Most dog owners need to walk their dogs out on the street and in public in order to get to suitable off-lead spaces and dog parks, or simply as part of the dog’s daily routine of walks and exercise.
Meeting and greeting other dogs that they pass out and about is not only a part of day-to-day life for most dogs, but also a valuable chance to socialise them, and dogs actively seek out the company of others and enjoy spending time with other dogs as a rule.
However, every dog owner has a responsibility to ensure that their dog is kept under control and doesn’t cause a problem for other dogs and their owners, and communication between dog owners that meet out and about is vital to ensure that all of the dogs (and people) get on!
We all know the basics of good dog ownership etiquette, like picking up the poop and not petting someone else’s dog without asking – but when it comes to how you walk and manage your own dog when out in public, many dog owners inadvertently commit mistakes without realising it that can make life more difficult than others.
In this article we will outline five ways in which you might be causing problems for other dogs and owners when you walk your own dog – and explain how and why to correct them. Read on to learn more.
Retractable leashes can be useful to allow our dogs a little more freedom to explore the world whilst keeping them from running off, but they need to be used properly in order to offer the appropriate level of control.
A retractable leash that is fully extended or any other form of leash that is very long can cause more problems than it prevents, and often, other people and their dogs will feel the brunt of this.
If your dog gets too far ahead on the lead, you won’t be able to check them and bring them back to you quickly if you need to, and you may not be able to intervene in time to prevent a problem from arising.
A dog that is on a long or overly loose lead can’t be controlled in the same way as a dog on a shorter lead, so in close quarters with others or when walking along roads, keep your dog close and your lead short.
Additionally, a fully extended lead might trip or tangle up another dog, or your dog might wrap it around them before you can stop them – and if your dog gets ahead of you round a corner, they might end up in the middle of a situation before you even realise it.
Dogs need to be allowed time and space to handle their own social interactions, and too much human input into this can actually cause problems between the two dogs, rather than diffusing them. However, dog owners also get to dictate who their own dogs meet or avoid, and you should respect their right to make this decision.
Don’t let your dog approach another dog (particularly if that dog is on a lead or outside of an ongoing social situation with other dogs) without checking with their owner first – and never let your dog run up to a strange dog without an introduction with both owners present.
Many dogs are nervous with others, may be unpredictable in their reactions, or my not be able to play with others due to a health condition or injury, and so the presence of other dogs can often cause problems.
Some owners of such dogs use a yellow collar, ribbon or lead as a signal that their dog needs space, so keep a particular eye out for this – but never let your dog get up close to another dog you don’t know without checking that this is ok.
Additionally, just because your dog is great with others, another dog might not be – and there are few things more frustrating for other dog owners than trying to keep another dog away from their own for whatever reason, while the other owner cheerfully calls “don’t worry, my dog is fine” – this is disrespectful and irresponsible.
Jumping up is a bad behaviour on the part of a dog, but one that many owners ignore or fail to correct. When your dog only jumps up at you, the problem remains your own – but if they jump up at other people, you’re making the issue someone else’s problem, and this is unreasonable and disrespectful.
Even most other dog lovers don’t want to be jumped up at, and people that don’t own dogs don’t usually take this well at all, and if your dog hurts someone, scares them, or gets their clothes dirty, you will have to answer for it and put things right.
If your dog jumps up at others, keep them on a lead, and prevent them from doing this.
Sharing treats is a quick way to make lots of new dog friends in the park, but getting a bag of treats out with lots of dogs around can be a recipe for disaster – and you should never give someone else’s dog a treat without asking them first.
Some dogs might be on a diet, suffer from food allergies, or be an adept scavenger that their owner is trying to retrain – or they might become dominant with other dogs in competition for food. Quite understandably, most dog owners want to know and approve what their dog is eating, and retain the power of veto to say no.
Don’t give someone else’s dog treats without permission, and if a dog is present that can’t have a treat, keep your treats hidden and wait until the dog in question has gone.
Off-lead play in the dog park is very rewarding for dogs, but problems and disagreements can occur in even the happiest of temporary packs.
As mentioned, too much unnecessary intervention from people doesn’t always help dogs to get along, but if another dog owner asks you to recall your dog, keep them under control, or take them away from their dog (or keep your dog in place whilst they retreat) you should always comply with this.
It may not be obvious to you why they are asking you to so this, but it is still their prerogative to do so – so act first, and ask for clarification afterwards, if you need to. Just because your dog seems to be happy or if you can’t spot an issue yourself, this does not mean it is ok to ignore another dog owner’s request to take control when it affects them.