As there are lots of new dog owners on the block I thought it was a good idea to highlight some of the common dog etiquette rules.
I think we can all safely say there has been the odd occasion where things haven’t gone to plan, whether that’s your dog running up to an on lead dog and getting an earful from the owner, or conversely having an off lead dog run up to your on lead dog and feeling frustrated that your dog has now had a bad experience.
The main thing I want to get across is empathy. Living in a world with dogs can sometimes not go 100% swimmingly, and that’s ok. Just be mindful of your and your dogs' behaviour and how that may be affecting other people around you.
The first rule is IF YOU SEE AN ON LEAD DOG, LEAD UP!
We don’t know why a dog might be on lead, but we can assume it isn’t just for a laugh. This may be because the dog is old and frail, it may be recovering from an injury, it may be worried by other dogs, it may be in training for recall or it may have just had a bad experience. Rather than hoping for the best, pop your dog back on lead and ask if it is ok for your dogs to say hi. If the owner says no, then it’s a good thing you asked!
There are other things dogs may be wearing that warrant some space from your dog. These include a YELLOW lead/collar/vest/bandana. The yellow dog project (Yellow Dog UK | Some Dogs Need Space) is doing amazing things to build awareness for dogs that need a little extra space. If you see this colour on a dog, pop your dog back on lead to pass. Trust me, the owner of the other dog will be eternally grateful!
The second rule is BODY LANGUAGE!
During an interaction between your dog and another dog, watch the body language. Just because your dog is playing doesn’t mean that the other dog instinctively enjoys that type of play. If the owner asks you to call your dog at any point, do. You can chat about why afterwards. This may be because one dog is getting a bit worried, one dog might be getting a bit over excited, one dog may have hurt itself or maybe they could just do with a breather before resuming. Puppies especially don’t innately know how to regulate their excitement levels so they need us to help them. Don’t be offended if you need to break up some play.
Even though your dog is mega friendly, it doesn’t mean every other dog will enjoy them bowling into their space. Be mindful of others. If you have a large dog and are approaching a little dog, it may be worth popping them on lead for a quick sniff to make sure the little dog doesn’t feel intimidated (even if your dog is just saying hi!). Equally if you see an old or frail dog, do the same to avoid any unwanted issues.
When Archie was ill we had a couple of encounters where young and exuberant dogs knocked him over. They meant well and didn’t mean to hurt him, but their energy was just a bit much for him. So, empathy. Just be mindful of how others may perceive your dogs behaviour.
If somebody stands to the side of the path make sure you’re aware of your behaviour and call your dog in from approaching. Think about it in terms of the other persons experience, if they are getting out of the way of the main path, it’s usually for a reason. Carry on to find a better matched dog for yours to play with!
And lastly, DO YOUR BIT!
The last one I wanted to cover is dogs ‘sorting it out’. Yes, sometimes they do, but you have to be damn sure the other dog is the right match, otherwise things could easily go pear shaped. The best thing to do here is ‘if in doubt, sort it out’. Get in there and sort it out yourself. Don’t leave your dog to manage it as they may get it wrong or become worried. It isn’t worth the long road of undoing bad experiences, trust me.
We all use the same countryside which means we've all got to do our bit to make sure that we all get to enjoy it! Try to always look at situations from the other shoe. Lets make every walk a happy and peaceful one!
Enjoy your dogs, and good luck!