Several dog parks have sprung across Metro Manila in the past year – a good indication that the pet community is thriving in the country. Alongside this, most malls are now positioning themselves to be dog-friendly and have started accepting dogs in their premises.
While I am overjoyed seeing dogs accompanying their humans in their daily activities, I must admit that there have been instances when I have been annoyed not by the dogs, but by their humans who do not seem to know simple etiquette when taking dogs to public places.
Let’s face it, there are still a lot of people out there who do not really like dogs for their own reasons, and we dog owners have to respect that. The least we can do is to be considerate of their needs. And then, of course, there are other dog lovers who want their besties to experience the big world out there. Certainly, we don’t want them to be traumatized because our untrained, unsocialized dog has terrorized their pooch.
Needless to say, taking your dog to public places comes with responsibilities. If you intend to take your dog to a mall or park, your responsibilities do not stop with putting your dog in diapers or a stroller. Your dog has to be well socialized so that it knows how to behave around people. Socializing dogs, of course, takes time and effort which a lot of dog owners do not take.
I don’t really want to sound preachy, but I guess it won’t hurt to list these points for dog owners to consider.
- Make an honest assessment of your dog – Not all dogs are the same. There are dogs who absolutely adore people and dogs who are afraid of people. Some dogs are ultra cool, but some would snap or bite easily. Some dogs love other dogs, but others are terrified of their own kind. Hopefully, your dog has a sound temperament and has undergone basic socialization and training. But not all of us have easy-going dogs and many dogs are not socialized, much less trained. Can you honestly tell yourself that your dog can be trusted to behave around people and other dogs in an uncontrolled environment?If so, what level of supervision does he/she need? (This is not to say that unsocialized dogs should not go to public places; on the contrary, they have to be sensitized to the sights and sounds of the world. But the process of socializing them should be well-managed and paced according to their progress. Needless to say, taking them unprepared to a noisy mall or crowded dog park is not the best way to get them started on the road to socialization.)
- Be attentive to your dog’s needs – Your dog is 100% your responsibility and you should be paying attention to your dog at all times, especially if he/she is not properly socialized or trained to behave in public settings. You can’t be focused on your social media feed or other distractions if you have an unsocialized or untrained dog. Otherwise, you risk being a nuisance or worse, can cause harm to others.
- Be mindful of the people around you – If you see a frightened toddler or a person with a growling dog on your path, be kind enough to lead your dog away. This is just basic courtesy.
- Dog parks are for dogs, not humans – Of course, we humans have to be around and in control of our dogs, but I would think that one person – at most two – accompanying a dog in a dog park is enough. However, I have been seeing groups of four or five going into the park with their dog – not to supervise the dog but just to loiter or take photos – which is fine if the park/yard is huge but not when space is limited. Otherwise, what’s the point for the dogs if they won’t have free space to run around? (Note: Different parks/yards have different rules, and there are good ones out there that actually do a good job managing the dog park. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all).
Dogs are the best companions to have around. With a little planning, you can make your dog’s visits to public places a great experience not just for you, but for others as well, whether they love dogs or not.