Dog Etiquette

CrazyDogMama’s (Unconventional) Guide to Dog Etiquette

I was recently inspired by a lovely soul over at to write an article on Dog Etiquette, and it was perfect timing since I have a brand new puppy! I can’t believe I didn’t think of writing something like this earlier being that I’m CrazyDogMama; I guess I’ve been too busy writing about my obsession with subscription boxes – GAH! Dog Etiquette is actually pretty important (not just a nice idea), so I’m glad the opportunity came up for me to be able to share some of my thoughts on the topic.

Before we get started, for those of you who might need it, also has a pretty cool dog walking service in addition to finding quality dog sitters. I’m going to use them myself for finding a doggy daycare when I have to travel. I found a place awhile ago I like near home, but sometimes we go on road trips with the dog in tow, and if we want to do something that isn’t dog-friendly (like a swamp tour in Louisiana, for instance), it is awesome to be able to use their service to find the nearest reputable one quickly!  I am really persnickety about dog care; my parents had a bad experience with a dog boarding facility when I was a kid – their little poodle escaped and was found walking along the highway!  I remember my mom having a total nuclear meltdown when THAT phone call came in. Anyway, they are a great resource.

I know there are a zillion articles out there on Dog Etiquette, so what I’m going to try and do here today is hit on some points that perhaps you may not see just anywhere. I’m also going to leave out excruciating details on the obvious stuff, and instead tell you some fairly entertaining stories so that you don’t fall asleep. Just an FYI, we are a little wacko over here (it’s not my fault!) and my writing can get a little obnoxious at times. Maybe someone should send me a guide on blogging etiquette? Nah!

You still game? OK, Let’s talk dog etiquette!

Dog Etiquette

Jack on his first visit to the dog park!  He did great!

Rule #1: Be Prepared

Let’s just say for the record that Jack (my new Cairn Terrier puppy) has no manners WHATSOEVER yet, so it is up to ME, the OWNER, to have them FOR him when we go out. (Not that I have perfect manners, but whatever, listen up anyway!) I think it’s safe to say that it’s rare to find a pup that does everything right 100% of the time, and with Cairn Terriers in particular, well, you can probably expect to top out at about 25% obedience in public unless you are a trainer-extraordinaire. Which I’m not. BUT, after successfully raising three CRAZY terriers I consider myself somewhat of a freakin’ pro, here.

I’m gonna tell you now, preparation is everything! I don’t just mean having the right stuff with you (poo bags, leash, water, etc.), but you need to get your head out of the clouds (or other places) and be in a relatively good mood. That may sound ridiculous, but your dog is SUPER tuned in to your emotions, and if you are a cranky-ass, your dog is gonna be out of control! I’m not kidding. Yes, I speak from experience.  Don’t go to the dog park after a stupid day at the office if you can’t let it go.  I’m just sayin’.

As far as accessories go, some places have poo bags (and garbage bins) provided for your convenience, but don’t count on it! Have plenty of doggy tie-bags on hand. There is nothing worse than having to look around for a leaf or something to pick up a steamy pile with (while everyone watches), then having to walk around with it. 😉 Don’t be thinkin’ you’re sneaky – someone is ALWAYS watching. And some people get downright peeved if you don’t deal with doggy poo properly.

Funny story. Louie, my first Cairn Terrier (and the love of my life), made pooping decisions at the absolute WORST times.  One time while out on a walk we had to cross a busy street, and right in the middle of crossing (yeah, you guessed it) he did the poop-crouch. And I have to tell you, Louie was the Rock of Gibraltar when he pooped. There were cars coming (of course), so I yanked on his leash frantically trying to get him to come to the side and finish, but he not only resisted heavily, but started YELPING LOUDLY (not out of pain mind you, he was just being his obstinate self) and refused to move until he was done. He screamed like I was skinning him alive. Graciously, the cars slowed down and stopped while I scooped him up (poo still flying out of his butt) and raced him to the other side. I also had no poo bags with me, naturally.  I was a newb back then. Needless to say, I was a little rattled and very embarrassed. Louie was a tad annoyed, too.  Yes, it’s funny NOW, but not so much then. Ha!

Water.  This is a no-brainer, but make sure your pup has access to water!  After running and playing they will dehydrate quickly and if it is warm out, dehydration can be very dangerous!  Look for signs of excessive panting, an uneven gait, vomiting or confusion.

I highly suggest working with your dog at home on a regular basis – even when they are fully trained. The dog park (or beach, or wherever) shouldn’t really be your training ground, or the only place your pup gets exercise.  While Jack was receiving his puppy immunizations, I leash-trained him inside the house and in my backyard so that he was already very familiar with it by the time we were ready to venture out into the world. If you have a small apartment with no backyard, practice in the hallway or stairwell. I lived in an apartment when I got my first dog, and lost about 20 pounds going up and down the stairs and around the parking lot doing his leash training.

NOTE FOR PUPPIES: Under NO circumstances take your dog in public until he has had all of his shots!  OR if he is coughing, sneezing or has loose stools. DUH!

Rule #2 – Don’t Get Cocky, Pay Attention!

What I do well is knowing ahead of time that Jack is like a squirrel on crack and and likes to test my (and everyone else’s) boundaries DAILY. If something else gets his attention abruptly, it’s like I no longer exist and any/all training goes right out the window. If your dog is untrained, young or is just plain incorrigible, make sure you keep an eagle eye on him at all times.  Even if he is wonder dog – never zone completely out. This means: Put your phone away, don’t bring a book, eat before you go, ditch the iPod, and chit chat with other doggy parents out of the side of your mouth while your eyes stay on your dog. It is OK to be social or sit and relax on a bench if you want to, but stay alert so that you can react quickly if needed. Taking your pup out shouldn’t just be about you, it should be your special time with your fuzzy!

Heed warning signs.  There is a sign for rattlesnakes in a park nearby me, so I don’t let Jack sniff in the bushes there. Also, hot pavement = burned puppy paws.  BAD.  Snow and ice can get impacted in your dog’s paws, too, so if they start walking funny, this could be why and it can do damage to their pads. That reminds me of another funny story. I took Louie out for a nice walk in the snow with me one time when I lived in Seattle and I thought he would love it. He didn’t. About 5 minutes into the walk down a trail by my house, he laid down and wouldn’t get up. Simply refused to walk. I tried pulling his leash (he had a harness on), and all that did was turn him into a snow-plow. No joke. He stayed down as I literally dragged him, and a big pile of snow accumulated in front of him.  I finally had to pick him up and carry him home. Damn dog was heavy!  LOL!

Rule #3 – Respect, Respect, Respect.  Never Assume!

Tell everyone in close proximity to you (newcomers, too), any pertinent details about your dog and his quirks right away.  If they seem bothered by anything, respect their wishes and do your best to keep your dog under control.  Listen to what they say about their dog too, and NEVER reach for, or touch another animal without permission first!  Some people (and dogs) are friendly and some aren’t. Use your best judgement, but if someone is clearly not thinking you or your dog are the greatest thing since sliced bread, mind your own business.

I know I don’t have to tell you that letting your dog pee on another person’s lawn or shrubbery is not a good plan. Steer them away from private property when walking through the ‘hood.  I’ve seen WARS break out between neighbors over poor dog etiquette. It’s not pretty. Be kind and respectful always – you never know when you might have to rally the neighborhood together for a search party or something, and you certainly don’t want to be the only one left out of wine…I mean…pool party.  😉

Jack Bite

Teething is real!  Ouch!  Needle teeth!  In short, no one likes this.  Jack has no concept of personal space and he is up in everyone’s grill, all the time.  I kept him close to me on leash during our first trip to the dog park until I could observe how he was going to act with the other dogs and people. I also did some pre-socialization with friends and family to gauge my challenges. Once I was comfortable, I let him off leash in the gated dog park and he had a blast! If you don’t feel like you can let your dog off leash safely or without incident, it’s probably best to come back another day because keeping him leashed the whole time while other dogs get to run and play will stress him out and make him unruly. Plus, it’s not fair.

Because Jack is an 18 week old puppy with A.D.D., it can be difficult to get him to “come” to me, or “stop” doing unwanted behavior with a simple command (we’re working on it, but these things take time), SO what I do is bring a bag of treats and shake them and call his name.  He comes running like the wind to me no matter what when I do this, HOWEVER, if you have a bag of doggy treats, guess what?  EVERY dog will come to you! Be prepared to share but ONLY IF YOU HAVE PERMISSION FROM THE OWNER! Many dogs have food allergies, and everyone is different when it comes to nutrition for their pets. I always have organic, grain-free treats with me, but it is still possible that unfamiliar food could upset another pup’s tummy. I have learned to give Jack his ‘good boy’ treat quickly and put the treat bag away before anyone (hopefully) notices. The treat bag thing has been a tricky situation and I’m not sure I recommend it, but it has prevented a couple of disasters. For instance, even when shut, the gate at one of the local dog parks here has a wide space between the pole and the chain link, and Jack can get through it! He saw a dog coming up the walk and flew through the opening on the closed gate before I could even blink! The only thing that got his attention was shaking the treat bag.

Rule #4 – If Disaster Strikes, Stay Calm.

Jack likes to, um, ‘steal’ stuff.  Unsuspecting small children will often get things taken from them, and recently, this poor lady at the dog park set her purse down on a low bench and Jack promptly inspected the contents and borrowed a pack of Kleenex. (Thank God it wasn’t a tampon.)  My first reaction was to come running and yelling with my arms flailing up in the air, but that would have just made Jack run away faster (tail wagging so proud) or possibly cause barking and mayhem among the other dogs. I stayed calm, told Jack “NO” and to “DROP IT”, shook my treat bag and then apologized to the lady for 10 minutes – who by the way was very sweet and thought it was funny. We got lucky.

Jack Steals

This is Jack stealing the bookmark out of my book (Ack!!!) in my backyard while I was enjoying a dip in the pool.  I don’t know what I was thinking leaving out my iced coffee, but thankfully he left that alone.

Worse-case scenario.  If a dog-fight breaks out (or heaven forbid an attack), a whistle or air horn can come in handy, but if you are following Rule #2 (paying attention) there are typically MANY warning signs and red flags before this happens.  Growling, teeth-baring, whining, barking…you get the idea.  But if it does happen, DON’T freak out, use your head. Remember, dogs are sensitive to, and react to your emotions.  You freak out, they freak out.

Rule #5 – Know Your Dog’s Limits.  And Yours.

Jack can only walk and/or play at the dog park for about an hour, then he’s done.  He starts laying down, won’t retrieve his ball and stops chasing and playing with the other dogs. He would be happy to stay and chew on the grass or roll on bugs, but his lethargy is my queue to pack it up. The same goes for you. Make sure you don’t set out on a unfamiliar hiking trail with your dog, or over-extend yourself so that you aren’t as focused as you should be. Sometimes I forget to eat and my blood sugar drops, and I get disoriented quickly. Don’t forget, us humans need to stay hydrated too!

Often times there is a designated “big dog” area and “little dog” area.  It’s best to go where you are supposed to.  If you have a Chihuahua, going into the big dog area is probably not a good idea just because there is a hottie in there you want to flirt with. Obeying the rules will ensure a happier time had by all. Jack seems to be good with all shapes and sizes, but I am super careful because you just never know.

Dog Etiquette

Dog Etiquette

Kids. How does your dog do around children? KNOW before you GO. Terriers aren’t generally good with kids, but Cairn Terriers seem to be an exception.  All of my Cairns have loved kids, but don’t make any assumptions. This is an important rule for the dog AND the kid!

Travel and Hotels

I could write a whole article on this subject alone, so I’ll just go over the basics. Don’t leave your dog in a hot car. EVER. Not even for 2 minutes. It’s illegal, cruel and they could DIE. No dogs in an open truck bed, either. Too dangerous. I make Jack lay on the floor when I’m driving – it is the safest place for him (and you!). If your pup is too big for the floor, have him lay on the back seat – you don’t want the air bags deploying on him, it could injure or kill him.  If I’m going on a long road trip, I bring a small crate. Crates are WONDERFUL. They work for the car AND the hotel. Most hotels won’t allow dogs to be left unattended in a room, but I use the crate if I am loading/unloading, or doing anything where I can’t watch him.  It also helps with barking.  If Jack is agitated, I put him in his crate with a towel or blanket over it and it calms him right down. Dogs are natural den animals, and when used properly, crates are a life saver for everybody!

Well, I hope you enjoyed my take on Dog Etiquette!  I hate rules as much as the next guy, but my dog is important to me and I want him safe and happy.  I also want to be able to enjoy my time out with him, and I know you do too!  Do you have anything to add? Want to share a good story? Got any questions? Leave a comment or drop me an email at the ‘Contact Me’ page!

To read more about Jack, go here!

Dog Etiquette

The dog park wears me out!!!

Happy Barking!  Woof Woof!

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1 Comment

  • Cathy July 18, 2016 06.36 am

    Well said!! Love the pics!!!!


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About the Author

Hi, I’m Cheryl, a.k.a. "CrazyDogMama". Welcome to my blog! Anything and everything goes here - seriously. I'm a super laid-back, non-traditional, 40-something introverted writer. My language can get a little colorful, I love horror movies, I pretty much live on coffee, chocolate and cigarettes and I'm not above writing about uncomfortable subjects. So, if you're good with that, take a look around and get to know me! Even if you're not, I try my best to entertain and offer up good advice occasionally, so hopefully there is a little something here for everyone.

This is my life.


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