, it can end in the offender being put to sleep. That is not something you want for your dog, and as a dog owner, you should understand and respect other owners. We all deserve space to exercise with our four-legged friends in a safe, calm environment, and with more so, here are some ways to make sure your dog is never the cause of an incident that leaves everyone wishing it could have gone differently.
Good manners start very simply with respecting others. You do not know what a fellow dog walker is already dealing with. They may have a nervous rescue dog, a puppy that was attacked, or just having a bad day themselves and not wholly focused on their pooch. The basics of dog walking etiquette all boil down to respecting everyone else that you may come across. Not everyone loves dogs (shocking, I know!), but if someone is out for a jog, they don't want chasing or tripping by an out-of-control hound.
Keep Your Dog on the Lead Appropriately
Signs asking dogs to be kept on a lead are not there to annoy dog owners. On the contrary, there is likely to be a good reason. For example, there are very often rules banning dogs in children's play areas, or if they are allowed in the area, instructing owners to keep them on the lead. Areas where livestock roams free is another excellent example. You may think your dog wouldn't chase sheep, but respecting the signs is pertinent, and honestly, unless they are your livestock and you have a working dog, leads are pretty much standard. Finally, dogs should be kept on the lead by roads for their safety – it only takes a moment to run into traffic after a cat, for example, and your pet could be killed, injured or cause an accident.
Pick up Poop
Frankly, if the idea of picking up poop repulses you, then you shouldn't own a dog! It is a fundamental part of caring for your dog, and there are so many ways to dispose of waste! You can pick your weapon of choice from paw-printed dog poop bags to cheap nappy bags to eco-friendly paper bags, but there is never an excuse to walk away and leave faeces behind. You can use disposable gloves to protect your hands or purchase a plastic pooper scooper if that makes it easier. Most people use the inside out method, place your hand inside the clean, empty bag, cover the poop with your fist and use the other hand to turn the bag inside out, thus picking up the poop neatly. Also, be sure to throw it in a bin – a designated dog bin or a litter bin, or even your home bin, but do not become one of those people who leave it on the floor in a bag, or even worse, hang it from the branch of a tree.
Respect the Lead
If you are in a dog walking area, and other dogs are off lead playing, it is ok for your dog to join in once you are confident they have learned good manners and will answer recall even when distracted. However, meeting another dog on a lead or seeing an owner approach putting their dog back on the lead signals you to do the same thing. There are many reasons why dogs are on lead, and just because you have a friendly, happy dog doesn't mean you can let your pal charge over and get in their face. They could be old, sick, injured, nervous, aggressive, blind, or more. The owner has decided, and you have to respect that. Put your dog back on the lead and do not allow it to approach the other dog without permission. You could cause the owner and dog distress if you don't have your dog under proper control, and 'It's ok, he is friendly' is not an excuse.
Teach Them Not to Jump up at Others
Dogs or owners! Please do not let your dog approach anyone by jumping up. Four feet on the floor, and if you do not know how to do that, working with a dog trainer is your best bet. An older person can be badly injured if they are knocked off their feet, and sadly it happens more than you might think. This also goes for toddlers and children, and it can negatively impact how they view dogs for the rest of their lives. In addition, dogs can be traumatised by a bouncing on from another dog, so please teach your dog how to approach everyone calmly.
Training is an ongoing process, so even when you reach the point that you can confidently let your dog play with other off lead dogs, you cannot afford to get lazy. Playtime should be monitored, even if you are standing chatting with other owners. It is vital that it remains play and doesn't get too rough. Unneutered males can be the biggest source of over rough play but do not think for one moment that you can stop watching just because you have a female dog or neutered male. Personality clashes and over excitedness can happen at any time. If it turns from play to something that resembles early-stage fighting, end it, and get all dogs back on the lead to calm down.
Barking is a natural thing for dogs, but it can also be a nuisance and isn't a particularly appealing trait. Teaching your dog the quiet command is an essential training skill and should be worked on until the dog understands. It is much better manners for a dog to play without constantly barking. It is also important they can pass other dogs and cats without shouting at them. Positive reinforcement is the best way to teach anything to your dog. But, again, any dog can forget their manners, so you mustn't overlook bad habits that start to form and regularly remind them of the quiet command.
Article by Derek from Finchley Dog Walker
This is a guest blog by one of our many animal community friends. It has not been written by The Finchley Vet staff. We love to showcase other people's work as we think it makes things more interesting for you, our readers, however, it does mean that we have not checked any of the facts and any opinions are those of the author and not of the Finchley Vet, or Local Vet Ltd.