Owning a dog means undertaking certain responsibilities. It also means following the sometimes unspoken rules of dog ownership etiquette. After all, common courtesy goes a long way in making your dog a welcome member of the neighborhood. For new dog owners, however, it can be tricky to know canine ownership protocol—it’s all too easy to make gaffes that upset your neighbors or offend people at the park. But if you adhere to the following guidelines, your dog should be accepted and appreciated throughout your community.
In Your Home
You set the rules for your dog in your own home. But whatever they are, they shouldn’t disturb your neighbors or guests. Here are some considerations for etiquette in your home:
- Prevent jumping on visitors. People don’t appreciate it and it can be dangerous with older people and children as they can be knocked to the ground. Teach your dog to greet by sitting instead.
- Crate your dog or confine them to another room when you have guests who are uncomfortable around dogs. Some people would rather not be bothered by your dog and, in turn, some dogs are bothered by lots of visitors. In these situations, it’s less stressful for everybody if your dog is given something to do in their own space.
- Prevent begging from visitors. Even for guests who want to socialize with your dog, it’s annoying when your dog begs for scraps. When you’re serving food, crate your dog or teach them to go to their place while you eat.
- Prevent barking at postal carriers, delivery people, or other visitors. These people don’t know your dog, so the barking may intimidate them. It’s also noisy and disruptive to your neighbors. Instead, teach your dog to tolerate “intruders” on the property or keep your curtains closed so your dog can’t see their approach.
- Keep your dog in your yard. A fenced yard is the safest way to protect your dog and keep them from wandering. Make sure your dog can’t dig under the fence to get into your neighbor’s property.
- Prevent excessive barking in the yard. Don’t leave your dog outside unattended for long periods. That’s a ticket to boredom barking. It can also help to teach your dog a quiet cue so you can silence them when needed.
In Your Neighborhood
As soon as you leave the house with your dog, you’re sharing space with others who may or may not be dog lovers. Keep the following tips in while you’re out with your dog:
- Prevent your dog from peeing on other people’s property. If your neighbor spends hours tending to their garden, they certainly won’t appreciate your dog turning it into a toilet. Have your dog go to the bathroom before you start your walk and teach them bathroom cues so you have more control over where they choose to go.
- Pick up your dog’s poop. Always be prepared with several poop bags. If you run out or accidentally forget, come back as soon as possible to clean up. Your dog’s business is not your neighbor’s responsibility.
- Keep your dog on a leash in parks and on walks. It’s the law in many places, but also good manners. Even if your dog has great recall and rarely leaves your side, it’s no reason to think you’re an exception to the rule. Other people have no idea about your dog’s temperament, and they might be walking a dog with reactivity or anxiety issues, or they may be afraid of dogs themselves. Restrict off-leash time to the dog park or other spaces where it’s allowed.
- Keep your dog close when you pass others on the sidewalk. You want to respect other people’s personal space. Plus, the leash can be a tripping hazard.
- Ask permission before allowing your dog to greet people or greet other dogs. If somebody says no, respect their answer regardless of how friendly or excited your dog may be. If they say yes, be sure you’ve taught your dog how to greet politely. Overly enthusiastic greetings can be off-putting to both people and dogs.
In the Community at Large
It’s fun to take your dog with you to a pet store, outdoor sporting event, or friend’s house. But you want your dog to be a welcome guest rather than a nuisance. Here’s how:
- Don’t take your dog without getting permission first. From allergies to fears, there are all kinds of reasons your dog might not be welcome, regardless of how well-behaved they are.
- Bring an interactive toy like a food-stuffed chew toy to keep your dog entertained. Bored dogs get into trouble creating their own fun, so keep your dog appropriately occupied.
- Take your dog for a potty break before heading out. This will help prevent accidents and marking behavior.
- Exercise your dog before your visit. A tired dog tends to be more relaxed and better behaved.
Training Your Dog to Be a Good Citizen
Following these simple rules of etiquette is beneficial for you, your dog, and all dog owners. If your dog’s instincts do take over and somebody is upset or hurt, apologize for any accidents or bad behavior. After all, you are the one who is ultimately responsible for your dog.
Finally, consider teaching your dog how to behave around others in the controlled environment of a training class. Enroll your puppy in an AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy class or participate in the Canine Good Citizen program. Both emphasize responsible dog ownership and will help your dog become a welcome member of society.