Is your dog polite out in public? Do they ignore other dogs and people who maybe aren't interested in interacting? If you took them to a school yard, would they chase the kids or be a model canine citizen?
This is a tricky subject since we all have our different perspectives when it comes to lines in the sand, however when it comes to public spaces, it's always best to air on the side of caution and put your dog's best foot forward. I recently heard a very simplistic way to go about life: You can add to someone's day, you can not impact their day at all or you can take away from someone's day. Which would you choose in a perfect world? It would be very nice to constantly add to people's day and if you aren't able, the least you should try to achieve is to not impact their day at all. You should always aim to avoid being the negative in someone's day.
Having said that, a dog can do the same thing! They can brighten someone's day if they are well mannered, well socialized and respectful or they can take away from someone's day if they are unruly. It's our responsibility to make sure that our dogs are always showing good canine etiquette in our human world. Here are a few of the important pieces to the puzzle.
Leash Your Dog
If your dog is not under complete verbal control in an area away from your own fenced, private yard, they should be ON LEASH. There are no good arguments against this as there are far too many dangers that a dog without a recall can get into. We won't get into all of that here since this is about etiquette. What I'd like to address are the people who don't want a dog running up to them, their kids or their dog(s). If you are in a public space, you need to be sure that you are not impacting anyone else's freedom to use and enjoy that space as well. If you can't immediately get your dog under control and heel calmly by a distraction of any sort, they shouldn't be off leash.
Even if you are in an area that is designated as a leash-free area, this rule still applies! It is absolutely crucial that anytime you relinquish the physical control that a leash provides, you can still rely on your dog performing simple tasks, like coming back to you when called or leaving something on cue. We have posted our views on Leash-Free Parks in the past and we almost always advocate against them for the simple reason that they are used improperly by so many people. If you release your dog at the leash-free park and can't call them back, that's a problem. It may only be yours as people giggle at you trying to catch your dog who is having a party with all of his new friends, or it may be everyones as your dog plays inappropriately with others at the park and can't be stopped.
Pick Up and be Considerate
Pick up after your dog wherever you are. Let no poop be left behind, ever! In addition, be aware of where your dog is peeing. Some people won't care if your dog pees on their lawn or bushes, or in their garden, but others will. Consider that as you are taking neighbourhood walks and try not to allow your dogs to go to the bathroom on private properties.
In Europe, dogs are welcome in a lot of places. The same is not true in North America, so it's important that we protect the spaces that we have. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, a few have ruined it for the majority. If you are bringing your dog into an establishment that still allows dogs, make sure your dog is polite and well attended to. Several years ago, a hotel that I was staying at for a dog event was forced to repeal their policy to allow pets. The reason was legitimate: Two of the hotel guests had allowed their 5 dogs to swim in the hotel's indoor pool. The actions of those two people changed things for every dog owning hotel guest that may have booked time there from that point forward. It should go without saying that public spaces, like a hotel pool, that are for humans should not be ventured into by dogs.
If you are planning to leave your dog unattended in a hotel room, consider crating them. Even a dog who is a model citizen in your own home may be stressed in a new location which can lead to destruction or barking, disturbing other guests.
If you bring your dog into a store of any kind, be it a pet store, hardware store or other, be sure they are on a non-extendible leash and under good control. Don't let them mess the merchandise and definitely watch that the boys don't lift a leg. Remember that you're representing dogs everywhere and future ability for dogs to be present are more dependent on your dog than you think!
Overall, you should always air on the side of caution when it comes to what's acceptable behaviour from your 4-legged family members. When in doubt, ask! Hopefully with due diligence, we can continue to maintain our privileges with our dogs.
As always, Happy Training!
Hi! I'm Shannon and I joined the McCann team in 1999 while training Quincey, my wonderful and spirited Rottweiler, to have good listening skills. I'm the Director of Online Training and Content for McCann Professional Dog Trainers and I enjoy writing about dogs and dog training for the McCann blog. I currently share my life with 2 Tollers (Reggie & Ned) and I love helping people develop the best possible relationship with their 4-legged family members.