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Dog walking etiquette: 5 tips for stress-free strolls

Dog walking etiquette: woman taking her dog for a walk on a fall day
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re anything like most pet parents, ensuring you and your canine companion practice proper dog walking etiquette when you’re out and about is likely always high on your priority list. While it may sometimes feel like the unwritten rules for dog walking are restrictive, they can help ward off trouble and ensure that you and your dog can safely enjoy your time in the great outdoors together.

We’ve pulled together everything you need to know to help make those daily strolls enjoyable and stress-free. It’s the perfect guide for new pet parents or anyone looking for a refresher in dog walking etiquette. Either way, these rules will let you say goodbye to all the pet politics and hello to focusing on what’s most important - quality time and fresh air with your canine companion. 

Prefer running to walking? Then you won’t want to miss our 10 tips for running with your dog. It has everything you need to make sure you and your pooch can pound the pavement together happily and safely. 

1. Scoop that poop

Woman picking up dog poop

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of stepping in dog poop, then you know how unpleasant it can be. While some dog owners fail to clean up their dog’s poop because they’ve forgotten to bring a bag, others leave it mistakenly thinking it works in much the same way as fertilizer, nourishing the grass as it decomposes. 

According to U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA), it’s one of the biggest myths around, and it’s causing our waterways to become polluted. “Animal waste contains two main types of pollutants that harm local waters: nutrients and pathogens,” says the EPA. “When this waste ends up in water bodies, it decomposes, releasing nutrients that cause excessive growth of algae and weeds. The pathogens, disease-causing bacteria and viruses, can make local waters unswimmable and unfishable and have caused severe illness in humans.”

When you’re out walking with your dog, always ensure you’re prepared to pick up their poop and dispose of it safely. Carry poop bags with you, use specially marked dog poo disposal bins in parks, and don’t let your dog do their business within 200 meters of a water body.

2. Use a leash

Image of woman walking her dog on a lead through a park on an autumn day

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While it can be tempting to want to let your dog run free, we recommend that you always keep your dog on a leash when out walking. Even the most well-trained dogs can’t resist sometimes darting off when something catches their attention or they get spooked, so keeping them on a leash ensures they remain safe.

There’s also the possibility that your dog isn’t spayed or neutered and that they may come into contact with another dog who isn’t either. All it takes is a few moments of your back being turned and suddenly you’re a pet grandparent to a litter of puppies! 

Unleashed dogs who run after other dogs are also putting themselves at risk as you can never be sure of how another dog is going to respond to your dog’s expression of interest or their exuberant requests for a playmate. Some dogs may be nervous of your well-meaning pooch or flat-out aggressive, so keep them on a lead for their protection.

If you do decide to let your dog off its leash, consider investing in one of the best pet trackers. These nifty devices can be mounted onto your dog’s collar, allowing you to quickly and easily locate them if they go sprinting off and end up out of sight. 

3. Be respectful

It’s likely that while you’re out walking, you and your canine companion are going to encounter other dogs, people, property, and wildlife. Being respectful of your environment is one of the most important things to remember as a dog owner.

Before you let your dog interact with other dogs, fellow pet parents, or children, ensure you ask permission first. While you love your pooch to pieces, many people are apprehensive around dogs and may feel nervous or fearful if your dog comes bounding towards them or tries to jump up to say hi.

You’ll also want to be mindful of what your dog gets up to if you’re walking in a residential neighborhood. Most people will frown upon having a strange dog poo or urinate on their front lawn, come barreling through their garden destroying their flower beds, or engaging in a game of chase with their much-loved, and now rather scared, kitty. 

While you may adore your dog’s social butterfly behavior and lovable exuberance, other people may not feel the same way. Stick to the sidewalks when you’re walking in your neighborhood, keep your dog on a leash to avoid them entering private property, and allow plenty of space between you and your dog and other people. 

4. Prioritize training

Siberian husky with his owner in the park

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the best ways to ensure your daily strolls are smooth sailing is to focus some time on training your dog, so they’re clear on what behavior is expected of them. Work on basic commands, such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘down’, ‘come’, and ‘no’, which will help you feel in control of your dog when you’re walking together.

Focus on training your dog to walk close to you, to not jump up on other people or bark at them, and to stop at busy intersections and roads. If you’re in a quiet area and let them off their lead, you’ll also want the peace of mind that they’ll immediately come to you if called. 

The easiest way to train a dog is through the use of positive reinforcement. Take a bag of the best dog treats with you whenever you’re out walking and reward your canine companion every time they do what you’ve asked them to do. This reinforces good behavior and makes it more likely that they’ll continue to follow your instructions.

5. Safety first

We’ve spoken a lot in this piece about keeping other people and animals safe, but it’s equally important to keep yourself and your dog safe. While it can be tempting to use your phone when you’re out walking or to listen to music while you’re striding it out, we recommend giving your full attention to your dog and your surroundings. This enables you to keep an eye on other people, dogs, and cars.

If you walk regularly in the dawn, dusk, or dark, make sure that you and your pooch are visible. Some of the best dog coats, leads, and collars come with reflective stitching that allows both cars and pedestrians to quickly spot your furkid. If you’d rather not deck yourself out in reflective gear, there are some stylish cuffs and safety bracelets around these days that are just as effective.