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Safe Dog Walking Etiquette

Don’t Worry He’s Friendly


Purl, Sophie, and Argos at the beach / Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM

Purl, Sophie, and Argos at the beach

Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM
We don’t have sidewalks or dog parks where I live, and many people walk and jog their dogs off leash. But when we travel, we take the dogs with us whenever we can. And, for not getting a lot of "practice," Sophie, Purl, and Argos do very well with people, skateboarders, bikers and other dogs on busy city sidewalks.

Poor Petiquette

What always surprises me (but shouldn’t) are the number of dogs running freely and out of range of their human’s grasp or recall. Dogs of all ages and sizes run full speed up to my dogs, and while the other person yells "oh, don’t worry – he’s friendly!" I grapple with leashes, poop bags, and dogs sniffing around and around each other and me. I am the cranky dog walker, with my dogs leashed, and the other dogs having way more fun. Or are they?

I love it when my dogs get to meet-and-greet just like the next person, but this dog-running-up-to-us-at-full-speed scenario always irritates me. I want to say "hello, my dogs aren’t friendly, so beware!"

This doesn’t work of course – my dogs are friendly, but Sophie is an alert dog and she has raised her hackles a few times until she gets things figured out. What if she decided to snap out? Argos, on the other hand, is very docile, but as a retired racing Greyhound, he was trained since he was a pup to go after small moving items. The small barking dogs circling around him put him on hyper-alert, and I have to pay close attention. If he was off-leash and innocently decided to give chase, I am afraid he would be all over the small dog before I could do a thing. (shudder)

And sometimes the rushing dogs aren’t friendly. Sophie was unsuspectingly attacked one year, with me in the middle of lots of teeth and lots of leash. That person must have known that her dog had this tendency, because she started running toward us, grabbed her dog, mumbled a "sorry" and quickly departed. But why was the dog off leash, running up to other dogs and people in the first place?

I do allow Sophie off-leash when appropriate, but she has a bad habit of sneaking "snacks" quicker than I can keep track of. On the beach there are lots of snacks, and icky things pets eat are a potential health issue as well.

It’s Not All Bad

Then there are the people who:
  • Ask first if they can pet your dog.
  • Keep their dog nearby and ask if the dogs can meet.
  • Teach their children safe dog approaches and etiquette.
  • Notice that at least one of my dogs is leashed (Argos and Purl have to be), so they should take a little extra precaution when approaching.

We have made some great friends this way. The dogs recognize each other at a distance, and we do let them off-leash to zoom up and say hello on repeat visits. A much more fun way to interact.

Playing It Safe

I’ll continue to keep my dogs leashed or under close voice control. I have treated many dog fight victims and it isn’t pretty. Humans get hurt, too. Things happen quickly and its scary. And, hard to believe, not everyone likes dogs. (gasp!) I keep my dogs near me out of respect for those who don’t appreciate a wet smelly dog running up to them, tongue lolling.

People who want to pet my dogs always let us know, sometimes they even ask to take their photo. Kids reaching out, sticky with bits of food, are a bonus.

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