How To Not Be a Rude Dog Owner

I’m a dog lover and I want everyone to be as passionate about these amazing animals as I am. I would also like to take my dogs with me to more places, and I believe if people were a little more responsible, dogs might be accepted in more public areas than are currently allowed. Of course, I do understand that not everyone feels the same way about dogs as I do, and while I want to be that perfect ambassador, I have made mistakes. However, I take great pains to be aware of others and hold myself 100% accountable for my dog’s behavior at all times.

 

Most of us who love dogs strive to be responsible, managing our dogs peacefully with consideration towards others. But we’ve all encountered people that give the dog loving population a bad name and while these folks are hopefully few and far between, they can have a significant impact on the well-being of others. Of course mistakes, accidents and unforeseen circumstances happen when you have a dog, but if you recognize yourself in any of the following content, it might be time to change your habits and think about how you and your dog’s behavior affects others. No one wants to be a rude dog owner, but at some point we all wear that badge, even if it wasn’t our intention. 

 

Not everyone likes dogs. Unbelievable I know, but there are some people that don’t like or want to interact with fur and slobber, so don’t allow your dog to charge up to strangers uninvited. I speak from experience. Sadie, my gorgeous chocolate Labrador, was a social butterfly and liked nothing more than to say hello to everyone. But on one occasion, while we were walking in an off lead area, Sadie decided it would be a good idea to run towards a picnicking family and say hello. Now I love it when 70 pounds of lab comes bounding towards me, but others aren’t so keen. Fortunately her recall was solid and the family was very understanding, but they weren’t to know that the big, brown dog who came leaping towards them only wanted to say hello and maybe eat a little of their picnic.  

 

Most dog people would benefit from cleaning up their act a little and I don’t just mean picking up the poop their dog has left on the neighbor’s front lawn, but if your dog does need to go anywhere, make sure you pick it up! People don’t appreciate yellow patches on their lawn, or stepping in a pile of festering feces on a walk, so bring poop bags with you and clean it up.

 

Every person who has a dog thinks they are an expert and while you might know your dog better than anyone else, you don’t know theirs, so avoid giving out training or medical advice unless you are a professional or really know what you are talking about. Making negative comments about someone else’s dog will cause offense and might not be the right advice, so keep your lips sealed unless it is to recommend a good trainer or favorite vet. 

 

At some point everyone will experience that annoying person who walks their dog off the lead, ignoring all the posted signs and lead laws. “Don’t worry, he’s friendly” they say as their dog bounces up to the bundle of nerves you have at the end of your lead. And why when you tell them nicely to put their dog on the lead because yours is not friendly, do they continue to walk towards you while you desperately try to implement an emergency u-turn and cross over to the other side of the street?

 

Allowing your dog to roam the neighborhood is the gold standard of rudeness, as much as it is dangerous. If you need to exercise your dog, take her to a safe off lead area or organize a play date at the dog park. If you have a shy or fearful dog, the boisterous environment of a dog play area or park may be overwhelming. Well-meaning people often believe that bringing their shy dogs into a busy dog-friendly area will help “socialize” them, but in reality the opposite is often true and a shy dog can become more fearful. For dogs that do not do well in social situations, playdates with just one or two other dogs can be a much less stressful experience than a busy dog beach or park. But if you do take your social dog to any dog play areas, try and avoid commenting rudely about another dog’s behavior, interjecting your training philosophy onto anyone else unless you are an expert, disciplining or feeding other dogs treats without the person’s permission or talking on your cell phone while your rambunctious dog plays too rough with others.

 

Forcing your dog to go say hello to everyone they meet is also not fair on your dog or the person he is being forced to greet. Be aware that your dog does not want to say hello to everyone just as you don’t want to interact with every stranger you pass on the street. If you have a nervous and/or reactive dog, don’t allow her to stare, stalk, crouch, lunge and bark at other dogs as they go by. I see a lot of younger dogs that will lie down, stalk and stare at dogs on walks and this can be very nerve-wracking and trigger a reaction from even the least reactive of dogs.

 

And last, but by no means least, don’t let your dog bark in your home or in your garden during the day or all night long. This is a major disturbance to your neighbors and not healthy for your dog, so please be aware of your neighbors’ comfort as well as your dog’s emotional needs.

 

Those of us who live and love our dogs must also ambassadors for them. Most of us try to be the best caregivers we can, but there is always room for improvement and the more responsible we are, the more accepted our dogs will be.

 


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Positively Expert: Victoria Stilwell

Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer best known as the star of the internationally acclaimed TV series, It’s Me or the Dog. A bestselling author, Stilwell frequently appears in the media as a pet expert and is widely recognized and respected as a leader in the field of animal behavior.


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