Basic Public Canine Etiquette: A Primer

By Jessica Brody

One of the most enjoyable things about being a dog owner is that you can often bring your dog with you to public places and businesses.  Whether you are an old pro or a new pet owner, it’s always good to review proper etiquette for when your dog is out and about. Here are a few pointers, as well as tips on how to train your dog to behave properly in public.

Practice etiquette at home first

Good etiquette starts at home.  You can never expect a dog to instinctively know how to behave in public in a strange environment, so dog-walking safety is imperative.  Begin your practice by getting your dog used to having the leash attached, then walking him around the house slowly.  Be sure to act as if you would on outdoors. Leave a little slack on the leash, match his pace to yours, and never let your dog pull or drag you in any direction.  You can even rearrange the furniture to create a different walking environment to test your dog’s obedience.

As your dog becomes more comfortable, start raising the noise level in your house by playing some music or turning on your television.  Introducing distractions in a controlled setting will help make him more likely to keep calm in a new setting.  Other ways to test your dog’s obedience include bringing friends in to create a commotion, putting plates of food around your pathway, and having people walk past him repeatedly in the opposite direction.  You can also practice etiquette for talking your dog into a restaurant by including your pup at dinnertime. Choose a spot for your dog to lie down out of the way, and be sure to immediately correct any begging behavior.

Etiquette when walking in public

No matter where you are walking, whether you are in your neighborhood or headed to a downtown cafe, you should always keep your dog on a leash.  In addition to being required by law in many places, it is also important for your dog’s safety.  Leashes prevent your dog from running out into the road or reacting to unexpected occurrences, like meetings with other dogs.  Dogs come in many different shapes and sizes, so there are a variety of leashes available.  Always take your dog’s comfort and well-being into account when selecting a leash. (We do NOT recommend retractable leashes as dogs can be hit by cars if they are allowed to roam too far.)

When you’re walking in public, pull your dog close to you when other people approach, out of courtesy to those without the time to stop to give your dog a pet.  The same goes for other dogs. By keeping a buffer between your pup and other dogs, you’ll reduce the possibility of territorial aggression.  If you would like to interact with another dog, ask the dog’s owner for permission first.  Finally, be sure to pick up after your dog when in public.

Etiquette at restaurants

While many cafes and restaurants are dog friendly, always check with a manager ahead of time to verify your dog will be allowed in.  Your dog should be kept on a leash at all times and not allowed to roam around, picking up scraps and visiting other tables.  Do, however, give your dog a snack before you get to the restaurant. This will make him less likely to try and get food off other tables.  Have him sit down in a spot that’s out of the way but nearby. You may want to give him a chew toy to keep him occupied.  Remember to practice these habits beforehand so your dog is obedient when you are actually in public.

It is a privilege to be able to take your dog with you to public places.  Ensuring your dog is as obedient as possible will help you keep your dog safe while treating pet-friendly businesses with the respect they deserve.

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