Dog Walking Etiquette

5 ways to be a polite and safe neighbor on your local trail walks with your pup!
Dr. Monica Sterk, DVM

  • First thing’s first – PUT ONE ON. Get familiar with your state’s leash law, or better yet just opt to always use a leash. No matter how well behaved your unleashed dog is, he/she is at risk for getting into a dog fight, picking up dangers from wandering off, or getting lost.
  • Get rid of that retractable leash. Not only is it a terrible training tool, but it’s a huge danger to other animals and people on your walk. Allowing your pet to walk far away from you can put other dogs and people in scary situations. There are numerous stories of bikers or runners being tripped by these leashes – don’t let that be your pup!
  • Be in control. Get a leash that you feel comfortable using and can handle your dog with. Make sure you know your limits and if you can handle your pet alone. Some big dogs may be tough to handle and trying different halters and leashes can be helpful.
  • Learn about the Yellow Dog Project. If you see a dog with a yellow ribbon on it’s leash, it means that this dog needs space. The dog is not necessarily aggressive, but may be a new pet learning to walk on a leash, a fearful dog, a dog that has medical problems, or any other reason that an owner may not want their pet to mingle with other people or animals.


  • Always ask better approaching! Trust me, I know it’s hard not to walk up a cute dog and pet it, but some pets get nervous and don’t react well to strangers. There’s no harm in asking the owner if the pet is friendly and if you can pet him/her!
  • Ask for permission for dog interactions. Sometimes it’s fun for dogs to make friends on walks, but other times it can be a disaster. When approaching other people walking their dog, ask the other owner if it’s ok for your dog to approach theirs. Just because your dog may be social, doesn’t mean everyone’s is.


  • Look at your surroundings. Many local trails have bikers, walkers, runners, and maybe even horses (depending on where you are). Be sure to keep your dog close when you see people who came on the trail for these reasons. Dogs can be distracting to those people, so it’s important to respect them too.
  • Look at your dog. Make sure your dog isn’t picking up and eating strange things, drinking from puddles, or sneaking up to other dogs (or people) to sniff them – not everyone appreciates that as much you’d think.
  1. POOP
  • Clean it up. End of story.


  • Be mindful of others. Not everyone enjoys the company of a pet like we do and not everyone has a friendly dog. If someone says no to letting you pet their dog or introducing your dog to theirs, they may have good reason to do so. Some dogs are more reactive than others, some may be ill, and others may be training as a service dog. Maybe an owner just wants to enjoy a quiet walk with their dog. Don’t judge others for their response.

Remember to keep your fur kids safe and hydrated! Enjoy your summer walks J

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