I recently received two separate complaints regarding the lack of public dog walking etiquette among of our community's dog owners. So I started to pay attention to how people walk their dogs in the neighborhood, parks and trails. Most do it properly-with leashes, bags for waste, and their dogs close by. Yet others treat these public spaces as their own personal playground and toilet.
Whether walking your dog is a way to relax or a chore it can be full of potential etiquette faux pas. So before you grab your leash and head outside take a moment to evaluate how well you apply the ABC's of dog walking etiquette:
A: Not Everyone Loves Your Dog
It can be a rude awakening to discover not everyone is as fond of your dog as you are. This may seem self-evident, but I'm surprised how many people let their pup run freely up to anyone. Some people slowly walk 10-20 feet behind their off leash, or retractable leashed, dog because they insist their dog stops on command.
Newsflash: He won't; and even if he does most of the time, he won't always.
Just because you love your dog doesn't mean everyone enjoys his sloppy kisses or being jumped on. Remember: your dog is your best friend, no one else's. It's impolite to assume he is loved by everyone he meets. So keep him close, leashed, and don't allow him to run up to (or jump onto) others. When someone wants to pet him, they will ask.
B: Use a Leash
It is hard to understand why some people think their dog can run off leash in public spaces. It's unwise to assume your dog will always listen to you or think before he acts; and what's to stop him from thinking that ice cream cone in a child's hand isn't meant for him?
Leashes were not invented in a nefarious conspiracy to deny your dog his love for freedom. They are meant to keep your pet and those around you safe. If you want your dog to run free, take him to a park designed for that. The law requires leashes to be no more than six feet long; so yes, retractable leashes are illegal in public spaces.
C: Clean Up
It's frustrating to watch dog owners let their dogs poop in our public spaces just to walk away leaving the waste behind. And then there are the repeat "dog poop" offenders who plant fecal landmines all over our public spaces without a care in the world. And let's not forget our "neighbors" who let their dog lift their leg on other people's personal property as they walk down the street.
If your dog has to poop in public, clean it up with a plastic bag. Pick it up, tie it up, and dispose of it in a public trashcan or in your own trashcan; but not in your neighbor's trashcan. When you choose to own a dog, choose to be responsible for him. Not only is it vile of dog owners not to clean up after their dogs it inevitably ruins someone else's day. Everyone at some time has stepped in dog poop, but never has anyone ever said in response, "This must be my lucky day!" So, please be neighborly and keep your dog's waste where it belongs-in the garbage.
Our community is well known for being among the most pet friendly in the nation; let's not develop a reputation for being ill-mannered and irresponsible pet owners too.
Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 445-2666, ext. 101.