Know Your Dog and Your Dog’s Body Language
The most important part of dog walking etiquette is to know your dog. Knowing how they react to stimulants, new and previously encountered, is absolutely key. Whether it’s a squirrel or a man on a bike, knowing how your dog is going to react can help you best diffuse the situation before.
With this in mind, it is also important to know how to read your dog’s body language. Canine body language is relatively universal, but unfortunately, this isn’t always true. A tail between the legs typically indicates fear. However, in Greyhounds, this is just the way their tail naturally hangs—giving them a perma-scared look. While you don’t need to know the quirks of every breed, it is important to have a general idea of canine body language.
Dog walking requires an awareness of what is going on around you at all times. Wearing headphones or playing on your phone can cause you to accidentally get into an unwanted situation. Therefore, it is important to be mindful and avoid any distractions. Instead, spend quality time with your dog, and deal with emails, Facebook updates or music when you’re at home.
Remain in Control
Never let the dog lead the way. If another dog or person is approaching, it is absolutely of vital importance to remain in control. You may know your dog, but you don’t know the dog, or the person, approaching. Sure, it looks like a harmless Yorkie, but it could be a viscous biter. This could result in several small but painful wounds that could even require stitches, or become infected.
Of course, it never hurts to ask. Unless of course, the person looks or seems unfriendly. Never be afraid to ask, “is he friendly?” to oncoming people. Your first priority is keeping you and your dog safe.
Be Mindful of Your Body Language, Tone
Finally, always be mindful of your own body language and tone. Your dog can read you, just as you (hopefully) read his. If you become distressed, your tone of voice changes, or anything out of the normal happens, your dog will know. Furthermore, your behavior can influence the other oncoming dog. Shouting is often seen as barking to other dogs, which only excites and escalates the situation. Therefore, it is important to remain in control of your own tone and if possible, your body language.
A basic understanding of canine body language, along with remaining aware and even asking questions, can make all the difference. Though others may not follow the basic rules of doggy walk etiquette, that does not mean that you yourself, shouldn’t. Should a more dramatic situation arise, it is your behavior and your control over your dog that will benefit you the most.
Lisa Mason writes for Doggie Clothesline, an online dog clothing and accessories boutique. She is also the proud owner of her own furry four-legged friend named Vincent.