We’ve all seen the dog with poor manners: barking at every passerby from the yard, provoking trouble at the dog park, and ruining our dinner parties with sad, hungry eyes watching your every bite. Though every dog has been known to misbehave, it makes you wonder if yours has ever been the rude one. Have your friends or neighbors ever viewed your precious pup as the neighborhood nuisance? Do they see her not as the lady, but as the tramp?
This guide will help you prevent that kind of attitude about your best friend. It will cover the do’s and don’ts of proper etiquette for public places, trips to loved ones’ homes, gatherings at your own home, and how to handle special audiences like children, those who fear dogs, and even those who just plain don’t like dogs. Remember, although you should never expect perfection, much of the burden of your dog’s behavior lies with you.
Behaving in Public Places
Going for a walk
Do keep her on a leash. It’s required by law in most states, and it creates a sense of comfort for anyone you encounter. Just because you know she’s well-mannered and has strong recall skills doesn’t mean your neighbors do. Seeing an unleashed dog walking toward them can make anyone nervous, especially children and elders.
Don’t let her urinate on other people’s lawns, shrubs, trees, mailboxes, or any other piece of property. Clean up waste as it occurs, and always bring extra baggies.
Do keep her close as other dogs pass. Always ask the owner’s permission before you and your dog approach them, and if the owner declines, don’t make objections. If both sides agree, let your dogs approach each other calmly and keep an eye out for aggressive behavior. If you encounter a person without pets, only let your dog approach if they ask her to.
Don’t allow her to jump on other dogs. It could lead to injury, and it’s important she learns that not all canines enjoy this kind of interaction. Plus, you don’t want her to have a reputation in the neighborhood for being that uncontrollable, jumpy dog.
At the dog park
Dogs absolutely have the right to play and be excited while at the dog park. However, there are certain standards for behavior. It’s important to follow them not only to stay socially acceptable, but to keep all visitors (canine and human) safe and happy.
Do make the dog park a supplement to her daily activity, not her only source. Dogs that have been cooped up indoors all day — especially alone — may enter the park with excess energy that could lead to problems. Her over-enthusiasm could annoy a dog she’s attempting to play with, or cause her to run around so much that other dogs chase her and see her as a prey object.
Don’t let her immediately run up to park newcomers. You can never be sure of the situation; it may be that dog’s first visit and as he’s assessing the environment and potential threats, all of a sudden your dog bounds up to him at full-speed. He could interpret that as a threat and a fight could break out. It’s important that no dogs feel overwhelmed in such a stimulating environment.
Do remove her leash once you’ve entered the fenced off-leash area. It can be a tripping hazard, especially if she starts to play. And while it may seem like a good way to ease her into the environment during her first few visits, it actually may cause her more anxiety since she can’t escape if an unwanted person or dog approaches.
Don’t let your dog bully others. Playful behavior includes an excited bow at a short distance, or a light-hearted tag-and-run play request. Constantly nipping another dog’s neck or pouncing on him to initiate wrestling is bad behavior, and could lead to a fight.
Do supervise the entire visit. Light chit-chat with fellow park goers is OK as long as your main focus is keeping an eye on your pup. Have your phone on you in case of emergency, but don’t get caught up in texting or games. Your dog should be constantly monitored in case of injury, bad behavior, or a need for potty clean-up.
Don’t let dogs settle disputes themselves. If you see a problem building, intervene before a fight breaks out. If you notice that your dog is the instigator (especially if she tends to mount others to show dominance), take a break from the park until she’s been trained out of such behavior. If another dog is doing this to her without relenting, separate them and leave.
Do always clean up after your dog. No excuses. Bring extra baggies and if you run out, ask fellow patrons if they have one to spare.
Dog-friendly restaurants and stores
Many restaurants allow dogs in outdoor seating areas, but don’t forget to verify before bringing her. Typically, only certain pet stores allow pets to come in but it really depends on your area. When in doubt, always check with the manager first.
Do feed her before you go, even if it’s just a little snack. Think about it: would you want to watch someone eat a delicious meal without even the hope of food?
Don’t let her off her leash, even if she’s well-behaved and content. Most states require it by law, but you also want to keep everyone safe in case a surprise throws her off her game — like a child running up to her or a dog barking at her from the sidewalk. You also want to prevent her from approaching other diners and begging for scraps.
Do bring her a food-dispensing toy or chew bone to keep her occupied.
Don’t leave her unattended. If you’re with a trusted friend or family member who volunteers to watch her while you run to the restroom, make sure they have a hold of her leash before you go.
Do prevent her from barking while others are trying to enjoy their meal. It’s intimidating to some people and annoying to others, and you certainly don’t want to be responsible for causing a group howl-along. If no amount of distraction can deter her, work with her on manners and obedience skills before your next outing together.
Don’t let her mark her territory. It will be tempting since she’ll smell every other dog who has ever visited, but you must maintain control. You should always take her potty before your outings, but bring baggies for clean-up just in case.
Do be sensitive. She may become overwhelmed by the wealth of new smells, sounds, and people, so look out for anxious behavior. If she seems overexcited, move her away from the commotion. This may mean leaving altogether and coming back without her.
Do treat pet traveling like a privilege, not a right. Always check with the hotel ahead of time to ensure that your pup is welcome, and that there aren’t any weight or breed restrictions working against her. They may require you to bring vet paperwork showing up-to-date vaccinations as well as an additional fee or (refundable) pet deposit.
Do make sure your dog is clean and well-groomed before taking her on a trip, and pack adequate supplies to keep her this way. Moist pet wipes can help with dirt and mud, and a spare towel will help in case it rains or if she’s prone to drooling (avoid using the hotel’s towels for doggy cleanup). Bring pet odor- and stain-remover in case of accidents.
Don’t forget to pack her a care kit that will put her at ease. Bring her favorite bed or blanket that smells like home, and toys that will keep her occupied.
Do take her on a long walk or run to burn off stress and excess energy before leaving her alone. Give her a chew toy when you leave, and keep your voice and behavior upbeat. If you act like leaving her in this strange, foreign place is a bad thing, she’ll pick up on it and become more stressed.
Don’t hurry off too quickly when leaving her alone in the room. Walk down the hallway a bit and listen for barking or whining for about 10 minutes before leaving for good. She may think you’re coming right back and only start crying after you’ve been gone for more than a few minutes, so it’s important to hang around for a bit to make sure she’s settled.
Visiting a loved one’s home with your dog
Don’t ever bring your dog uninvited or unannounced. It’s usually better to wait for an explicit invitation rather than asking — if they’re comfortable with the idea, people will usually be sure to mention it with the original invite.
Do ask yourself if you think she’ll be comfortable in that environment. If it’s a party, consider how she’ll handle meeting big groups of new people all at once. This is especially important if children will be in attendance! If she’s not a tenured partygoer, it might be stressful for her and cause her to act out. Further, if there are going to be other new animals, consider how well she plays with others.
Don’t bring a dog that isn’t housetrained or has destructive tendencies. You’ll be responsible for paying for repairs, professional cleaning, or replacements, and depending on what’s destroyed you may not be able to repair the friendship. (If she destroys a priceless family heirloom or something with purely sentimental value, there’s only so much you can do to make up for it.)
Do come prepared for accidents, even if your dog is housetrained. Keep odor- and stain-removing spray in your car or bag, and immediately get to cleaning if she loses control of her bladder. Always offer to have any afflicted carpet or furniture professionally cleaned. If an accident does occur, don’t forget to first check on your pet to make sure she’s OK. She’s likely over-excited or nervous, but she also may be sick. (Don’t forget a towel if she’s prone to slobbering.)
Don’t let incessant barking slide just because she’s excited. If she won’t stop, take her away from the excitement to give her a chance to calm down.
Do keep an eye on your pup during the visit, especially if there are other animals present. If she hurts another person’s pet, immediately gain control of her and leash her. Apologize to the owner and offer to pay for all medical bills, exchanging contact information if this is your first meeting. Never turn a blind eye or blame the other pet involved.
Pet etiquette when company comes to your own home
Do train her to greet others in a calm manner rather than jumping and licking. Teach her to sit when the doorbell rings or company walks through the door, and only allow her to rise when she’s clearly in control of her excitement.
Do give your dog plenty of exercise before guests are expected to arrive. She’s less likely to get overexcited and will settle down more easily when the doorbell starts ringing if she’s already burned off some excess energy.
Do consider the temperament of your dog when deciding how to contain her for company. If she’s timid and fearful around guests, she may be more comfortable staying behind a baby gate. This will keep her contained and feeling secure while still allowing her to see what’s going on.
Don’t allow a dog with aggressive tendencies to join the gathering at any point. She may view it as a threatening invasion, and no good will come of it. Crate her or restrict her to a separate room with her bed, crate, and plenty of toys.
Do consider keeping her contained until all guests have arrived. Many people won’t appreciate having to maneuver around her from the moment they enter your home, especially if they’re carrying platters or dishes that could drop and break. Even if she’s a smaller breed, she can present a tripping hazard if she greets every visitor at the door.
Don’t yell if her enthusiasm gets the best of her and she greets guests with excited jumps and licking, as it will only accelerate her excitement. Apologize to your guests (even if they don’t seem to mind) and calmly move your dog away.
Do make sure she has plenty of stimulation aside from your guests. Give her a new chew bone or treat-dispensing toy so that she can occupy herself separately.
Do separate her from the group when it’s mealtime. Though you may not mind when she begs for food, it can be uncomfortable for visitors. No one appreciates being watched while they eat, especially if the audience licks their lips and is prone to drooling.
Etiquette with special audiences
Children create a special circumstance for how to handle your dog, especially if they’re fearful of her. There are also those who feel uncomfortable around dogs in general or simply don’t like them. It’s important to ensure that their feelings are acknowledged and respected.
Do make first introductions with your dog as calm as possible, especially with children. A jumpy dog can be intimidating to anyone, but this is especially true if the dog outweighs you or is literally face-to-face with you.
Don’t put the idea in someone’s head that your dog could be a threat. Though your encouragement is well-meaning, saying things like, “She doesn’t bite!” can actually make it more intimidating to approach her.
Do consider dressing your hound up when meeting a child for the first time. Even if it’s just a neck bandana, it will make her seem much less threatening. The brighter, the better!
Don’t rush the interaction; always check that the child is ready and let him determine the pace when meeting your dog. When he’s ready to approach and pet her, distract her with a toy or treat and have him pet her back. Avoid direct eye-to-eye contact, as this is usually the part that scares children the most.
Do prepare the child for how dogs acquaint themselves with newcomers. If he’s unprepared to be sniffed and licked, it can be overwhelming. Try something like: “She’s excited to meet you! She’s going to give you a good sniff to say hello, and might even give you a kiss!”
Don’t force houseguests who are uncomfortable with dogs to get used to yours. If they are genuinely afraid, the best route is to crate her and give her a good chew toy during their visit.
Do be extra mindful when your dog is visiting with elderly guests or neighbors. They may have delicate skin or fragile bones especially susceptible to an excited dog.
Don’t take it personally if someone isn’t a fan of your canine companion. Some people just don’t like dogs (or animals at all). And just because they aren’t dog-lovers themselves doesn’t mean you always have to lock her in another room or leave her at home; ask them what would make them comfortable. Often people don’t expect a perfectly-trained dog, but rather they simply prefer she doesn’t bother them while they’re around.
Many of these rules are called for so that others may feel more comfortable, whether or not they’re a fan of animals. Following them will ensure that everyone, yourself and your pup included, will always have a doggone good experience!