5 Proper Dog Walking Etiquette Tips

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I live in a city that was named Dog Town USA. We have lots of paths, trails, and dog parks for our dogs to roam. Every day, I take my two dogs running with me on our local trail.

The other day, we were doing our usual routine: effortlessly moving left, moving right, and occasionally slowing due to congestion. A walker stopped to tell me how “well behaved” my dogs were, and that she couldn’t imagine her own dogs ever behaving so well. This comment made me think about how my dogs became this way.

When I got my first dog (as an adult), I wanted to be a responsible dog owner. I wanted my dogs to not jump on people, to sit patiently while I talk to friends, to pass by other dogs without incident and to not pull on the leash. Through my experience with various training methods, I have learned many good tips for a well trained dog. Here are a few:

  1. First and foremost, dogs communicate through the owner’s energy. Basically, they feed off the owner’s mood. Tension from holding the leash tightly transfers right down to the dog. A dog picks up on the owner’s mood. The dog’s behavior during a walk will reflect that mood further. Time spent walking one’s dog should be a positive bonding experience.
  2. Dogs need to greet other dogs properly. Their communication is through sniffing. They should start at the back and work their way to the front. Sniffing the back end sends valuable information about the other dog, including its gender, age, and health. Starting out, the dogs greeting time should be short (less then 5 seconds). Watch your dogs’ behavior for clues of stress. If a dog’s tail is down or his hair stands up at its haunches, the owner should take the dog away.
  3. Verbal communication is valuable to make that great connection with our dog. They will learn good behavior from the owner, or unwanted “dog” behavior if left with faulty communication. If a dog is not told what is right, he will naturally be self-rewarding. Everyone tends to learn more effectively through positive praise. Speak with a positive tone of voice, have fun. Create a positive environment.
  4. Dogs focus on movement. If you keep them moving they will focus on the walking with you instead of what is moving past them. If the owner stops, the dog will focus on the more interesting things. I cue my dogs with “on by” to know they need to go passed the distraction.
  5. While out on the path, owners can work on connecting with their dog when faced with distractions, such as certain people or dogs walking by. For example, the “Puppy push up” (sit and down) interspersed with a stand to keep the dog focused. Take treats to have better focus, the higher value the better. I also like teaching dogs “on by” and teaching them “left” or “right” when faced with crowded areas.

A good dog is a happy dog.

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About The Author

Lynn Albrow

Lynn Albrow has two dogs, both Canine Good Citizens and (TDI) Therapy Dog International certified: Lola, a Mcnab (Border Collie Cattle dog mix) and Cole, a Border Lab. Lynn’s passion in training got started when in obedience class with Lola. She currently participates in Agility trials. Her dogs volunteer at one of the local retirement communities where Lola usually puts on a show and Cole has a more relax and soothing approach for therapy.

19 Comments

  • Denise Kam

    Reply Reply July 18, 2014

    Very nicely put. Light reading, easy to understand, and still lots of information.

    • Jean Cote

      Jean Cote

      Reply Reply July 18, 2014

      I agree with you Denise. I had a chuckle when I read the part about puppy push-ups. I think a video is in order. LOL 🙂

  • jan

    Reply Reply July 18, 2014

    Good ideas all, I appreciate how much effort it takes to have such well trained dogs.

    I’ve been trying to keep calm and a loose leash when I let my lab mix meet other dogs, and sometimes he’s good, but other times, even when meeting a friendly but shy dog he’s met before, he will sniff for a second, then make like he’s going to attack, going straight for the neck. My dog gets to play weekly at the doggy day care, so he’s plenty socialized, just not when he’s on a leash. Any suggestions on how to get him to be more relaxed when he’s on a lead?

    • Jean Cote

      Jean Cote

      Reply Reply July 18, 2014

      Would you be able to post a video? It’s hard to tell if it’s an aggression problem or if he’s just trying to play from your description. If you publish it on YouTube you can share the link with us here.

  • luci

    Reply Reply July 18, 2014

    Awesome article!!!

    what are the steps to teach, “on by?”

    • Lynn

      Reply Reply September 22, 2014

      “on by ” Video soon to come

      • Jean Cote

        Jean Cote

        Reply Reply October 5, 2014

        Yep… Soon! 🙂

  • Linda

    Reply Reply July 18, 2014

    Fantastically put. I have a small 14 month ols Sheltie. I will definitely try your suggestions. Thanking you

  • Sheila

    Reply Reply July 18, 2014

    Nice article! Looking forward to the other ones to come. Basic instructions but so on target!

  • Linda

    Reply Reply July 20, 2014

    Great tips! We do some of these but I love the idea of teaching right/left. I’m going to start doing that so I don’t have to pull them to one side or the other.

  • Deb Gibson

    Reply Reply July 20, 2014

    Great article! I’m looking forward to more like this! Thanks

  • Gerri

    Reply Reply July 22, 2014

    Thank you for the great tips (as usual). I am wondering how much my dog should be allowed to sniff when we go for our regular walks. I read somewhere that sniffing on a walk is the same thing for a dog as reading the newspaper is for us. She had a few favourite places where I stopped and let her sniff, but now it has become less of a brisk walk and more of a sniffing expedition. She has hip and elbow displaysia so low impact is good for her but I need the exercise of a brisk walk.

  • Connie

    Reply Reply August 18, 2014

    My 5 month Vizsla puppy recently has been scared to death to walk any further than our road. He immediately puts on the breaks and will not move unless I turn around and go back to the house.Then he pulls with all his might. I don’t understand what has changed in our walks and how to get him from pulling. Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Lynn

      Reply Reply September 22, 2014

      Connie, what kind of environment is he being faced with? is it loud noises, rushing cars , kids? He is young and exploring the world, give him positive feed back, let him have the chance to become confident in the world. Take him close to the area and let him become comfortable with the surrounding. My dog was spooked by something in the neighborhood when she was 5 month old and refused to go pass that area. She eventually grow out of it. I worked on giving her cookies to make it a positive connection when we walked by the fast moving cars.

  • lynn

    Reply Reply August 19, 2014

    Connie, My Lola was spooked (when she was a puppy) by some loud noises when I was half way around the block. She did the same thing your Vizla is doing. It took her some time to bounce back from that. Your dog is still a puppy. He is still figuring out the world. Noises, trucks and other people are very overwhelming for him right now. Give him time. Take it in small sections and advance a little farther after he is comfortable. For example: start with taking him down the driveway until he is comfortable (make it a happy experience for him), let him stay there looking, sniff, peeing! Next, try to go one house down, let him stop and sniff, etc. Remember to make the experience a positive one. It will happen 🙂 it takes time. Hope this helps.

  • Tamara Jessup

    Reply Reply September 18, 2014

    I adopted my wonderful “Superschnoodle” from a local shelter when he was about two. He’d been well-trained and very well-socialized by his original family but there were, and still are, a few snags. I’m proud that he learned to ignore passing vehicles within a couple of weeks, going from freezing whenever a car went by to walkin nicely on-leash, something he did so well that he easily adapted to walking on my right to accommodate my use of a cane for mobility support. I’m still struggling with his being too friendly for his own good, though. We’ve worked very hard the past three years on service dog training, but although he complies with the command “Look at me!” to break eye contact with passing dogs or to give me the attention necessary before I give him the release command “OK, say ‘Hi!'” that gives him permission to socialize with people and other dogs, and responds well to “Keep moving!” to get us past various distractions, he seldom does so after one command. He’s very bright, determined, and, as I’ve said, friendly, and often he’ll whine pitifully after obeying. He even whines with anticipation before I give these commands!! As service dogs are supposed to ignore passers-by, both canine and human, and never, ever solicit attention, these behaviors are unacceptable as well as embarrassing. Any suggestions would be welcome, as he’s a very good boy otherwise.

    • Lynn

      Reply Reply September 22, 2014

      Tamara, it sounds like you have a great dog. I have a similar problem with my dog Cole. He barks with excitement, anticipating us going on a bike ride and while in the ring for competing in agility. I don’t mind in the ring barking, as long as he listens to me, but on the trail and in public parking lot….no! It’s taken some work on both our parts. Start out with rewarding, happy voice “good boy” “nice quite” or what ever word you choose to elicit the correct response and treat with high value cookies. Do this just before you think he is going to whine. If he whines ignore him, stop what you’re doing, go do something else. no reward. It’s like teaching your dog a “stay” command. My dogs know the “oops” command. They know they didn’t do the right behavior and no rewarding is coming when they hear “oopsie”. You can also do a collar grab and reset him in position. This is a sort of brain reset in the dogs mind. He has to think about what just happened and why there is no cookie coming 🙂 please let me know how this works for you and I will be happy to help you as you go about teaching this to him. Cole and I stumbled a bit while we were first learning this.

  • Ramona Carroll

    Reply Reply October 5, 2014

    My dog, Fancy, is a husky/pug mix. She has high energy and loves to pull. I have gotten anti-pull harness and this helps somewhat. My biggest issue is other dogs. No matter what I’ve tried, she barks, jumps, and whines when she sees another dog. Then, when the other dog gets near, she growls threateningly. If she does get a chance to be quiet and see another dog, she gets in their face and then growls if they try to sniff her. She is 7 years old. I honestly am losy as to what to do. I love her, but sometimes the drama when walking is too much. I do give her treats and verbal clues, but even they don’t work.

    • Jean Cote

      Jean Cote

      Reply Reply October 5, 2014

      Hi Ramona,

      That is a serious problem that you have on your hands there, those are the early signs of aggression developing and if it doesn’t get solved I’m afraid that your dog might one day bite another dog.

      I would strongly advise contacting a local animal behaviorist that could help you implement a counter conditioning training program for your dog. In such a program, rewards will be used strategically to change your dog’s conditioning to other dogs. In other words, your dog will see other dogs as being a source of pleasure. However, it is very advanced and difficult to do on your own, which is why I recommend that you contact someone in your area. 🙂

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