The Do’s & Don’ts of Dog Walking Etiquette
Here at Dog Rocks, we don’t hang about. We’re all for getting out of doors and into the natural world wherever possible.
Coat? Check. Wellies? Check. Give us a lead and a couple of poo bags, and we’re all set.
If you’ve never even considered the fact that there may be more than this to a dog walk, then… we get it. If truth be told, nor did we!
But when you find yourself yelling “Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” as your enthusiastic pooch barrels over to play with another pup, gets under the feet of little old ladies in the park, or knocks over a small child who instantly starts bawling to their mum, then we might have a slight problem.
Walks with an excitable and unruly pup can be a bit of a rollercoaster (to put it mildly), and there are days when you just wish the ground would swallow you up. But, this is all just normal doggy behaviour… right?
Well, not exactly. If you’re having the slow realisation that you see your own dog in this scene and, horrifyingly, you might just be that owner, then don’t panic! We’ve all learnt the hard way that there are some unspoken dog walking etiquette guidelines you should try and abide by to be a responsible pet parent. Read on for some embarrassing tales and hard-earned lessons to keep your walks as enjoyable and stress-free as possible!
The Do’s of Dog Walking Etiquette
1. Plan ahead & be alert
If you’ve ever witnessed, as if in slow motion, your pup clocking a nearby family’s picnic and the subsequent swift theft of a pile of cheese and cucumber sandwiches, then you’ll have learned this one the hard way!
It goes without saying that it’s important to have your dog under control at all times, but it’s also easy to get caught out. It’s therefore worthwhile to have a rough idea of your route ahead of time, so that you can decide the best spots for some off-leash play as well as areas that will require a more watchful eye on your pooch.
In particular, be mindful walking through public spaces like parks where there will be small children about. And just because you’re in the middle of nowhere, don’t rest on your laurels! If you plan on walking through areas where livestock is grazing, you’ll want to keep your dog on a short leash.
2. Practice recall
Carrying on from the last point, if you find yourself in a pickle but don’t want to get into an out-and-out fiasco like this poor guy, then for Fenton’s sake, practice your recall!
A good recall is crucial when you want your pup to reliably return to you on command, especially because it’s impossible to account for every surprise encounter or distraction. Once a pup’s prey drive kicks in, it is especially difficult to pull their attention away from the thrill of the chase. But it can even be tricky in normal situations if your cheeky pooch would rather run off with another dog’s ball, or even just blindly choose to ignore you as they go about their merry way.
The best tactic is to start young. When your pup is a baby, they are much less likely to stray too far from you. You can train to a voice command or whistle, but keep some tasty treats on hand and reward your pup generously whenever they return to you when called. You can also vary up the treats and surprise them with some playtime or fetch. This is a great way to instil good habits for a rock-solid recall in those rebellious teenage years!
3. Pick up after your dog
It can be challenging when your pup decides there’s nowhere he’d rather go for a poop than on your neighbour’s driveway, as she watches your squatting dog with mild disdain through the living room window.
Where you can, try to toilet your pup in the garden before they go on their walk, or get them to a suitable grassy area quickly so that they can relieve themselves in comfort.
Hopefully, it goes without saying that you should always be a responsible pet parent and pick up after your dog, but we also have a gripe with bagging poo and leaving it for the countryside cleaning fairy to magic away!
Littering poo bags on the floor or hanging them from branches is just as much of an eye-sore, and impacts others’ enjoyment of their favourite countryside trails. In fact, we’re so fed up with it, that we’re on a mission to clean up our countryside this May with our #flickapoo campaign. To read more and learn how you can contribute, have a read of our mission statement here.
4. Watch out for nervous dogs
It’s not always completely obvious when trying to spot a nervous dog from a socially confident one. A good sign, however, is that they are on a lead. They may also be wearing a visual clue. For example, a yellow collar, lead, or bandana can indicate a pup that doesn’t want to be approached. That said, it’s best not to rely on colour coding and instead assume that all dogs would rather not be disturbed by a stranger.
Just because your dog is the type to go barrelling over to make a new friend, doesn’t automatically mean that this behaviour is acceptable. The other dog may be in a training session, recovering from an injury, or even aggressive if they find the situation overly stressful and threatening.
You will know your own dog very well, but don’t assume anything when it comes to greetings with unknown dogs. It’s safest to arrange doggy play dates or walks with a friend so that your dogs can get to know each other in a watchful and safe environment.
The Don’ts of Dog Walking Etiquette
1. Jump up at humans
Some dogs just want to play with other dogs. But, if you’ve ever had a particularly loyal labrador or golden retriever who just adores people, you may have noticed that they have a tendency to run straight past their tail-wagging friends and make a beeline for any unsuspecting dog walker.
Even for the most seasoned of pet owners, it can feel slightly disconcerting when an off-leash dog is hurtling towards you at full pelt, with still no indication of slowing down mere metres from impact.
If there’s anything more embarrassing than your dog jumping up at a poor woman and trying to get in her coat pocket to where some tasty treats are stashed away, it’s your dog jumping up at her with muddy paws… and hearing an unmistakable rip in her new coat.
Remember that some people are scared of dogs, and dogs don’t always know their own strength when they jump up at you with force. To avoid awkward apologies and dry-cleaner expenses, keep your dog from jumping up at people.
2. Let dogs meet on-leash
If you’ve ever got uncontrollably tangled up in leads with a complete stranger of the opposite sex, then this is either a hilariously romantic story about how you first met… or a situation you’d rather forget in a hurry!
However, it’s not just impractical when two pooches meet for the first time on a lead – it can actually be dangerous and escalate into hostility on both sides. Being on-leash means that dogs are unable to carry out natural behaviours when it comes to a friendly greeting and sussing out another pooch.
It’s best to try and avoid walking too close to strangers with dogs on the lead. Cross the street, or, if necessary, use your body to act as a necessary block where you can. If you do want to introduce two dogs, then it’s always advisable to do so in a safe area where they can be off-leash and you can easily keep an eye that all is well with some happy tail-wagging play.
3. Walk an in-season bitch
If you’ve had to learn this through experience, then… you know.
Unless you’re prepared to fend off the rapturous and undivided attention of every male dog in the local vicinity, then it’s wise not to walk your female dog when she’s in season!
Admittedly, it can be a tricky one when some dogs don’t show any obvious signs of being in season. However, dependent on the specific breed and size, you can find out a rough estimate of when to expect their first season with a little prior research.
First clues to watch out for include behaviour changes, such as being overly friendly with other dogs, mounting, and humping. Your female pup may be weeing more than normal and noticeably licking this area. You can be absolutely sure when you start to notice spots of blood and a swollen vulva.
If you have your suspicions or have confirmed that your female dog is in heat, it’s best to stick to plenty of secure outdoor play in the garden if you don’t fancy any unwanted teen pregnancies!
4. Ignore what your dog is doing
Last but not least, whilst you may be tempted to use your dog walk to catch up on some much-needed life admin or squeeze in a work call, don’t forget to keep a watchful eye on your cheeky pup! When you’re head down in your phone, it can be easy to miss a naughty pup snaffling all the bread being thrown for the ducks or a surreptitious roll in fox poo.
A fully charged phone is always advisable to take on your walk with you in case of emergency, but where possible, try to put your phone away for an hour. Not only will you be able to keep an eye on your dog, but you’ll also be able to have some uninterrupted bonding time with them and clear your headspace with the restorative and recharging power of nature.
Be a Responsible Doggy Parent for Peace of Mind Walks
None of us are perfect! I’m sure we all have some embarrassing dog-walking stories to tell that we can thankfully laugh about after the event. But a little bit of proper planning and common sense goes a long way to making your walk more calm and enjoyable for everyone concerned – you, your pup, other dog walkers, and the general public at large.
We hope that this article gives you some handy tips that you can put into practice on your own dog walks. And if you have any of your own embarrassing doggy etiquette stories to share, then don’t forget to let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!