Yes, you love your dog, and you’d like to take them with you wherever you go. But is your dog well-behaved around people and other pets? Here’s how to be a courteous and responsible dog owner.
Keep your dog greeting quick and positive
Before you allow your pup to greet a potential four-legged friend, pay attention to body language. “When two dogs are meeting, make sure both dogs are calm and show inviting body language,” says Vicky Haines, a rescue and rehabilitation trainer in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. You can recognize when dogs are calm when they have relaxed tails, relaxed bodies, soft eyes, and are responsive to their handlers. Since dogs can sense your energy, it’s important to make sure you are calm as well. “Avoid face-to-face contact and let the dogs smell each other’s rears,” she notes. “Allow the dogs to guide you by their body language and energy. I like to keep on-leash meetings quick and positive,” she says. In contrast, Haines cautions, “If either dog is puffed up, making themselves look big, stiff, tail held high, fixed eyes, or at the end of their leash, keep walking. That dog is not a good candidate to introduce to your dog.” Find out the 50 secrets your pet won’t tell you.
Walk your pup on a leash
Please don’t be that person—the person who walks their dog down the sidewalk without a leash. You may be surprised how your dog reacts to an unfamiliar pet or situation. Caitlin Ultimo, content manager, managing editor, and resident pet expert at Chewy, shares, “Your pet may be well-behaved off leash, but you should consider that other pets on a leash may not be okay with a curious dog walking right up to them. Additionally, a leash protects your dog from the unexpected. You never know if something will spook your dog into running into harm’s way.” Ultimo’s leash of choice? A retractable leash to give your pet that feeling of freedom, but with the necessary security, she says. Just make sure you keep it reigned in when entering crowded areas or you’re near busy streets.
Respect other pets and pet parents
Just because you love your dog, it doesn’t mean that another pet owner or their pet will share those same feelings. Ultimo says, “In general, it’s important to have respect for other pets and pet parents. Your dog may be friendly, but that doesn’t mean all dogs are.” She urges owners to “always ask if it’s okay for your dog to say ‘hello’ before approaching another pet while out and about.” Each dog is unique and remembering that every pet reacts differently in new situations fosters a more positive, pet community for everyone. Here are 50 facts about your dog we bet you never knew.
Clean up after your dog
Point blank: Scoop your pet’s poop! “Leaving your pet’s number 2 behind on walks is not only creating a potential mess for someone to step in, but also poses certain health risks too,” Ultimo says. “Dog waste carries bacteria and parasites, like hookworms. These parasites can be passed to other dogs if sniffed, touched or ingested. And, people may come into contact with these parasites and also experience some sickness as a result.” You may even notice some white dog poop in your dog’s stool. To take care of your dog’s business while out on a walk, “pick it up in a dog poop bag, tie or fasten it closed, and then toss it in a designated trash can–preferably one that is emptied on a regular basis.”
Understand that some barking is appropriate
If you are a new dog owner or the new adopter of an old dog, you may be overwhelmed the first time your pet barks. But it’s important to remember barking is a form of communication for Fido. There are right times for a dog to bark, like when someone comes to your house or knocks on your door. However, if your dog barks at every dog, person, leaf, or plastic bag that passes by the window, it might be time for you to consider some positive training techniques, says Haines. One training technique, she suggests, is “when your dog starts to bark inappropriately, call your dog to you. When he comes, offer him a treat and use the word ‘yes’ as praise. After a couple of days, you can begin to phase out the treats and keep using the word ‘yes’ as praise. Using a short word like ‘yes’ communicates to your dog very quickly and clearly they have done something right. I use it in all aspects of training.” This same technique can be utilized when you are taking your dog for a walk as well. In short, to distract your dog from inappropriate barking, you have to be more interesting than whatever the thing is that’s holding your dog’s attention.
Make sure your pet is spayed or neutered
Some pet owners don’t like the idea of spaying or neutering their beloved dog. But what they don’t realize is they could be putting their dog’s health at risk. “It’s thought that spaying and neutering can help prolong your pet’s life,” Ultimo says. “It leaves female pets less prone to develop urinary infections and breast tumors, and males less likely to develop prostate issues and testicular cancer. Neutering can also help control some unruly behaviors, such as marking on your furniture or aggression towards other pets.”
If your dog destroys someone’s property, own up to it
Of course, you’d like to think your precious pooch would never do anything bad. But in reality, it’s probably going to happen to you at some point. “Dogs, especially puppies, can chew things that don’t belong to them,” Haines says. “They don’t care that your house guest paid $500 for those new shoes!” Haines says, “The only polite thing to do in these cases is to apologize and replace the item or provide the monetary value.”
Keep an eye on your dog at the park
To make your dog’s experience as safe as possible, Haines provides these tips for taking your dog to an off-leash area where there are going to be other loose dogs: Before going, exercise your dog or practice some obedience training. This takes the edge off of your dog, so he will be calmer in a park filled with high energy, anxious, sometimes fearful, and dominant dogs; you want your dog to be able to socialize safely and have good doggie manners. You’ll also want to make sure he comes when called, so if there is any trouble, you want your dog to leave the situation when you ask him too. Before entering, have your dog sit quietly at each gate. (When a dog enters a dog park with an abundance of excitement and energy, this attracts other dogs to the gate, which could escalate into a dangerous situation.) While in the park, walk with your dog. Avoid standing around talking to other dog owners while your dog is off on its own. Instead, invite fellow dog owners to walk with you. Although many people do this, avoid bringing balls or toys to the park, especially during peak hours. (Dogs can often get possessive, and this could lead to fights.)
Set your pup up for success
“Try to be mindful that you’re responsible for your pet. At the end of the day, your dog can’t speak for himself and may need some guidance when it comes to exhibiting good behavior. You can show your dog you love him by giving him the essentials, like food, water, and shelter, but also consideration, compassion, and understanding.” says Ultimo. Haines encourages people to go to at least one beginner obedience class. “Whether you have a new puppy or have just adopted an older dog, these classes really help you to learn about your dog’s body language, energy, fears, and triggers. Dogs bring such joy and enrich our lives so much. We owe it to them to really try to understand them and create a trust they can count on through anything. Most of all, have fun with your dog!” (Find out all the secrets your dog knows about you.)