You love your best friend. Taking your dog out in public is a natural reaction to that love. Whether it’s for a social gathering, an outdoor picnic, or exercising in the park, your dog probably wants to go outside with you in the sunshine as much as you want to take them.
Naturally, there are good and bad ways to go about it. To keep you, your dog, and everyone around you safe and comfortable, here are a few tips on how to take your dog out in public the right way.
Know Your Dog
This is the first thing you need to think about before considering taking your dog out in public. It will determine not only if you go, but where you can go with your particular dog.
If you know your dog gets territorial around other dogs, refrain from dog parks. If you know that loud noises make them skittish, plan a walk away from busy street corners. How well your dog is socialized around other people and animals should be at the front of your mind when deciding where to take them.
Dogs aren’t welcome everywhere. Before taking them out to an enclosed space or business, ask if it would be okay.
It’s also important to remember that your dog’s behavior around other people is not the only thing to consider, since not all people are okay with being around dogs. Not everyone wants to be licked and sniffed. Some children are also afraid of them.
Just be aware that other people don’t know and love your pet as much as you do. Allowing them free reign around others may not be the most respectful way to treat them. Consider keeping closer control of the situation.
It would be great to leave the house and not worry about bringing anything, but you should really ask yourself a lot of questions before you do so.
The first is: how long will you be out? If you think you might be out for a while with no access to drinking water, you may need to bring your dog’s dish and a water bottle. If your dog responds well to treats or toys in stressful situations, consider bringing them.
Ditching the retractable leash is also advice given by dog experts everywhere. In a public place, this could be dangerous for your dog and for other people. If they get scared or aggressive, you want to be in control of that situation. You also don’t want them jumping into traffic. Retractable leashes are not for everyone. Experts recommend that the retractable leash should only be used by experienced and knowledgeable dog owners, and should only be used with well-trained dogs, in some appropriate circumstances and environments.
Finally, no matter what, you need to bring a scoop and a baggie. Unless you’re going out into heavily wooded or unpopulated areas, your dog’s droppings are going to get in someone’s way. People who don’t own dogs don’t want to be stepping in poop on their way out the door. Street corners don’t need the delightful smell of your dog’s amendments to the pavement.
Being respectful is a behavior thing but it’s also an equipment thing. Prepare to make it so that when you and your dog leave your little outing, it was like you were never there.
You may think that taking your dog out and releasing them into the dog park means that you get to relax, chat with joggers, and check your Twitter. But you should really be paying attention to your pooch.
Things can happen no matter where you are – a fight could break out between dogs, or they could wander off and get hurt. To avoid losing control of the situation, always keep an eye on what your best friend is doing.
Like most of these rules, this is more important the less socialized your dog is. That brings me to …
You may think that your dog is prepared to behave out in the world, but you need to ask yourself if the situation will be new to them and, if so, how they might react. Taking them to the dog park is very different from walking a crowded city street, for instance.
If your plan is to take them to lunch and leave them under the table, do you know that they can handle that situation? Preparing your dog beforehand with easy social situations and frequent contact with lots of new things will better socialize them and make your life easier when you have to take them somewhere they may not have been before.
Keep Your Cool
Of course, we want our dogs to stay calm, but what about us? One thing that can quickly escalate a situation involving a dog unprepared for the stimuli around them is to add more of it with your anxious shouting or rapid movements.
Talking to your dog in low, even tones even when things aren’t going right is a recommended strategy for calming them down. Remember, your dog probably isn’t “mean.” They probably just sense danger. Your yelling or jerking motions just reinforces the feeling that yes, we’re in danger, which makes everything worse.
Replacing those feelings with calm reassurances is how you can defuse a bad situation. You need to be on top of it even when they aren’t so everyone stays as safe as possible.
The prospect of taking your best friend out on the town is full of advantages: sunshine, laughter, licking of hands, exercise for you and the pup. But under preparing for your adventure can come at a cost. It could be anything from people being uncomfortable to someone getting hurt.
To avoid this, it pays to prepare with the right mindset, the proper gear, and an excess of calm. Be aware of what your dog is doing (and also what they could do) and how other people around you are reacting to them. Being respectful and safe isn’t difficult, but it requires awareness.
If you know your dog, you know what they can handle. Respect them above all else and your day out should be as fun as you imagine.