Talking Dog Column

Those of us in the dog-owning community have a responsibility

By May 26, 2015 No Comments

By Lisa Moore –

Last month’s column prompted numerous comments and questions from readers, mostly about dog etiquette in public. Aside from common sense, being your dog’s advocate and keeping her out of danger, here are a few of my favorite practices:

  • Those of us in the dog-owning community have a responsibility to not make enemies of those who aren’t so fond of dogs. Topping the list of annoyances, dog lover or not, is stepping in a pile of poo. For goodness sake, carry a bag with you. Your dog, your responsibility – deal with it. 
  • When you are walking with your dog, consider it an activity that the two of you enjoy together, not a mission to seek out other dogs to “make friends.” Allowing your dog to drag you toward another in the name of, “He just wants to say hi!” puts a lot of pressure on the dog that has been targeted.  Owners of super-friendly dogs often make the mistake of assuming every dog is as social as theirs. The truth is, most dogs are pretty discriminating about who is and who isn’t on their friend list. And owners of those superfriendly dogs: Don’t assume that the dog you are approaching is friendly in general, and don’t be disappointed if that dog takes offense to your pulling, gasping, not-under-control dog’s approach. If you want your friendly dog to have social opportunities, take him to a dog park or day care, where he is likely to encounter dogs with the same interest in play and where interaction can be off-leash. Or schedule play dates with another friendly dog you know. 
  • Don’t play a game of “chicken” when walking your dog towards an oncoming dog and walker. Why set up either dog to become overly stimulated and lunge/bark or be the recipient of the same? Cross the street or otherwise create some distance when encountering another dog and walker on the same path, before either dog becomes overly interested in the other. 
  • Yield to bicycles, strollers, wheelchairs and skateboarders on the sidewalk. So many undesirable things can happen when you try to pass in proximity to things your dog may be startled by, or just curious about. He might lunge and bark, or accidentally move into the path of an oncoming bicycle.  Setting your dog up for failure and correcting him if he misbehaves does nothing to teach the dog, nor does it erase what has occurred. It’s easier, since you are on foot, and certainly more courteous, for you to move off the path. And with your dog at a distance, the likelihood of her being able to remain calm and quiet in the presence of these strangers and their various wheeled items goes up, leaving you with an excellent opportunity to praise your dog for her awesome skills. 
  • Children will often see the cute dog at the end of your leash and want to pet it. If your dog has been exposed to children and has a history of enjoying interaction with them, then you might be comfortable in letting it happen. But if you are unsure about the outcome, don’t risk it, and protect your dog from an undesirable interaction.  This can be easier said than done, as kids will often just swoop in, and parents may not be aware of what’s happening, or may leave it up to you to manage the situation. In my experience, the fastest way to get a parent to intervene and move his or her child away is to say, “No petting today; we just found out she has ringworm!” Works every time.

Lisa Moore’s pet-behavior column appears once a month on the Pet Page. Write to her in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.