The Dog Owner’s Guide to Etiquette

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there! (Sorry.)

08.03.16
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A woman walked up my dog, Jude, in the street the other day. “Is he friendly?” she asked me, and in the same breath, proceeded to stick her digits in my dog’s mouth. Lucky for her, my dog is friendly, but sticky fingers didn’t know that.

On another occasion, I was chatting with a friendly young man while our dogs sniffed each other’s butts. The topic invariably turned to food, when we discovered – against all odds! – that we both fed our 25-pound puppies the same brand of kibble. Friendly young man proceeded to ask where I bought the kibble, since it was a hard find in the neighborhood.

“Amazon, duh!”

A dark cloud descended over now-not-so-friendly-young-man’s face. “Do you know how Amazon stores their food?” (I did not. I still do not.) He looked over at his dog, who was in the process of being mounted by a very charming symbol of corporate greed. Sigh.

I’ve met wonderful and interesting people while walking my dog. I’ve received some great advice and genuinely enjoy seeing my puppy interact with canines and humans alike. But I’ve also met people who have made me question…everything.

Note that I’m no master of etiquette. I chew with my mouth open and eat all of my meals with a large wooden spoon that is basically a culinary shovel. But when it comes to the rules surrounding my pup, I have a whole list. Take it or leave it. (Same does not apply to your dog’s poop.)

Ask Before You Touch

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Jude loves being pet and I love watching him enjoy being loved. But what I don’t enjoy is being cock-blocked in the middle of the sidewalk by someone who hasn’t even bothered to make eye contact with me before giving my far more interesting companion a belly rub! I would never pet your baby (without asking).

Do Not Ask Me Where I Got My Dog’s Kibble, and Then Proceed to Chide Me on the Pitfalls of Amazon

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If you want to educate me on the evils of big corporations, I’m free for coffee. Did you know that Starbucks now carries cold brew?

Let’s Keep it PG

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Because Jude thinks he’s the Don Juan of Lower Manhattan, I’m no stranger to the awkward scene that is exchanging pleasantries while your dogs go to third base. Let’s have a safe word for when we both start feeling uncomfortable, like in Fifty Shades of Grey. How about, “Do you mind getting your dog off of mine?”

Be Present

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I am so guilty of this. I text while I walk. I listen to blaring music. I apologize profusely when Jude mistakes a potted succulent as an appropriate place to pee. (So damn confusing, though!) Or when he jumps up to sniff a now very startled person. So let’s focus, all of us. Soak the dog life in. Besides: safety first.

I Love That Your Dog Wants to Sniff My Dog’s Butt, but Please, Wait Until He’s Done His Business

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This is for me as much as it is for you.

Ancestry.com

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I am OK with playing this game:

“How old?”
“Nearly eight months!”
“Awwww and what kind of breed?”
“He’s a pug sharpei mix.”
“A pug sharpei? What the heck?”
“You know nothing Jon Snow.”

…So long as you get the hint to scram when I give it.

Don’t be a Poop Police

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Jude prefers to do the dirty in the least of convenient places, like in the center of a crowded intersection or sidewalk. He’s been known to back up and squat right in the middle of the street while I stand there frantically trying to direct traffic. And then there are the condescending stares. To those who wait to MAKE SURE I PICK UP THAT POOP: I promise I will! But, in the meantime, you’re terrifying me.

Treat Yourself but Ask Before You Treat Others

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I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been walking down the street when someone has yelled, “TREAT!!!!!!” and Jude took off like some Tasmanian Devil. Do you mind asking me if he can have one first? He’s allergic to peanuts.

Humans Need to Be Thrown Bones, Too

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It’s a dark day when you realize that your dog is more popular than you. “Hey Jude!” people yell, as he walks me down the street. Jude, who are these people? When did you meet? Why are they so concerned with the consistency of your coat when they haven’t even bothered to ask me for my name? I want to play.

Woof.

Illustrations by Lily Ross.

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