After more than a decade of being a dog owner with a fenced-in yard, my family and I (including our two Labradors) recently moved to a new home that is fenceless and unlikely to be fenced anytime soon. So we have joined our brethren dog walkers and have thus far (it hasn't snowed yet) enjoyed taking our dogs on daily walks around the neighborhood.
However, I quickly started to wonder about the proper etiquette involved in taking a dog for a walk. Obviously, poop-scooping was a no-brainer, but how long should the dogs' leashes be? Is it OK for my dogs to "go" in someone else's yard? And should dogs be allowed to "meet-and-greet" fellow dogs while they are on the leash?
To find the answers, I did some Internet sleuthing — including the pet experts here on MNN — and here's what I found out:
I have both 6-foot leashes and 20-foot retractable leads for my dogs. Does it matter which one I use to walk my dogs around the neighborhood? Turns out, it does. Many towns have ordinances stating that leashes should be no longer than six feet in length. But even if no such ordinance exists where you live, the shorter leash is a good idea as it gives you better control of your dog. Not everyone is a dog person after all and they may want to walk down the sidewalk without getting sniffed — or worse, jumped on — by your dog. A shorter leash also gives you more leverage if a stray dog or outdoor cat comes your way.
Keep sniffs short and sweet
Is it OK to let your dog sniff another dog while they are leashed? The answer to this one is — it depends. And when in doubt, don't. The meet-and-greet sniff may feel like an invasion of personal space to some dogs, and that can feel particularly threatening when they're on a leash. But if you know that your dog doesn't have these issues, and you're approached by another dog owner who thinks their dog would enjoy a greeting, by all means let them sniff. Just make sure it's short and sweet on both ends. And for heaven's sakes, don't allow your dog to mount or get mounted during these interactions!
The scoop on poop
It goes without saying that you need to clean up your dog's poop. If for some reason you are caught without a doggie bag, you need to go back to the crime scene and pick it up later. But the bigger question I had was where should I let my dogs do their business? It seemed to me that as long as I was picking it up, it was OK to let them go wherever. And in many neighborhoods, that is the unspoken rule. But it's not always the case. Think about it, if you spend a lot of time on your landscaping would you want someone else's mutt defiling it with their excrement? If you're not sure what the rules are in your neighborhood, stay on the safe side and train your dogs to use the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the road as their landing zone.