THE ETIQUETTE OF DOG WALKING
Have you ever had someone cross over to the other side of the road with their dog(s) when they see you walking toward them with your dog(s)? That is a clear indication they don’t want the dogs to interact. Or, maybe they don’t like other people. Either way, we should respect the overt gesture.
As a pet parent to a fearful, special needs mill dog, I deeply sympathized when I learned of a friend’s dog walking experiences.
Following the loss of their beloved Yorkshire Terrier, Skeeter, just before Christmas, Tammy and her husband decided to fill the overwhelming void by providing a loving home to a rescue dog. They fell in love with a bonded pair. Brothers Manny and Nico.
As is the case with some rescue dogs due to difficult and uncertain pasts, a vast amount of patience is required, and there is an adjustment period for dogs and their new owners.
Tammy admits Skeeter did NOT walk perfectly but was easy to scoop up and remove from a threat.
People would tell me don’t worry about my dog he is very friendly and I would say well mine isn’t always friendly so let’s not take a chance
Tammy adds: ‘I had someone who came all the way up my driveway with their dog all the while I am telling them hey my dog isn’t that friendly, and he’s behind me snarling and barking and guess what ended up happening? Yes, my dog bit her dog. GO FIGURE! She never brought her dog up my driveway again. And the thing is I had never even met this woman before!’
Unfortunately, that is one of many incidents where a dog is put in a dangerous situation by an irresponsible owner. These situations can be easily avoided.
Tammy now has both hands full (two leashes) and is dedicated to socializing and training her new pack members.
If my dog is acting like a goof and barking like crazy and pulling at his leash because he sees your dog, could you please walk quietly on and not try to talk to me as I am trying to get my dog or dogs under control.
If I tell you I have a rescue dog; I’m not sure how my dog will act with yours, and I would like to keep them separate, please respect my wishes and not try to argue with me and tell me how friendly your dog is. Your dog is agitated, barking and lunging at my dogs. Do not force your dog on mine because (you think) your dog really wants to meet my dogs. It’s only making the situation worse.
I believe that I am a responsible pet owner and am trying to educate myself on proper dog etiquette. I also try to educate myself on dog behaviour. When I see something that is causing my dogs to act out, I will try to remove them from the problem. It is hard enough trying to keep my dogs under control and watch for cars, etc. without having to worry about you approaching me with your dogs.
I know you mean well but please LET US BE! Once my dogs are more socialized and settled and better behaved, we can try to have our dogs meet!
There is often more to people’s situation than can be assumed when you see someone out walking their dog. Even if the dog is not a new, puppy, the dog might be new to those people. If it IS a puppy, the people might be working on training and similar to a rescue situation, still figuring out the dog’s personality! It might not even be THEIR dog.
Tricia Soulier of Pawsitive Approach Pet Services and her team provides dog walking services for pets while their people are working.
Some of the frustrations Trish has encountered are:
Children walking dogs and dogs that are off leash.
Children are not emotionally mature enough to respond to potential dangers
My team and I have ended up in the middle of such situations, and we have been injured! None of us want to hurt a dog, but it is our responsibility to ensure the safety of the dogs we walk.
Often, dogs that are off leash on someone’s property run towards dogs being walked along the road. The situation could quickly escalate into a fight. I would not want to see a child in the middle of that.
Flexi leashes are another concern as they do not allow adequate control, and they break. Too much can happen before the handler can reel them in – especially when you add traffic to a scenario.
Oblivious parents is another issue. Trish had in her care a Bernese, lab cross puppy. As she walked by a picnic area, the parents sat at a nearby table and watched their toddler run, arms outstretched towards the dog.
PUPPY, PUPPY, PUPPY!
I started to lose my voice warning the child not to approach before the child’s mother finally put her phone down and came to collect the youngster.
One paw from this large, energetic young puppy would have hurt the child!
Leanne started volunteering in 2002 in the Youth & Animal Program at the OSPCA walking and clicker training dogs.
More from Leanne:
I volunteered at the OSPCA for eight years. The last couple of years I joined a group of volunteers who developed a program to orient and train new dog walkers. It was called BuddyUp. Collectively we oriented over 300 new dog walkers in approx. Three years.
In January 2011 I started volunteering at GAC. There was no orientation program for dog walkers at the time, so I offered to start orienting new dog walkers. Fellow volunteer Ruth and I started offering the Canine Communication Workshop for the shelter’s dog walkers AND the public. We run the workshop every four months or so.
I have an interest in training dogs using positive reinforcement, and I have attended many seminars over the past 14 years with some of the world’s most respected positive-reinforcement trainers like Kathy Sdao, Dr. Sophia Yin, Yvette Van Veen, Nicole Wilde, etc. I’d guess 15-20 seminars. I also completed a 6-month dog trainer program through the Karen Pryor Academy.
My focus with the shelter dogs is to mark and reward all the behaviors they offer that I find desirable so that they will repeat those behaviors.
I strive to avoid positive punishment and negative reinforcement in my dog training and the use of aversives or corrections. My goal is to keep the dogs feeling safe and treat them with respect.
When working with reactive dogs, my favourite protocol is CARE (Counter Conditioning and positive Reinforcement are Essential for Reactive Dogs). Identify the dog’s triggers for reactivity, work at a distance at which they are not reacting to the trigger, pair the trigger with something they REALLY like and create a conditioned positive emotional response to the trigger, decrease the distance from the trigger, repeat, repeat, repeat. Also, mark and reward all the behaviors you’d prefer the dog to be doing rather than reacting like checking in with you, holding eye contact, sitting, etc. That’s over simplified so folks should check out the protocol for a detailed description.
When introducing new dogs to each other, I prefer to take it slow and go for a nice walk with the dogs. Alternating walking ahead and behind each other, then parallel to each other, then around each other all the while watching their body language to assess whether they seem comfortable and interested in meeting each other. If they seem uncomfortable or are avoiding each other, I’ll stop the intro there. If they seem comfortable, we’ll do a brief face to face intro and encourage them to circle around to the bums. Greetings tend to go best if 3-5 seconds and then the dogs are encouraged to separate. The humans can help create a smooth greeting by keeping their leashes loose and moving around with their dog to ensure leashes don’t get tangled, and the dogs can go through their natural greeting routines.
Thank you, Leanne, for this great information and thank you, Tammy and Tricia, for sharing your experiences.
Also, a huge thank you to the ROVER team of dog walkers, for suggesting the need for this information.
Dogs react to people’s energy. If I become nervous or stressed in a situation, I notice my dogs act accordingly. By looking ahead for potential situations (dogs loose on property), I am better able to avoid stressful situations. If we behave as responsible dog owners and respect others everyone will be safe, and no one will be hurt – person or dog.
Check back soon for our post addressing ‘leash aggression.’