“IN COMING,” is what I yelled, as I watched a woman throw a bag of poop at a guy. She followed it up with “YOU MISSED YOUR DOG’S POOP!” Now I am not the Emily Post of the trails but as a professional dog walker of 19 years, I know there is a better technique than launching a poop grenade at someone. In the days of technology and impatience, there seems to be an air of tactlessness on the trails. To combat rudeness, Emily Post suggests “if you can’t come up with a friendly joke, just chuckle and change the subject.” Now-a-days, I prefer to laugh and say “thank you, you just made my blog post.” We all just need a good dose of dog and people etiquette. Emily Post’s Principles of Etiquette include respect, consideration and honesty.
At least once a week, I witness impolite behavior from dog owners and professional dog walkers as well as people without dogs. The sad truth is that these situations could be entirely preventable. From a dog owner letting her dog poop in the middle of the trail, while she gabs on her phone, and not attempting to pick it up, to the poop brigade that follows people around “YOU MISSED A HUGE, GIANT, ENORMOUS DOG POOP RIGHT HERE!” It probably is not your dog’s poop but you pick it up, thanking them for pointing it out. Sometimes you ridiculously find yourself arguing about the poop, trying to prove that it is not yours, because the poop is cold and that means it’s old. You might go as far as to have the accuser touch the bag to gage the temperature. Regardless, I wonder was it really necessary to use adjectives around the poop pile and get into an argument about it. A little awareness, politeness and humor thrown into the mix might be just the right ticket.
For dog owners and professional dog walkers, it is important to remember we share the parks and beaches with so many people. Some love dogs, some are afraid and others don’t like them. Our local humane society states in their Good Trail Manners class (yes there is a class. They must notice the lack of common sense these days) “It is a privilege to use the public lands for dog walking. Dog walkers should be customer service oriented and professional when encountering others on the trails.” Geared towards the professional dog walker but this fundamental idea applies to individual dog owners as well. A simple concept, be courteous, respectful of other’s space, and friendly when walking dogs.
It is important for non-dog-people to exercise the concept of favorable behavior as well. The withering looks that I’ve received from walking six well behaved, leashed dogs would make Emily Post roll over in her grave. Dog owners might miss seeing a poop. Dogs might steal cookies, sandwiches and stuffed animals but I can assure you no dog owner in their right mind is telling their dog “ok see that kid with a cookie, go get it” or “make sure to poop behind me, so I don’t have to pick it up.”
Finally, be aware of your surroundings. For non dog people with kids, if you see dogs approaching immediately leash your child. I am joking but do not let them rush up to a bunch of dogs. Dog owners and walkers must be aware of other trail users by making sure to honor their space and keep a close eye on your pet at all times. Remember, no one is perfect and obviously no dog is perfect.
Except for maybe this guy:
To help alleviate conflict on the trails, listed below are 10 good trail manners to abide by. Some are from the Marin Humane Society trail manners class and others are my common sense from 19 years of dog walking.
10 Tips for Taking Your Dog on the Trail
1. If your dog is going to be off leash, make sure they have good recall.
2. Do not let your dog roam through environmentally sensitive or restricted areas. There is the accidental escape into the “forbidden zones,” but do everything you can to get your dog out immediately. If that fails, pretend you don’t know the dog. (Kidding of course! Unless the dog really won’t come back.)
3. Make sure your dog does not disturb other users (hikers, bikers, equestrians etc) the Marine Humane Society describes disturbances as: physically harming, displaying threatening behavior, chasing, jumping on or unwelcome touching. Don’t let your dog give other dogs or people a rectal examination.
4. Don’t let your dog charge up to other dogs, people, or children.
5. If you spot a picnic assume your dog will destroy it no matter how impeccable his recall is. Picnics trump recall for most dogs.
6. Pick up your dog poop and bring extra bags. If your dogs are anything like mine, they will always do one extra poop either out of spite or the spicy steak burrito you decided to share with him.
7. If you are a dog walker don’t walk with other dog walkers. It is very intimidating for trail users and other dogs to maneuver through 12 to 16 dogs.
8. Don’t let your dogs chase wildlife. Most wild life areas are restricted from dogs but there are birds and other animals in non restricted areas. I can assure you that even pigeons are not amused and revenge will come with a big splat on your head or car.
9. Yield to hikers, groups of people, horses and others on the trails. Be aware of your surroundings and stand to the side of the trail to let others pass you.
10. Make Emily post proud and be courteous, kind, and always bring a sense of humor. Nothing is worth combating especially when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors with your dogs, kids or family and friends.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen out on the trail? Tell us in the comments below.
More Tails from the Bark Side
- Religion, Politics and Dog Poop
- How to Choose a Dog Walker
- Hazards of Being a Dog Walker
- Meet the Dog Walker