The other day I decided to walk all my dogs at once. This is a rare occurance at my house. Why? Well, for one thing it’s not as easy as you think it is. And for my students with only one dog-you have NO IDEA how easy you have it. Even the most reactive single dog is easier to handle than multiple dogs. With each dog you add you exponentially make it more difficult. Our biggest challenge right now is that Maverick has really slowed down. He likes to smell everything and when we walk alone it is a slow pleasant walk. But, when he is with either of the other dogs there is a huge difference in pace. When you have all three it’s even worse. Yes, I can slow the other two down and I can speed Maverick up but I don’t like to micro manage them that way. Plus, the other day I saw Maverick stumble trying to keep up and that just broke my heart.
But, the reason for this post isn’t about Maverick it’s a rant about what happened on our walk. I came home super frustrated. Not because of my dogs-I get it. They live in the moment and they just want to go our normal pace and Maverick was slowing us down. No, I was frustrated with the most of the other people I encountered and one person in particular.
I propose that there should be rules of the road when you are walking your dog. Etiquete that everyone knows and follows. What I see day after day varies greatly. Some days people and dogs are very polite and sometimes they are clueless and sometimes they are just rude.
Here is what I propose:
Pulling off: When another dog(s) is approaching from the opposite direction the human with the smallest NUMBER of dogs should pull off or concede space. When you are driving and arrive at a four way stop if you are the first car to approach the intersection you go first. If two cars get there at the same time, then the car who is in the right is the one that goes first. A similar rule could apply to dog walking. If you are walking one dog and someone has two dogs you pull off to the side. This gives the person with two dogs more room to pass. If you have three dogs and someone has two dogs the person with two dogs should pull off to the side etc. It is far easier to get a single dog to sit politely and wait than it is to get three dogs to do the same. I can hear you now, “But, Jennifer, if your dogs are so well behaved isn’t it easier for you to pull off?” Yes, MY dogs can do this but many can’t plus it is frustrating to always be the one to concede space. Sometimes I just want to walk past a dog and because they can’t control their single dog I have move? Seriously? I have to move my three dogs off the path so you and your ONE dog can walk by? Even though you could have taken the other path and avoided us altogether?
Indicate clearly: Once you have decided to pull off indicate that clearly to the other person. No, you don’t have to stop right then but start to angle your body away. This lets them know where you are going so they can adjust as necessary.
Don’t judge: I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten the “look” from other people when I am out walking Jasper. It was a long hard road to transform him from the barking, lunging, drag me down at the sight of other dogs dog to the dog he is now. Now, he might bark once or twice and sometimes whines. The look you give me when he barks? Yeah, you can keep that to yourself. You have NO idea what we have been through. And that holier than thou attitude you have when you walk by because your dog isn’t barking? Let’s just say that karma is a bitch. He has taught me so much about being stressed out and over threshold on a walk. I don’t expect him to be perfect. I’m not. I love him and I understand him and I know that when he is barking it’s usually because your dog is throwing the equivalent of doggie gang signs his way.
DO NOT LET YOUR DOG GREET WITHOUT PERMISSION: “He’s just friendly!” That may be true. But, maybe my dog won’t appreciate your dog running up to him with the equivalent of a slap on the butt and a “hey, what’s your sign” type of greeting. This could be a whole blog by itself-and probably will be someday.
Poop: Besides just picking up your own I propose that you pay it forward and pick up a poo left by someone else. I will admit that once in my life the dogs surprised me and pooped more than I had bags and I left a poo. I felt terribly guilty and was far from home and had absolutely NOTHING to use. So, I now have poo bags in my purse, in my car console, in my treat pouch and now on my dog’s harness. I found a FABULOUS new poo bag holder. It’s from Molly Mutt and it is a soft bag. It is large enough to hold a driver’s license, a chap stick AND a roll of bags. Because it is soft fabric I don’t mind hooking it to my dogs harness. You could even stuff a few grocery bags in there if you don’t use the rolled poo bags. This is such a great find I will be bringing them in for the holiday show. I know that some people are just rude and never pick up their poo but I like to tell myself that I am helping someone who got caught without a bag.
Ok. I’m done. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Your polite dog trainer is back. Now, get out there and walk your dog but remember to be courteous to your fellow walkers.