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How to Be a Good Dog Owner: An Etiquette Guide
By: Brianna Gunter
Your dog is awesome—who couldn’t love him? But even the friendliest, cutest dogs can quickly be viewed in a bad light if their humans aren’t practicing good pet owner etiquette. Responsible dog ownership extends beyond just making sure your dog is well cared for day-to-day. This includes being a courteous, accountable member of the community as a whole.
10 good dog owner etiquette tips
As the saying goes, there are no bad dogs, just bad dog owners. Now, you’re probably very far from being a bad dog owner, but sometimes it’s easy to miss how others may be affected by our pets. Follow these 10 good dog owner tips to enable a happy, healthy atmosphere for you, your dog, and everyone you come into contact with.
1. Use a leash
If you’re confident about your dog sticking by your side in public settings, it’s still part of good dog owner etiquette to use a leash. Many states and municipalities have leash laws in place that could put you in legal hot water if you’re found in violation. But that’s just one reason to use a leash in public.
Even the best behaved dogs can still be triggered by certain sounds or situations, causing them to bolt or worse, act out aggressively. Keeping your pal on a leash will also help put your fellow community members at ease, especially those who may have had bad experiences with dogs in the past.
2. Clean up after your dog
Keep forgetting doggy bags when you take your pal out for walks? You could be accidentally guilty of some bad dog owner etiquette. You can’t stop nature from happening, but you can be a considerate neighbor by cleaning things up as soon as possible. After all, nobody likes to step in dog poop, much less have to clean up after somebody else’s pet.
If you forget to bring a bag with you, take a photo of the location on your phone and return to clean it up as soon as possible (which should be right after your dog walk).
3. Teach your dog proper greetings
A proper dog greeting is not jumping up on someone or trying to nip at them. When it comes to other dogs, any sign of aggression or overtly dominant behavior is not a nice “hello” from your dog. In order to make sure both you and your pup are being courteous and creating a safe, friendly environment, take time to instill proper dog greeting behavior. Teach your dog to sit first and wait to be petted when saying “hi” to humans, and immediately correct any aggression with other dogs.
4. Don’t tolerate bad behavior
Dogs are like children—if they learn they can get away with bad behavior, they’ll keep doing it. Allowing a dog to jump up on others, bark or growl at people and other pets, and just generally do whatever they want, when they want is not good dog owner etiquette. Always correct your dog in the moment, as they will not be able to make the connection later on. Removing dogs from triggering situations where they are acting out (like a party or public event) will help create a safer, more comfortable environment for everyone involved.
5. Address barking issues
While you may not be able to hear your dog barking when you’re away from home, don’t dismiss any neighbors who inform you of it. Take steps to ensure your dog feels safe and comfortable when home alone, and consider enlisting the help of a daytime dog sitter or doggy daycare if the problem continues.
Ensuring your dog is well-exercised and has plenty of distractions will also help ease excessive barking.
6. Respect other pet parents
We want our dogs to be friends with other dogs and people, but it’s important to never jump to conclusions when it comes to other pet owners. When you come across another pup out on a walk with his human, for example, always ask first if it’s okay for your pal to say “hello” before allowing them to go up to their canine counterpart. If you have puppy playdates, be aware that other pet parents may have different rules for what their dog can and cannot do. Work with them to lay some ground rules at the start to ensure everyone has a good time.
7. Follow dog park rules
Dog parks can be great for pups who like to socialize with other dogs, but the happy environment can quickly go away if the rules aren’t being followed. Many dog parks tend to have actual lists of rules set up near the entrances that you should always follow (it is a public space, after all), but there are a few general ground rules that will benefit everyone: Clean up after dog, don’t allow your dog to act aggressively toward others, and keep track of where your dog is at all times.
8. Respect non-dog lovers
We know dogs are great—how would anyone not see that? Nevertheless, part of good dog owner etiquette is respecting those who may not feel instantly happier in the presence of our furry friends.
Some people have dog allergies that make them physically uncomfortable or even put their health at serious risk. There are also cases where someone had a bad experience with a dog, and they have a tough time feeling comfortable around any pups as a result. Others simply don’t care for dogs regardless of the circumstances.
Just as you would not want to be subjected to something you dislike or puts your health at risk, it’s important to respect the non-dog lovers of the world. Don’t force “just get to know him!” or “it says ‘no dogs allowed’ but my dog is fine!” on anyone.
Speaking of ‘no dogs allowed’…
9. Know when to leave your dog at home
The world has become more dog-friendly over the years, but that doesn’t mean your pup should go wherever you go. Always ask before bringing your pal over to someone’s house, for example, and respect their wishes if they don’t want your dog there. Unwelcome dogs can upset other pets and people, and the last thing you want is for your dog’s aggressive side to come out as a result.
Likewise, not all public spaces are dog-appropriate. While many stores and restaurants allow dogs, many others do not (or discourage it) for sanitary and safety reasons. And as many pet owners are already aware, airlines started cracking down on pet travel in recent years after too many people abused the emotional support animal program.
The bottom line is that it’s always best to have alternative options for your dog if you can’t leave her at home alone while you’re out—never assume that others are okay with your dog being somewhere just because you want to bring them along.
10. Consider professional training
To make sure your pal is on his best behavior both at home and in public, you may want to enlist the help of a professional dog trainer. Not only can a professional provide your dog with more in-depth training and social skills than most people can manage by themselves, but they can also help address any key behavioral challenges that could be causing trouble for you and others around your pet.
Healthy dogs help promote healthy communities
While you’re practicing good pet owner etiquette, be sure to keep your dog’s health in mind. While it should always be a priority, pet health is of even greater importance when interacting with others. Certain illnesses can spread very easily between dogs, so keep up with regular veterinary appointments and vaccinations. It’s also worth noting that dogs that are healthy and happy may be less likely to act out aggression or display aggression.
Learn more about keeping your dog healthy by checking out the Trupanion Dog Care guide!
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Welcome to the Trupanion blog. A place to celebrate pets, pet health and medical insurance for cats and dogs.
This blog is designed to be a community where pet owners can learn and share. The views expressed in each post are the opinion of the author and not necessarily endorsed by Trupanion. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice.