How to be a Conscientious Dog Owner

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You love your dog, and he loves you. He’s your best buddy, and you do everything together. You’ve given him a great home, and the best cushy bed in the house. But have you overlooked something?  When you walk into the coffee shop, do people smile warmly, or do they sigh in annoyance? At the dog park, do the people seem eager to meet you? 

In other words, you’ve mastered the basics of obedience training, but have you taught your pup how to conduct himself in public? 

Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness:

Rule number one of good pet stewardship is this: scoop the poop.  Carry bags and gloves with you on your walks in public to collect the waste and dispose of it properly. No one wants to step in a dog mess on a sidewalk or in the grass. Dog feces are a health hazard to people and other dogs; they can harbor bacteria that can be spread to other people and animals. Bring wet wipes with you in case your pet gets himself muddy. No one likes to meet a muddy dog who shakes goo all over your clothes.

Personal Space:

Even the most well-behaved dog can react unexpectedly to new situations, so yours should be trained to walk on a leash. This helps you to control his responses and helps you to keep him safe. Your pet may be friendly, but a threat from another animal could cause him to bolt. 

Respect the privacy of other people and pets by teaching your dog not to approach strangers without your say-so. Always ask other people if it’s okay before you approach with your dog. They may have allergies, phobias, or simply not want to be bothered. If they have their own pets with them, you don’t know how the other pet will react to yours, so always ask before making introductions. When you get the okay, allow the two dogs to greet each other by sniffing, but be watchful for signs of aggression. Raised, bristled tails are a sign they may be gearing up to attack, and a lowered back with hackles raised means the dog is frightened and may be dangerous. 

Silence Is Golden:

We all know that dogs bark, but there are many places where this behavior is not appropriate. Your dog must be trained to be quiet. Learn to redirect his attention to you when barking occurs, and work on getting him accustomed to the presence of other animals around him to reduce unnecessary noise.  Use plenty of positive reinforcement; when your dog barks at something, redirect his attention and give him a treat and lots of petting. 

Good Manners:

Perhaps the most important task to making your dog a more welcome guest is teaching him good public etiquette skills. When you go out in public together, you and your dog should set a good example. Obedience training can be helpful for these situations. Teach your dog not to jump on people, approach them uninvited, or to beg for food. Be mindful that your dog will make the occasional misstep, so be willing to own up to it and apologize when something happens. If your dog damages something (say, he chews a shoe or splashes mud on someone’s slacks), be prepared to open the checkbook and make good on what he ruined. 

Be A Responsible Pet Parent:

Sadly, not everyone wants to see your dog. Call ahead and check that it is okay to bring him. Check out local shops and restaurants and learn their pet policies before you show up. Know the rules and respect them. When you are out with your dog, he should always be wearing his collar and tags, and his certifications and shots should always be up to date. If he becomes lost, rescuers will have an easier time reuniting you. Consider microchipping your pet for an additional layer of protection. A lost dog without tags or a collar is in danger of being labeled as abandoned, and could wind up at the local pound. A dog without up-to-date shots is in even more jeopardy. 

Stay Golden at Home Too:

A well-trained dog can still be a nuisance to your neighbors. Remember what we talked about with barking? Don’t allow your pet to bark and make incessant noise that could be a disturbance. Teach your dog to stay calm when anyone comes to the door, and never allow them to jump on anyone. Finally, never let your dog roam freely off-leash. Not only can this make your neighbors uncomfortable, but it’s also a safety risk for your pet. 

If you really want to give your pet room to roam, invest in a fence around the perimeter of your home. While this can be a costly endeavor (the average price is $4,500), it’s worth the price if your dog can safely run around without bothering anyone. Talk to nearby fencing companies to get a few quotes, but be sure to check out reviews and ratings before you hire a contractor. Don’t be shy about asking to look at a portfolio or for a special offer either. 

Your dog is still a dog, and he’s going to dog things. He’s going to bark, run, snuffle leaves, and ask people to stop what they’re doing and pet him. The trick is to minimize the behaviors that earn him disapproval and encourage those that make him more loveable. The whole point of good “petiquette” is to help your dog show the world his best face so everyone around you can see just why you love him so much. If you teach him good manners and social skills, he’ll be loved by more people, ensuring you’re both welcome wherever you go. 

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