Since the pandemic, there’s been a population explosion of the four-legged kind.
Walk down any street and you’ll bump into oodles of doodles, Aussies, Frenchies, and dogs of every shape and size—as well as strollers, scooters, skateboarders, and pedestrians. At Petminded, we believe that knowing the petiquette of navigating city streets can help keep your dog—and you—safe and stress-free, and make for a happy, healthy, positive time together. Here are some petiquette tips or rules of the road to follow:
City streets are not conducive to having dogs go leash-less, or be given too much room to roam.
Many cities have leash laws, and some even specify leash length. New York City, for instance, requires that no leash be over 6 feet long. So, forgo retractable leashes or long, loose ones where you have little control. These could trip up passers-by or get tangled around you if your pup does a 180 chasing a squirrel. Stick to classic nylon, leather, or rope leashes. Note that harnesses, especially front-clip ones, provide more control than a leash attached to a dog collar.
Covering the basics
Getting training basics down pat makes a big difference. Good canine citizens know sit, stay, come, and leave it. Master these to have the best urban dog-walking experience.
You can’t always account for who you’ll run into—or who will run into you, like pedestrians glued to their cell phones, delivery bicyclists, or a kid on a speeding scooter. Stay alert and be on the lookout for stray chicken bones, candy, and other tasty bits your dog might scarf down so you can pre-emptively say, “Leave it!”
Not all dogs love other dogs.
No matter how friendly your dog is, many aren’t. Some dogs may be aggressive, others uninterested. Some don’t have patience for wiggling puppies and elders may not have the wherewithal to engage. So, be careful about letting your pooch make a beeline for a dog you don’t know. If your dog wants to say hello, ask first.
If your dog isn’t a fan of their own species and gets snappy or scared when confronted, inform approaching dog owners before they get too close. Stating loudly “He’s not friendly,” or better yet, “She’s sick” can prevent a showdown. The same applies for dogs who are skittish of strangers. Crossing the street, stepping into an alleyway, blocking your dog against a doorway, or reversing direction are all tactics if you quickly need to avoid dog-on-dog contact.
Not all people love dogs.
There are those who are afraid of dogs—especially children—or those who don’t want contact. Even if your dog is a people-person, don’t seek out humans unless they show interest first. It's always best to ask permission before bringing your dog to greet a new human.
Carry extra pooper bags.
Stuff happens, sometimes in excess. There will come a day when you’ll need more than one bag. And bring extra just in case or if you see another poor soul who doesn’t have a spare.
Always cross a street with your dog at your side.
Cars turning onto a street can’t see a pooch that’s trailing behind or pulling in front of you and dogs have been run over by accident. Make sure your furbaby is close by you when crossing.
Everyone loves a complement, especially dogs.
Praise your pup when behaving well, walking happily by your side, being responsive to your commands, and not pulling, barking, or lunging. Even if your pooch has been perfectly trained for years, going overboard on “Good dog!” still goes a long way.
Blocking the block.
When sauntering down the street, make sure there’s always a clear path for others to pass by. The middle of the block isn’t the best place to stop to greet another dog or chat with a neighbor. On crowded and narrow streets, try to walk with a short leash with your dog close to you or single file with your pooch directly in front.
Handling new-to-the-city and challenging canines.
Your dog may be a scaredy-cat, overwhelmed by city noises and crowds. Or you may have a overexcited canine who wants to take on other pups they meet. Keeping walks short, just long enough for them to do their business, can decrease stressful occasions. Look for quieter blocks to stroll down and pick the least busy hours to go out.
Treat ‘em right.
Treats are great rewards for good behavior. They’re also a good distraction from situations that overstimulate or stress your dog. Get your canine’s attention with soft training treats that don’t require chomping, and have them sit or make eye contact when you spot something that could be a trigger.
Creating a positive experience.
Urban dog walking is about being there for your dog, so that your dog can be there for you.
Watch how your pooch responds to city stimuli, what situations make them anxious, and what makes them wag and smile. That way you’ll learn the things to avoid and when to engage with others. Being a good neighbor and focusing on your dog’s needs will help create a healthy, happy walkingroutine, so when you say “Let’s go out!” you’re both jumping for joy.
Submitted by Carolyn Goldhush, a Founding Member of the Petminded Community, an NYC-based writer who shares space with a Shih Tzu-Russell Terrier-Beagle-Labrador-German Shepherd-Cocker Spaniel-supermutt named Gypsy. Carolyn also likes to take photos of dogs. Find them @dogs_in_bnw.