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Five Unwritten Rules of Dog Walking

Courtney Carr

Rain, hail or shine I walk my dog twice a day.

It’s his favourite thing to do, and we often joke that his Halloween costume should be that of a security guard with the amount of “rounds” he does to make sure the perimeter around our neighbourhood is secure.

Because of the amount of walking we do, we come across dogs of all shapes, sizes and obedience levels, so my husband and I now recognise the signs of dog walking etiquette that are present yet often unwritten rules. Some might seem obvious, but everyone needs a refresher course!

Thou shalt move to the other side of the path

If you are out walking with your dog, and you see another person approaching with their dog, move to the opposite side of the path the other person is walking on. Dogs tend to want to pull, sniff or even bark and growl at other dogs in the way of greetings (such as, “hello!” or even “don’t come near my owner,”) and without knowing how the other dog will take your dog’s advances it is best to avoid them if possible.

If you know your dog will pull and get very mad at the other dog, you may need to completely cross the road in order to ensure you are at a distance that will be comfortable to you and your dog. Get your dog to heel next to you to try and keep their focus, or if you know they will be unable to control their tugging, get your dog to sit at a comfortable distance and make them wait until the other dog has passed (treats are often a necessity here!).

On the other side of the coin, if you see another person doing this with their dog, know that the dog may have behavioural issues or won’t take your dog’s appearance well, so don’t stop for a chat or walk over to them. Stay on your side and keep your distance!

Thou shalt leash if thou sees others on leash

When your dog is off-leash, and another dog is on an on-leash walk, call your dog in and leash them until the other dog has passed. Your dog may be friendly but bounding up to another dog on a leash just to say hi is a no-no. The dog on the leash may have space issues, or be protective to its owners, so it will be likely to respond in an argumentative manner to a dog that has breached its protective zone.

This also goes with people who have retractable leashes. Not closing the leash off can have as much control as just letting your dog go free off-leash so make sure to bring your puppy back in and set the controls so that they can’t go wondering off.

Face it, you wouldn’t want a stranger in the street coming up to lick you in the face and would likely react negatively to such a situation. The same goes with dogs. Always make sure you pooch is leashed until it is safe to let them go again.

Make sure you are aware as well regarding the rules when it comes to leashes. Many of Canberra’s parks and areas have stated that dogs are not to be off-leash at any time, so make sure you are up to date on the areas that your dog can play freely. You can find a lot of this information on the ACT Government Information Portal.

Thou shalt always pick up after thou dog

Yes, yes, bending down and picking up dog poo isn’t a delightful experience, but have you ever stepped in something that a dog left behind? It’s not pleasant, and nobody wants it on their shoes and tracked into their house, so the polite thing to do is to always pick up after your dog.

Bags are inexpensive and available in grocery stores, pet stores, and sometimes even next to the bins in parks, so not having a bag is no excuse. Make sure you carry spares, and if you are caught unaware, do what you can to ensure it won’t be trodden on.

Thou shalt always ask before thou pats

There have been so many times where I have turned around and a random stranger is patting my dog. I get it – he’s super cute and fluffy and the immediate reaction is to get down nice and close, but it’s important when going in for a pat that you ask the owners first. You don’t know this dog, what it likes or dislikes, or how it reacts in certain situations, so even if you have a dog of your own and it loves you, it doesn’t mean that this one will.

I’ve seen a lady get whacked in the face because she got too close to a big dog who was clearly having a tough time in a stressful situation, but didn’t get the hint the owner was dropping that it wasn’t a stranger-friendly dog. “It’s ok, I have two at home,” is never a reason to just start patting another person’s dog.

You wouldn’t walk into a dangerous or hazardous construction zone that has warning signs around it just because you happen to own a house, so if you don’t heed the warning signs with a dog, you could be in a similarly tricky situation.

Thou shalt always voice thou concerns

It’s natural for people out and about to say “good morning” or “good evening” when they pass each other out on a walk, and having a dog is no different when it comes to being a social motivator. However, it’s always good to verbalise whether your dog is protective, or has space issues when passing other dogs. In the dog community, it’s completely within reason to be standoffish if your dog has behavioural issues, and no one will think you are rude if you walk the other way, especially if you vocalise the reason.

There are, of course, many behavioural and social factors that come into play when walking your dog, and these are only some of the unwritten rules that surround dog walking etiquette. There are many different ways you can teach, train and play with your dog so that you can continue to be a great little dog walking duo!

If you need any assistance in dog walking behaviour, you can check out many behavioural and obedience training classes in Canberra, such as Paws 2 Play – one of Canberra’s Doggie Day Care and Training Facilities that offer one on one behaviour exercises. Going to regular classes, especially when you first get the dog is a great way to start training and ensure your puppy grows into a perfect little walker!

Also, If you want some more advice on the do’s and don’ts of dog walking, check out Rover.com for more information.

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Courtney Carr

Courtney Carr is the author of the science fiction horror novel Cosmic Decay: Contamination, and the eBook Secrets of a Party Planner. As HerCanberra's "resident horror expert" she is the creator behind the horror pop culture blog This Side of Sanguine (www.thissideofsanguine.com), as well as the party planning blog The Party Connection (www.thepartyconnectionaustralia.com). She loves rock music, red wine, coffee, Brazilian Ju Jitsu, living plant-based, and is obsessed with Instagram. See more at courtneyrachellecarr.com. More about the Author

  • ne

    Thou shalt move to the other side of the path? Why? I think it is similar to driving, make eye contact with the owner and decide whether to meet and greet or pass by.

    One of the best parts of owning a dog is actually noticing everyone – making eye contacts, and communicating with everyone around. It is only an hour a day. Sometimes when total stranger and my dog meet like best buddies, it is amazing to see how words are superfluous and how flimsy the persistent walls around us are!

    Thou shall learn from your dog! (Or maybe I am just lucky to have the world’s best and most generous dog!)