Having the pleasure of sharing my life with two dogs of vastly different size and type has provided me with an opportunity to see the dog world from varying perspectives. My dog Nora is a 10-pound, scruffy, little terrier with a jaunty spring to her step and an almost constantly wagging tail. Approachable is her middle name. Moka, the Doberman Pinscher, makes about as opposite a first impression as you can imagine. All 70-pounds are carried about with a regal and somewhat intimidating bearing. In reality, she is a sweetie. But, most people judge a dog book by its cover.
When I walk little Nora, I find that many people permit their dogs to charge at her to say hello. But, they seem to see Moka from blocks away and head to the other side of the street. I’ve even seen a few people make a run for it. For this and many other reasons, walking a small dog down the streets of Manhattan can be challenging.
With that said, on my list of Wishes I Hope to be Fulfilled, you’ll find things like: World peace, a horse farm in upstate New York, and for every pet parent to adhere to some simple rules for politely passing other dogs on the street.
1. Have your dog on a leash that is no longer than six feet. Expandable or retractable leashes are best suited for jaunts in the park where you can let your dog have a bit more distance to roam safely on leash without worrying about them turning a corner before you (and running right into a person, another dog, a strolelr, or any other potentially dangerous situation, such as someone on a bike or a skateboard who could run right into them). Retractable leashes stretched across a sidewalk are also a dangerous tripping hazard.
2. Use the leash as a management tool to keep your dog safely by your side. The average NYC sidewalk seems to me to be about 10-feet in width. So, avoid walking on one side of it and having your arm stretched out to allow your dog to sniff a tht eohter side. Lest you and your dog take up the whole sidewalk and prevent others from passing without inconvenience or incident.
3. When you go by another dog, be especially aware of managing your dog to ensure as calm and polite a passing as possible. This can include using a cue word or phrase that your dog has been taught to respond to reliably, a treat or a toy to get his attention.
4. If you are interested in having your dog say hello to another dog, ask the person at the end of the leash if it is OK. Then, ask the dog. That is, if the dog is avoiding your dog by backing away, hiding behind the person’s leg, or simply avoiding eye contact and trying to ignore your dog then maybe it is best to move on. Likewise, carefully observe your dog to gauge if this is a potentially positive social interaction.
5. Be especially considerate of people passing with dogs that are making it clear that they or their dog are not comfortable with an interaction (i.e. they move into the street to avoid you, or the dog looks fearful or very excited).
6. When passing a person who is handling a dog who is having a rough time of it (i.e. they seem scared or are barking and lunging), try to refrain from making a judgement such as “Oh, he’s not friendly!” While this may be the case, pet parents can be sensitive about having their dogs labeled, especially by a stranger. Plus, they clearly have their hands full as it is. So, engaging in a conversation is just a potential distraction from their task at hand (helping their dog).
7. Encourage your dog to keep moving with you when you are passing a dog that is in the process of eliminating. Allowing a dog to go up and sniff a dog at a moment like this, or even waiting just off in the wings, can be very distracting, to say the least.
8. This one should go without saying, but clean up after your dog has eliminated. There are enough obstacles to dodge on the streets of New York as it is. Don’t ruin someone’s day by playing a part in them stepping in something unpleasant.
On behalf of Nora, Moka, and all the other dogs and their people in NYC, I am confident that if we all follow these simple rules for on leash etiquette our walks with our dogs will be that much more enjoyable. With that said, I am headed out to purchase a lottery ticket. The winings will be used ot buy my horse farm.