Dogs that live in the big city face different challenges from those that live in the country or suburbs. Heavy traffic, large crowds, and using public transit all require special skills and an unflappable attitude. Not to mention, every walk can hold new surprises, like an encounter with a bike messenger or a passing throng of marathon runners. Below are some tips for navigating the urban jungle.
Walking Through Crowds
Sidewalks in the city can be congested with crowds of people, as well as scooters, skateboards, and bicycles. When you’re sharing the sidewalk with others, putting your dog in a “heel” position is safest for him and will ensure he’s under control, and nobody can trip on his leash. Teach your dog to heel on cue so you can get him out of the path of oncoming pedestrians at a moment’s notice. If he learns that wonderful things happen at your side, such as getting treats and praise, he’ll be happy to walk beside you when asked.
Consider teaching your dog more than “heel.” Rally cues like backing up and turning to the right or left can also be helpful when maneuvering through a crowd. And make sure your dog understands how to greet people politely. Teach him to sit to say hello. You don’t need your dog jumping on strangers as you try to make your way around the block or travel on public transit.
Crosswalks and Doorways
Crossing a busy street or walking through a doorway at your building or onto the bus can add an extra challenge for your dog. He might be excited to keep moving, but you can’t have him running into traffic or knocking people over as he squeezes through the door. The cue “wait” tells your dog to hold still until you say it’s okay to proceed. Training an automatic sit every time you stop walking can also come in handy because your dog will put the brakes on as soon as you do.
For many city dogs, every potty break means a walk along the sidewalk. Choose your dog’s potty stops appropriately. For example, as tempting as your neighbor’s garden or the pillars at the front door of a building may be to your dog, they’re a poor choice. Teaching your dog a potty cue like “hurry up” can help you tell him where you would like him to go. And remember to use poop bags and always pick up after your pup.
Garbage and Other Dangers
The sidewalk in the city can be littered with garbage and other hazards. Keep your eyes peeled for dangers like rotting food scraps or antifreeze. Teach your dog a solid “leave it” cue so he isn’t getting into anything that could harm him. This is another time to have your dog walk in a “heel” position. If he’s several feet away at the end of his leash, you won’t be able to see what he’s getting into.
Elevators and Public Spaces
Many city dogs live in shared buildings like apartments or condominiums, and part of their day involves lobbies and elevators. Out of respect for your neighbors, don’t let your dog run free in the public areas. Having him heel and sit to say hello will go a long way to endearing your dog to fellow residents.
Be respectful when riding the elevator. From allergies to childhood trauma, not everybody is comfortable being in close quarters with a dog. Before entering an occupied elevator, consider asking if anybody is uneasy around dogs. When riding, have your dog sit quietly beside you. Have him practice his “watch me” cue or teach him to “touch” so you can direct his attention away from the other people or dogs in the elevator. Use “wait” for negotiating the elevator doors as well.
Urban Canine Good Citizen Title
If you and your dog are city-dwellers, consider training your dog for the AKC Urban Canine Good Citizen title. The emphasis is on practical, everyday skills that urban dogs should know to be safe and responsible members of the community. To earn the “CGCU” title, your dog must demonstrate 10 skills particularly valuable for city dogs. These skills include riding on dog-friendly transportation like a taxi cab or subway (in a carry bag), ignoring food and food containers on the sidewalk, and walking through a crowd — in other words, everything he needs to be a savvy and polite city dog.