Dog etiquette

puppy sniffing Otto

You know, it's usually a good idea to ask first before doing something like this...

Now that the snow is gone, once again evidence re-emerges -- perhaps "unthaws" is the better word -- that not every dog owner is as courteous as he or she could be. As Albany Common Councilwoman Leah Golby said today on Twitter of people who don't pick up their dog's poop: "You are giving us responsible dog owners a bad name!"

There are a lot of neighborhoods in the Capital Region that include a lot of dogs. And we think this is generally a good thing -- dogs are often a way for people to get to know each other. We've met a bunch of people in our neighborhood because of Otto.

As with any situation involving other people (and dogs), a little bit of responsibility on everyone's part can go a long way toward creating a more courteous environment. Also: We're all better off when people aren't stepping in dog !@#$.

So, based on things we've seen around town, here are a few thoughts on dog etiquette...

Pick it up
We've been over this before. And you'd think it'd be one of those obvious things. But there's ample evidence to suggest not everyone has quite embraced the idea that they need to pick their dog's poop.

It'd be easy to chalk up this shortcoming to people just being rude and inconsiderate. But we're going to try to look at this in the best light and say that maybe it's a result of not being prepared. So, here's how to be prepared:

1. When you go for a walk with your dog, bring a plastic bag. (Left over grocery bags work very well.)

2. Actually, bring two bags. Because sometimes a walk is a multiple-poop event and things can get messy.

3. Make sure you'll be able to see the poop. Example: Walking at night? A tiny flashlight can help with that.

That's it.

Where to go
A good general guideline: If you're out on a walk, it's best to have your dog "take care of business" on the strip of grass between the street and the sidewalk -- not in a person's main yard.

Basic training
Every dog should have at least some basic level of training. Fluffy doesn't need to know elaborate tricks or be ready to sniff out contraband, but a few basics -- "sit," "stay," "come," how to walk on leash -- go a long way toward producing a polite dog. And a few more commands -- such as "back" or "quiet" -- can also make a difference.

Another way to think about it: A little bit of training teaches you how to communicate with your dog more effectively. And it teaches your dog what you're going to expect of him.

Heck, some dogs really like training, because it's like a game (and sometimes there are treats).

Dogs bark. It's part of being dog. And it's not necessarily bad. But if a dog's outside and he's barking incessantly and/or excessively, it is bad. You need to bring the dog inside and address the problem through training.

Playing nicely
If you're going to bring your dog to an off-leash area where there are other dogs -- like a dog park -- your dogs needs to be able to get along with other dogs. If your dog is aggressive toward other dogs and/or can't be controlled, then he shouldn't be there until you've addressed the issues via training.

Break it up
Sometimes when dogs are all playing together things get out of hand. One dog gets a little too rough, or maybe starts picking on another dog. It happens and it doesn't have to be a big deal. But if that's your dog who's getting too rough, you need to be paying attention and ready to remove your dog from the situation until he can calm down.

Sometimes at place like the dog park people will have treats. And a lot of those times, people will be happy to share those treats with other dogs (because it's fun to feed treats to dogs). But we think it's best to ask the owner first -- because the dog might have a food allergy, might be overweight, or the other owner just doesn't want their dog associating other people with treats.

On a walk
We're of the belief that dogs should generally yield to people on sidewalks. If someone's coming the other way, it's a good to idea to move over and give the person some space. Because that person might not be a dog person. And it's just courteous to not take up the whole sidewalk.

Is it OK to meet?
Not every dog you encounter on a walk will be OK with meeting your dog. So it's a good idea to ask the other owner before letting your dog over to sniff and say hi. The same thing goes if you want to meet or pet someone's dog -- ask first. (This is a good thing for kids to know, too.)

Have other suggestions for dog etiquette? Please share!


"If someone's coming the other way, it's a good to idea to move over and give the person some space. Because that person might not be a dog person. And it's just courteous to not take up the whole sidewalk."


I would also add that a basic part of dog etiquette is "Don't bring your dog into a public building if you're not 100% sure that every single solitary person who might be in there both likes dogs and isn't allergic to them." It's incredibly rude of people to bring their dogs everywhere and inflict them on a unwilling/allergic public, and yet, people seem to do it all the time these days.

I'd recommend a headlamp instead on a "tiny flashlight."

It's dark, you're holding a leash (or two) and trying to bag fresh dog poop -- all while aiming a flashlight?

Headlamp. You'll thank me later.

Agree with KB's sentiment. In the same vein, you wouldn't want someone to let their kid randomly walk up to you and start licking your legs / clothes / hands, so I don't know how you can think it's OK to let a dog do it.

If a dog has a yellow ribbon tied to its collar or leash, that usually means that it has issues with people and/or other dogs, so steer clear. You should always ask the owner before approaching anyway. And, just because a dog is a loveable breed doesn't mean that you should ignore the owner's warning to stay away. We ran into this with our lab who had anxiety issues from prior abuse before he finally resolved them.

As an aside: If a public building allows dogs, why shouldn't their owners be allowed to bring them in? I frankly don't know of too many "public" buildings that allow dogs, but I don't see why I can't take advantage of one if it does. I have allergies too and I don't expect the world to bend over backwards for me.

@Gretchen - It's not bending over backwards; it's just being considerate of others. While allergies are a concern, asthma is a much larger concern. It may be more convenient for you to bring your doggy along while you run some errands, but it may decidedly more inconvenient for the worker who then gets an asthma attack and needs an hour or two to recover. A more extreme example, yes, but not one based in selfishness.

Not poop related but the city of Albany does have a leash law which people ignore all the time. Those people might think it's cool to let their dogs run around unrestrained but it actually can be very dangerous, not only to them (ie hit by a car) but to other animals that they encounter. I have a dog who is an absolute sweetheart but he goes beserk when a dog approaches him. And if he is on leash and the other dog is not, he reacts even more. People please respect the law and your neighbors and keep your dogs on leash.

Also, people need to learn how to actually control their dogs on a leash.

About a week ago, I was walking with my partner when a young woman walking a large German Shepherd passed us.

As she did, her dog jumped at us twice. It knocked into me first. I wear a knee brace under my jeans on my right knee; the dog hit my right leg and, if there hadn't been a stoop with a rail for me to grab, I probably would have fallen. As it is, the impact of the dog hitting the brace with his entire weight hurt like hell.

A second later, the dog jumped at my partner leaving dirty paw prints all over his trousers and snagging his sweater.

Whether the dog was jumping to be friendly or aggressive, I don't know. But the owner couldn't care less. She muttered "Sorry" to the air without even looking in our direction, gave the leash the tiniest pull, and walked on with her dog.

I really wanted to tell her that, if she couldn't properly control a dog that size, she should've gotten a Chihuahua instead.

Great list - that last item should be number one - obey it and teach it to your kids - ALWAYS ask if it's ok to approach a dog. There are kids in our neighborhood who walk right up to dogs they don't know without asking. My shepherd is great about it, she loves 'other' dog is sometimes great but gets easily overwhelmed. I try to explain it, but it should come from parents.

I also think it's really important that people respect leash laws. I get it, it's great that your dog is good off-leash but that's not true of all dogs for a variety of reasons. Often, leashed and unleashed dogs create a reactive situation. Nothing stops the unleashed dogs from approaching a dog that may be reactive to other dogs (& dogs are colorblind so your yellow ribbon is useless). I don't care how good you think your dog is at recall, if he has a mind to sniff out another dog, he's likely going to do it and it could result in a bad situation for everyone involved.

@Sean - I should clarify that I'm only talking about a place that specifically allows dogs. I'm not one of those people who believes in bringing their dog into a place that doesn't specifically allow it. That being said, if my dog is specifically welcomed at a place, i.e. a pet store or a restaurant without a patio dog night, I don;t think I should have to conduct a survey of all those present. I assume that if you are working there or even visiting there, that you go into it knowing that dogs will be present. I have actually had a woman tell me off for bringing my well behaved dog into Petsmart. I still wonder why she was in the dog toy aisle if she is allergic to dogs.

I will agree that people who try to sneak their dogs into places are ridiculous. Aside from the human problems such as allergies, no dog likes to spend the day in someone's purse.

One for the other side ---if you see a dog do it's business and the owner doesn't have the necessary equipment to clean it ...chill out
It's only sh*t.

Parents of children who want to pet my dogs: ask your kid to chill out and not scream in my dog's face and grab their face. How would you feel if I did that to your kid? When you're not able to accomplish this and I ask you to stop your child from touching my dogs like that don't look at me like it is my dog's fault; your kid is a jerk.

The dog park is NOT the ideal place to help socialize your dog. The dog park is for well socialized dogs. I have on muliple occassions had to ask people to leave the dog park because of this issue. Stand outside the park with the dog who needs work on socializing so there is at least a fence between the dogs "doing just fine" and your dog who needs work. And I have taken my "angel" out of the park on multiple occassions because she was just too excited.

Don't assume it is the big dog's fault when a scuffle happens at the dog park. Many times it is the little dog that is engaging in bad behavior and the big dog's response just happens to not be "cute" like the little jerk's lousy behavior.

And PICK UP YOUR DOG'S POO! (I know it was already said, but you would never know that I have a dog, a foster dog, and my tenant has a dog because I do not allow any dog waste to stand in my yard. Pick it up. Just pick it up)

@Gretchen - I think those are very special circumstances that are obviously geared toward allowing, and even encouraging the presence of pets (a pet store and an event for dogs). I'm thinking more along the lines of bringing your doggie into the indoor farmers market, or to the common area of a larger office / retail building that has a post-office / fedex drop-box, or to the library so you can pick up that book you had reserved... etc.

Not to defend the lady telling you off, b/c that's obviously rude and uncalled for... I'm someone who suffers from both allergies + asthma and I've found myself in a Petsmart on multiple occasions, whether buying a gift for a friend or getting something to donate to an animal charity event. It's not an ideal situation to be in, but it happens. It's like buying a toy for a friend's kid. Would I rather not be surrounded by kids in the toy aisle while trying to pick something out? Sure, but I'm not so dense as to not expect there to be the possibility of being in that situation given what I'm doing.

Should have mentioned "real" training. Not the "down boy," or "don't worry, he won't bite" all the while the dog's jumping up on you and nipping at your leg!

@ Peter...

I disagree. Not that it isn't sh*t--of course it is. But I take issue with the "only" part. It is animal feces. This is not a wilderness environment where nature can easily absorb such substances.

In an urban or suburban setting it is not OK to leave filth wherever it happens to fall.

@Peter - to follow-up on KM's comment. Yes, it is sh*!, and dog feces pose health and environmental hazards. Yup. It's Earth Day folks, so those of you who don't pick up after your pups -- please read this and change your habbits:

I agree KM. I own a home, I own a dog, I foster a dog, and my tenant has a dog (and they clean up immediately as per our agreement), and we are constantly finding other people's dogs' little "presents".

@Peter--"its only sh*t" until you step in it at 5am while wearing flip flops. City of Troy code requires dog owners to carry bags in plain view while walking the dog:

In part 124-20 states

"The owner of a dog, whether said dog is tagged or not tagged or licensed, shall be responsible for removing and cleaning any waste or excrement deposited by said dog upon public or private property not belonging to the owner of the dog. .....Said bag or container shall be conspicuously displayed or carried in plain view at all times while walking or exercising said dog." A violation of the code could result in a $100 fine or 25 days imprisonment. Granted the TPD has bigger things to worry about....

From experience, I can say, it really isn't a big deal to just clean up your own dogs' poo.

People in my neighborhood seem to believe that if the dog poops in the street, you don't have to clean it up. We don't have sidewalks so we walk in the street. It's gross. I understand it's a pain to clean up especially when it's 4 degrees out but I do it for my dog so you should too.

I will say though that I am thankful in the wintertime for the people who live on what we affectionately call "poo corner." They do not clean up after their dog (on their own property) and when my dog won't pick a spot cause she can't find a scent, poo corner always does the trick. We clean ours up though.

Thanks for posting. Many people have dogs that shouldn't. I was riding my bike the other day and this unleashed dog came charging at me barking and chasing me. His owner (who was about the equivalent of a block away) yelled, "He doesn't like bikes!!!"

When I rode past her, I thanked her for being an a**hole.

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