When you’re out for a walk, you’re probably aware of the common, unspoken etiquette rules out there. You know...walk facing traffic, keep your eyes up, look both ways before crossing the street.
Yet, not many pet owners are aware of the dog walking etiquette that can help keep you and your dog safe, happy, and healthy during your daily walks. As dog walkers (professionally and personally) here in Long Beach, we wanted to share with you some great tips that are inspired from our own experience or clients’ experiences that were passed on to us. We hope these tips will provide some guidance on what to do in sticky situations and how to avoid mishaps while on dog walks.
As always, we’re here to make sure your dogs get their healthy dose of daily walking, whether it’s with us here at Pet Waggin’ or out on your own! So, let’s make sure you and your pup’s walks are enjoyable for both of you and the friends you may meet along the way.
1. Don’t Be That Poopy 💩 Neighbor
This should go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyways and we’re starting off with it first! Make sure you’re picking up after your dog. It’s not the most glamorous part of pet ownership, but it must be done! Carrying extra bags with you will ensure you’re never stuck. We recommend just buying poop bags in bulk to save a LOT of money. These ones come with a holder that clips directly on your leash!
2. Stranger Danger
Just like us humans, dogs can also be cautious around strangers, human and animal, even if it doesn’t seem terribly obvious to you.
On-leash greetings can be extremely stressful, even for friendly dogs, so it’s a good idea to avoid them, if possible, or to keep them under three seconds if it’s unavoidable. Most owners think it’s okay to have their dogs greet others while leashed as there’s more control, but the opposite can be true. Dogs tend to greet each other from the sides, with their heads down, sniffing backsides. This leads to a dance at best and at worst it can lead to a tangle filled with stressed humans and angry, snapping dogs.
In the end, the best thing to do is respectfully tell friendly strangers “no thank you” and walk away when they ask to approach your pet. On the flip side, if a pet owner tells you “no,” respect their answer and walk away, too!
Our Pet Waggin’ dog trainer, Carolyn, experienced a situation similar to this scenario and we wanted to share it with you! While walking a friendly pup, a lady and her dog crossed the street saying she wanted her dog to say hello. Carolyn immediately edged away saying, “I’m sorry, he’s not allowed to meet other dogs on walks.” The woman immediately commented that that was strange and kept approaching. Carolyn firmly told the woman to stop and jogged away quickly as Carolyn, being an experienced trainer, recognized that the woman’s dog was not interested in saying hello. Luckily for the woman, Carolyn was experienced and was walking a friendly dog, but that woman didn’t know that and was actively putting herself and her pet at risk.
3. Give Me Space!
If you see another dog is being walked, give space for both you and the other dog by crossing the street or pulling out of the way and letting them pass. This is the easiest way to avoid any confrontation.
If you spot a dog that is not on a leash, the best thing you can do is turn around and walk in the opposite direction. If the unleashed dog spots you and seems to be coming your way, stop and put yourself between your dog and the off-leash dog while you call for the owner to get their dog. If the owner is nowhere to be found, yell at the dog to go away or go home. If the dog is still not budging, grab a handful of treats and throw it at him to distract him while you make your exit. If worse comes to worst, a protective, yet humane, safe citronella spray can be a good idea to have on hand.
4. Body Talks
Pay attention to the body language your dog and other dogs are displaying. Our trainer Carolyn was out for a walk when she and the pup she was walking encountered an unleashed dog. The owner quickly claimed that he just likes to play, but Carolyn knew different. She saw the dog’s tense body, closed mouth, hard stare, and head held down low. She moved between the two dogs and started giving her dog handfuls of treats to distract him as she scooted past the unleashed dog, keeping her eyes out for other unfriendly body language signs such as freezing, tucking of the tail, lip licking or yawning. Just as they were about to pass, the unleashed dog lunged! Luckily, Carolyn is a skilled trainer and knew what to do, so both she and the pup were able to escape quickly without injury!
5. Keep Calm and Carry On
Our pets are extremely empathetic, meaning they can pick up on your emotions, particularly stress. When you’re stressed, your dog feeds off of that stress. We can all do with a little less stress as it is (am I right?), so try to ensure your walks are a fun and relaxing experience for both your pet and you!
Some ways to lower the stress levels during your walks include:
1. Walking meditation! You’ll want to clear your mind of anything that is causing you stress or anxiety. To do this, it helps to focus on your breathing, like you would during typical meditation. Trying inhaling for three steps and exhaling during the next three. Each time your mind wanders to anything that might be stressful, start the breathing count over, focusing solely on your steps, breath, your pup, and the beauty around you.
2. Stick with what you know! Taking a similar and safe route each day can help to decrease stress because you know what to expect each day. Creating a routine has a calming effect on both animals and humans. This also allows you to be more aware of your surroundings since they are so familiar, should you want to try walking meditation.
Tune in to your favorite tunes! Put on your favorite music that you know will get you in a good mood. It might be your favorite pump up music, or it could be the spa & relaxation station on Pandora. Whatever it is, make sure the lyrics are ones that are calming, empowering, or happy and not triggering of anything stressful. Remember, this is a time to relax and enjoy time with your pet! Note: make sure to play your music at a low enough level that you can still hear the world around you! Safety first, after all!
Your Dog, Walking Superstar
When it comes to your daily walks with your dog, the goal is to enjoy your bonding time, get exercise, increase your health, and decrease your stress. When you remember these etiquette tips, your walks will become a lot more fun and a lot less stressful for both you and your dog!
If you’re having a bit of trouble nailing your walk routine or if your pet gets a little too excited that these etiquette tips fly out the window the minute you see a lizard, you may want to talk to an expert to help your dog become the dog-walking superstar we know he can become! Carolyn is CPDT-KA certified and has over 10 years of experience working with animals of all sizes, shapes, and behaviors here in Long Beach! Find out more about our specialized dog training services here.