Dog Walking Etiquette: Be a Good Neighbor

Austin is an exceptionally dog-friendly city. But a lot of that hinges on responsible owners making smart decisions with their canine companions.

Teaching your dog to be obedient on neighborhood strolls can be one of the tougher challenges dog owners face. It’s in a dog’s nature to investigate smells, chase critters and size up other dogs.

Whether you’ve moved to a new neighborhood or got a new dog, you can minimize problematic behavior and make good neighbors with training, consistency and common sense etiquette.

First Steps: Learning the Leash, Avoiding Confrontations

Austin, like most cities, requires dogs to be on leashes in public places — except the city’s off-leash dog parks. That helps keep dogs safe from traffic and other people safe from uncontrolled confrontations with dogs. (See all of Austin’s pet laws here.)

If your dog tries to pull you around, which is part of dog’s natural curiosity, the first step is probably heading to the store to buy a lot of dog treats. They’re the rewards that will encourage your dog to listen to you. It’s also a good idea to tire your dog out a bit before taking him on training walks — he’ll probably be a little more relaxed and less anxious after a little in-home playtime.

Now it’s time for training walks.

Armed with treats, encourage your dog to sit calmly while you attach a leash.

Walk at a quick pace to limit your dog’s urge to investigate everything. When the dog reaches the end of the leash and is pulling you, stop and have the dog come back to you. Remember to give rewards for good behavior. If that’s not working, consider reading the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ training guide.

Even if your dog is friendly with other dogs, consider avoiding encounters with other dogs out on the street until your pet is comfortable with going on walks. When you are ready for your pooch to greet other dogs, ask the other dog’s owner before approaching in case their dog is uncomfortable or aggressive with other dogs.

Also, resist the urge to let your dog meet everyone else who is out walking in the neighborhood. Remember, while Austin is a dog-friendly city, there are still plenty of people who don’t like dogs or fear them.

Do your best not to get frustrated — it may take a week or two for your dog to become accustomed to following the new rules.

Neighborhood Dog Etiquette

It’s probably obvious that your neighbors wouldn’t appreciate your dog’s droppings on their property. But, if that’s not enough incentive, remember that dog feces can spread disease to other dogs and children — and it contributes to water pollution when the runoff from yards and streets reaches rivers and drinking water sources.

Remember to bring plastic bags with you. They’re relatively cheap, or you can also repurpose the plastic bags newspapers are delivered in — just check for holes.

Meanwhile, do your best to train your dog to urinate on nonliving surfaces or overgrown areas — always avoid flower beds and newly planted vegetation.

With a little training and a few plastic bags, you and your dog will be enjoying the neighborhood in short time.