Friday, June 25, 2021

The Pet Expert: Dog Walking Etiquette

When walking a dog, there is certain etiquette that should be followed to respect the people and properties around you. While most or all of this may seem like common sense, we can all benefit from a little refresher from time to time.

Here are the unofficial guidelines for dog walking etiquette:

Do not approach other dogs without asking permission.

Reactivity is arguably the most common behavioural issue among on-leash dogs. Approaching a reactive on-leash dog can set off a cascade of negative responses, causing both dog and owner a great deal of undue stress and anxiety.

Considering almost all reactivity in dogs is fear-based, reactions to behavioural triggers may include growling, barking, lunging, snapping, and more.

Working with a reactive dog is a delicate, ongoing process. Many dog owners invest a considerable amount of time, money, and resources to work on their dog’s reactivity, using positive reinforcement to develop better coping mechanisms for dealing with the over-stimulating world around them.

When in doubt, it is always wise to ask permission to approach another dog, especially if your dog is with you.

On a similar note, do not assume that everyone walking by, with a dog or not, wants to be approached by your dog. Many individuals are terrified of dogs, whereas others may simply not like dogs. Only approach others if they ask to pet your dog, and only if you and (especially) your dog are comfortable with it.

Keep your dog leashed unless in a designated leash-free area.

This should go without saying, however it isn’t uncommon to see off-leash dogs walking with their owners in undesignated areas. This is illegal in the Municipality of Meaford, and for good reason, as it may cause unnecessary stress to other people and dogs on the street, and is also a potential public safety hazard.

While your dog might be exceptionally well behaved off-leash, there is always a degree of risk they may get distracted by a squirrel, cat, or other animal, and may unpredictably bolt into traffic. It isn’t fair to your pooch, as well as to nearby drivers, to create that unnecessary risk.

Regardless of how well your dog behaves in an off-leash setting, please respect the municipal bylaws by restricting off-leash time to designated off-leash areas.

Mind the garden.

During walks, we know how dogs like to mark their territory by peeing on everything they possibly can. With that said, there are appropriate places to pee, and inappropriate places.

Gardens, flower beds, and decorative wood (such as garbage boxes or fences) are in the inappropriate category. Dog urine can easily kill flowers, shrubbery, and other foliage quite quickly, which is unfair to proud property owners who have spent time and money beautifying their property. Moreover, porous materials like wood can hold in the urine smell, leaving pungent odours for up to several weeks.

Pick up the poop.

Plain and simple: pick up your dog’s poop no matter where it is. No exceptions.

Leaving dog poop on someone else’s lawn, in a ditch, or even on a trail is among the biggest dog walking faux pas. From our breathtaking waterfront areas, to our many scenic hiking trails, we are fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world. As members of this community, it is our responsibility to treat these areas with the utmost respect, and tending to pet waste is an important part of keeping Meaford clean.

All dog owners should diligently plan for poop pickup by bringing extra poop bags on walks. Appropriate places to allow your dog to relieve themselves are in public spaces like grassy areas, gravel, and of course every dog’s personal favourite, fire hydrants.

Every choice we make creates a ripple effect; some good, some bad. Meaford prides itself on being a forward thinking, pet friendly community. Let’s keep it that way by practising responsible on-leash dog walking etiquette.

Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.

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