by Jay Remer, the Etiquette Guy
One of the most rewarding activities many people enjoy now that the weather is warming up is taking their dogs for nice leisurely walks. The hurried cold winter walks are part of the past now, and joining friends to walk around town and catch up on local gossip is back on the schedule. I enjoy walking or cycling through town and seeing the greenery reappearing, the flowers dotting the many yards and the gardens beginning to show their forms. I know the small garden I have in front of my house is not much to see at the moment, but it does have a few perennials whose shoots are emerging from their winter’s rest.
As I was walking down the sidewalk, I approached a lady with her dog who was standing squarely in the weed-covered patch, which is my garden. I mentioned casually that I would have to put up a short fence this year in order to keep dogs from using the spot. This seemed like a reasonable statement to me, but the woman was surprised. She suggested that I post a sign for dogs to keep off. I said that I supposed that I did need to do just that. And that concluded the conversation.
As I reflected on what had just occurred, I wondered whether other neighbors had to post signs on their garden plots to protect them from dogs being exercised. There are a lot of dogs in our small town and if every one of them lifted their legs or squatted on our gardens, they’re be little left to enjoy; the soil would be ruined and the ground would be nasty to put work with your hands, to say the least!
The first and foremost point of etiquette when walking or exercising,(ie; taking your dog out to relieve themselves) is to respect other people’s property, including their gardens. If you have ever knelt down to weed your garden, only to come into contact with a fresh pile of dog poo and the stench of urine, you know how off putting that experience can be. No one enjoys it and everyone’s dog’s poo is disconcerting; yes, everyone’s! My advice is twofold: One, don’t let your dog into anyone’s garden and two, if you’re unsure if where your dog is wandering is a garden or not, assume that it is and stay away. Put yourself in the gardener’s shoes. Finally, remember to always clean up after your dogs! Always carry a bag with you.
Do be sure to keep your dog on a leash if there are town leash laws. This is not only for the safety of the animal, but also for other animals, including cats and squirrels — even other dogs and children. It is also a safety factor for motorists. I have seen too many dogs dart out into the street once they see something they wish to chase. This can end in disaster and both the animal and driver can be injured and frightened badly.
If you make the decision to entrust your child with walking the family pet, be sure you have walked the route with them before; be certain the leash and collar or harness fit the dog correctly. I have been amazed at out quickly a dog can escape a collar that is too loose. I recommend a nylon slip lead collar or a harness as the safest equipment. I also suggest that all dogs go to a puppy kindergarten class or some kind of socialisation class. This provides novice owners with invaluable skills so that walking your dog is a fun and healthy experience, not a minefield of risk and fear.
Doggie etiquette may also involve dog parks. At every enclosed park, there is a set of clearly posted rules. These rules are important; they have been carefully written and they must be followed - all of them, by everyone. Most require dogs to be off-leash. This is very important because dogs cannot communicate with each other if they are constrained by a leash. If you are unsure about how your dog will react in such an environment, ask a friend who owns a dog to go with you when the park is quiet. Let your two dogs interact off-leash. If this goes well, you can feel confident that things will likely be okay. If this kind of risk is uncomfortable for you, stay out of the park.
Find a routine that you and your dog(s) enjoys. Dogs thrive on routine and the closer you can stick to one, the more fun and less stress both you and your dog will experience. After all, walking your dog should be one of the greatest joys of both your life and your dog’s. If it isn’t, it’s likely your fault, not your dog’s. Practicing unconditional love, just as your dog does, is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Jay Remer is the Etiquette Guy, and is certified by the Protocol School of Washington as a consultant for corporate etiquette and international protocol.