As a professional Dog Walker, it sometimes amazes me how other dog walkers allow their pets to approach my dogs when we are out walking. I often hear “he only wants to play” when a strange, unmanaged and unruly dog comes bounding up to mine. It’s not that my dogs are unfriendly, but when an unknown animal runs up to them, bouncing and sniffing around, it sends not only the dog’s but also my stress levels soaring, with this lack of proper dog walking etiquette and good manners,
Keep your dog on a lead.
It’s a legal requirement that your dog is controlled in public, and this usually means walking him on a leash. This not only makes your dog walk safer for your pet, but it also creates a sense of comfort for anyone else you come across on your walk. Just because you know that your pooch has strong recall skills and that he has good manners doesn’t mean that your neighbours know this too. Spotting a dog walking towards them, not on the lead, can very easily make someone feel very nervous, especially elderly people and children.
Likewise, if you see me walking with a dog on a lead, please don’t allow your dog to approach and run up to me. I usually have my dogs on their leash for a reason, sometimes for training or coaching purposes, and I need my dogs to stay calm. My dogs may look friendly, but please don’t take this for granted; always ask before you approach me. A good point to note when dog walking is that if a dog is on a lead, accept that this is being used as a physical barrier, and you are not expected to approach.
General rules to follow – to ensure a safe encounter between our dogs
- If you don’t know the dog, avoid a greeting – walk on by or keep your distance
- If the dogs have met previously, it’s usually Ok for them to say hello to each other, but remember that direct face to face meetings can cause conflict and stress. Allow the dogs to approach each other calmly, but keep an eye open for any aggressive behaviour. Don’t walk up to my dog head-on, but approach from the side; walking in an arc shape is best.
- I’ve discovered that to keep the dog’s attention focussed on me, a few high-value treats work wonders. He’s not then bothered about other dogs, just keeping his full attention on me, waiting for his next snack.
- Likewise, make sure that your dog always respects another dog’s space – don’t invade it.
- Avoid any dog owners who approach shouting, “he only wants to say hello” – to dodge any possible confrontation.
- Watch your dog’s body language around other dogs. A nose-to-butt greeting is usually quite acceptable in the canine world.
Please don’t touch my dog.
My own dogs are rescue dogs, as are many of the dogs that I walk daily for my Clients. We have no clue as to how timid and terrified they may have been in their previous homes, so although they may not look afraid, their response to you approaching them and reaching out to pet and touch them can make them afraid and respond with a freeze reaction. They may look cute, but please respect their personal space and don’t reach out to them. Just as you don’t like being touched by a stranger, neither do my dogs.
Remember that not everyone is a dog lover.
It’s strange to understand, but not everyone loves dogs. Some people have allergies, or perhaps they’ve had a nasty encounter and are just afraid of dogs. Always keep your dog on a short lead when around other people, both adults and children, and don’t allow him to approach strangers. You will know as his owner if your dog is confident when meeting new people, and if you are happy with the situation too, you can judge if it’s a good idea for anyone to pet your dog.
Remember that when I’m managing my pet, and you’re not in control of yours, your safety and that of your dog is not my responsibility. Be a responsible dog walker at all times and always Respect The Lead!
You may be interested in our interview with .Zoe Blake, the founder of respect the lead