One of the great things about becoming a dog owner is being able to enjoy walks together and explore different places.
Your ideal walk may look like having a dog who will stay beside you, happily walking past other people and other dogs. But still being social enough to have a wee play with another dog whilst you socialise with their owner.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?!
Now there is secret dog walking etiquette to be followed when you’re on your walks. It’s very much the unwritten rules of the park. And if you’ve not had a dog before, it’s hard to know what this is. You often only learn the rules by making mistakes, which can leave you feeling pretty deflated.
Is socialising your dog creating bad habits?
We hear the term, you need your dog socialised all the time but what does socialising your dog actually mean?
I think this definition is fitting –
the process of learning or training people or animals to behave in a way that is acceptable in a group
We want a dog who has manners and will sometimes interact with other dogs and at other times won’t. And that’s a reasonable expectation of the dog.
But how we socialise our dog with other dogs is going to dictate how they behave in certain situations. And are we going to get the dog that we envisaged when we first welcome them home?
Common socialising mistakes
Mistake number one is allowing them to say hello to every person and dog that they see.
Do you find yourself walking towards other people and other dogs a lot? Making sure that they have a good sniff of the dog or a cuddle from the other people. Maybe they start playing whilst on the lead as you stand and chat with your new friends.
This is not actually teaching your dog to hone their social skills in any way. They’re just thinking that they need to introduce themselves to every dog or person they come across on a walk.
Mistake number two is thinking that the walk is for social needs only. You may find yourself going to the same area at the same time of the day when everybody else is walking. You meet with the same people and the same dogs. You have created your own social circle. Which on the face of it sounds good, I mean how can being social be a bad thing??
Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.This method of socialising often creates an expectation for your dog that they go and play with other dogs all the time.
Meaning when you’re walking somewhere else or at a different time to your usual friends your dog will keep running up to other dogs anyway and not listen to you as well.
Mistake number three. Allowing your dog to play whilst they are on the lead.
You’re probably thinking eh?! Where’s the harm in that? Especially if you have a young dog that maybe does not have good recall skills and you can’t let them off lead.
Before I get into how this can negatively affect your dogs behaviour I want to raise a health and safety issue about this. Leads can and will get tangled, this can lead to dogs getting frightened and fights breaking out between the dogs. Or they can wrap around legs, necks etc causing injuries as the dogs try to separate themselves. So please be careful when letting your dog do this.
Back to the reasons this a socialising mistake. By allowing your dog to not only have a quick sniff to say hello but move onto playing with the other dog you can create a dog who doesn’t understand boundaries.
This can be particularly frustrating when your expectations change as your dog gets older. Often we have a cut off age in our heads when the dog will calmly walk by other dogs and not want to play. If you have spent the early months of having your dog allowing them to play whilst on the lead they will think it’s a perfectly acceptable behaviour to continue with.
To help avoid this happening to you then only let them play with other dogs when there are no leads involved.
It’s ok, my dog’s friendly!
We all know the scene where there’s another dog on the lead and an off-lead dog is barreling towards them whilst the owner is shouting, it’s okay, they’re friendly.
I think a more accurate description is “It’s okay, my dog is rude and has no manners!”
Let’s look at those unwritten dog walking etiquette rules to see why the above statement is more accurate.
Just like with people, we don’t have to enjoy every personality type that we come across. Some of you may love loud, gregarious people, people who get labelled the life and soul of the party, they welcome everybody, and they just want to have fun all the time. That could be your idea of a soulmate.
Or you may think that that type of person is horrendous. You might describe them as rude, obnoxious, intimidating, and you don’t want to be anywhere near them.
Some people may prefer quiet, thoughtful types who will actually let you get a word in and will listen to what you say. These people tend to take life at a slower pace and take time to get to know one another.
You might think that type of person is off hand, aloof, boring or just plain hard to read. This may put you off wanting to spend time with them.
Dogs are exactly the same. So often when somebody shouts My dog is friendly, they are that gregarious type that for some personalities, they will be considered rude and obnoxious rather than friendly.
And it’s our job to ensure that everybody, every personality type is allowed to enjoy the space that they are using regardless whether they want to be the party animals, or if they would prefer a quiet night in with a good book.
Everyone should be allowed to use the same space without worry that their walk is going to be ruined by a personality type that they don’t enjoy interacting with.
Unwritten rules of the park
- Don’t allow your dog to approach other dogs without asking the owner’s permission.
- If you see a dog on a lead, give them space. DO NOT allow your dog to run up to them off lead. Even if you have your dog on a lead don’t just allow your dog to pull you towards them. Dogs are on a lead for a reason and this needs to be respected.
- Keep an eye on what your dog is doing. Make sure you pick up after them and don’t allow them to run ahead out of your sight as you may not know what’s round the corner.
- Refrain from walking your female, in – season dog in areas popular with off lead dogs. Instead take them to quieter areas where they won’t attract as much attention.
- Don’t allow your dog to run up to people and bark or jump up at them. The same goes for chasing joggers or cyclists. Keep them on lead in places where this is likely to occur.
- Enjoy the walk together! Engage with your dog and build that bond.
Please note this list is not fully comprehensive, there are other points to add. This section could almost be a blog of its own, there is so much to cover. But practicing these rules will keep both you and your dog out of trouble.
3 tips for mastering outstanding dog walking etiquette
Tip number 1 – Making sure your dog can pay attention to you.
Can your dog ignore things that are around them and listen to what you ask? This is a big one. You can improve this by not making socialising mistake number one. For every 2 dogs/people your dog gets to interact with you will walk past the next dog/person.
This might mean creating more distance and paying your dog with their favourite food reward as you walk past the dog/person.
Having a positive interrupter is perfect for this type of situation.
Tip number 2 – If you know your dog’s recall falls apart when they see other dogs, please start using a long line and building that recall. Check out my recall training 101 blog
Download my free recall training guide below 👇
Don’t let your dog rehearse behaviours you don’t want them to. Instead help them rehearse behaviours you do want.
Tip number 3 – Engage with your dog on walks! Not every walk has to be all about meeting social needs. Some walks should be about spending time together. Let them spend time sniffing, playing hide and seek with you or maybe do a bit of training so they will listen to you.
This means putting your phone away, not listening to music/podcasts and walking without throwing a ball repeatedly.
This will also help you be more observant on walks. You’ll be more likely to notice those owners who put their dog on a lead and walk the other way. Maybe you’ll hear the jogger coming behind you and you can get your dog’s attention quicker. Or you’ll spot a family having a picnic up ahead and be able to get your dog on a lead before they embarrass you by running over and scoffing everything.
Teach a positive interrupter to stop your dog breaking dog etiquette rules!
Having a dog who can easily pay attention to you means you’ll have a dog who listens to what you ask them to do and who is less likely to make etiquette faux pas.
Having a positive interrupter in your bag of tricks is a super easy way to get their attention and stop them making a mistake.
If you want to improve your understanding of your dog’s behaviour and learn skills that will help you have the best behaved dog in town then our Paradox at home courses will give you that. All from the comfort of your own home! Whether you have a puppy or an adult dog we have a course that will support you.