Happy Mom, Happy Dad, Happy Dog: 12 Tips on Dog Etiquette
Summer is almost here, and I am seeing more of our furry family members making an appearance in the neighborhood. With pets taking more prominent roles in our lives, I thought it would be good to brush up on basic dog etiquette as well as mention basic responsibilities of dog ownership.
It’s my dog, it’s my responsibility.
1. Pick Up the Poop: I think this goes without saying, but this is a must. We have all fallen victim to a shoe covered in doo. Yuck! Pick up after your animal. Take plastic bags with you on your walks. If you forget, circle back. Do not be that person that leaves a mess for others to navigate.
2. Stranger Danger: Maybe? Maybe not. Do not assume a stranger wants to meet your dog. Only allow your dog to approach if the person asks to pet or say hello. When someone wishes to approach our dogs, we make Colonel and Louie sit before allowing the person to come forward. This helps the dogs remain calm. We also need to follow our own advice. Do not take the liberty of approaching another person’s dog without asking permission. There may be reasons unknown to you why an owner would rather you keep your distance.
3. Instruct Others: When someone wants to pet our dogs, we show kindness by showing the person the best way to interact. Dogs have different personalities. Colonel is a big teddy bear, but he is protective of us. We learned early in his life he does not like men when they wear a hat. Yet, if the man removes his hat and kneels, Colonel approaches every time with kisses and a wagging tale. People want a pleasant interaction, otherwise they would not ask if they could say hello. Show others how to be successful with your canines.
4. Know Your Audience: People react differently to various dog behaviors. If your animal does something you feel upsets another person, remove your dog from the situation and apologize.
5. Leash: Keep your dog on a leash unless you are in a location that specifically states you may remove the lead. Some people are fearful of dogs, and we need to be respectful of this fact. A leash brings comfort to those around you that your dog is under control.
6. Dog Greeting Dog: When on a walk and your dog encounters another dog, keep them apart unless you and the other dog walker agree to let the animals meet. This is not play time, though. If both dogs are on a leash let them sniff for a few seconds and then move on.
7. Puppy: If you are introducing a new pup into your home, begin working on basic obedience the first day. Three words they should learn early are: here; sit; place (these are the words we use). Or you could use come, sit, stay. The choice of words does not matter but be consistent. If your dog learns these three commands, you will be able to keep him under control. Learning these words are for his own safety. Colonel was retrieving a ball we inadvertently threw into the street when a car suddenly came speeding down the road. My husband yelled, “Colonel, SIT!” Our lab immediately sat on command. It is the only thing that saved his life. No different than our children, dogs need basic obedience, and it is usually for their own protection.
8. Socializing: When your puppy is old enough (for health reasons) begin taking him out in public to socialize him with other humans. This will teach him to be comfortable around people and not bark when strangers approach.
Colonel enjoys a walk, even on rainy days.
9. Exercise Daily: Although our dogs seem human, they are animals, and animals need to walk, run, hunt, and release energy. By exercising your animal daily, you will help him release excess energy, which means he will be less destructive at home.
10. Fido is Not Invited: We might wish we could take our dogs everywhere, but not all people enjoy animals. If you are invited to an outdoor party, or a casual gathering with friends, do not assume you can bring Fido. Always ask.
11. Visiting Guest: The comfort of your guest is more important than your dog. If a guest is fearful or uncomfortable around animals, then keep Fido in your bedroom. Make sure your guest understands, before visiting, you have a dog in case there might be any allergies. If so, they should opt for a hotel.
12. Property Damage: If your pet causes destruction to someone’s property, it is your responsibility to fix it.
Just like people, pets thrive when they have healthy boundaries and know the rules of the house. But remember, dogs are animals, and they can be easily distracted. Training is important. Whether you hire a professional or opt for self-training, having a puppy takes a tremendous amount of time and money. The average yearly cost of dog ownership is anywhere from $1,400-$4,300, depending on the size of the dog, his needs, and his personal care. If you are not prepared to make these sacrifices, then a dog is not for you. No matter how cute they are from a distance, it will not be long before the sleepless nights and mounting monetary damage they inflict will make you question why you thought a pup was a good idea. Do not bring an animal into your home unless you are ready to take on the increased responsibility. Colonel was professionally trained, and I remember his teacher telling me, “Most dog owners get the pet they had hoped for when the dog is between 1-2 years old.” Yikes! Keep that in mind, because the dog you dream of may not be a reality for a couple of years.
If your dog is not looking you in the eyes when you give them a command, they are not paying attention. Make eye contact first.
It is up to you if you hire a trainer. Between my husband and me, we are now on our 12th dog. Through personal experience, for our last 4 pets we have chosen to hire a trainer for basic obedience. Having had a dog that destroyed our pool equipment three times, we decided a professional was less expensive! You can teach a dog basic obedience yourself, but it will take time. It will need to be your focus for at least the first 6-12 months they are with you.
After weighing all the pros and cons, if you are ready to take the plunge then make the most of it. Did you know most dogs can learn up to 165 words!?! And the top 20% of the most intelligent dogs can learn close to 250 words! Why would you teach them just the basics: here, sit, place? The more time you invest in your animal, the more a part of your family they will become. We have taught Colonel the names of all his toys. We can put them in a basket, and if we tell him to get “cow,” he brings us the cow. “Where is Blimpie?” He brings us Blimpie. Stick with one to two syllable words. It is easier for them to process. Colonel now knows the word “around.” He began jumping off a dangerous ledge on our driveway, so my husband taught him to “go around” this area. Now, if Colonel begins to jump, we just say, “Around.” Colonel dutifully obeys. He fetches the ball, delivers the mail, and plays hide-and-seek. Since he knows the meaning of many things my husband and I had to start spelling words to each other, so Colonel did not know what we were saying. I felt like I had a toddler in the house again. This did not work long, though, because he began figuring out what we were spelling!
Dogs are smart, and they want to please. They are loyal to their pack, and you are their leader. Help them be successful and teach them to be a welcome member of your family. They will be happier, and so will you!
Together with you,