14 Rude Habits Dog Owners Need to Stop ASAP
Number one is not picking up your doggo's poop—here's what you need to know beyond the basics.
Leaving the bag of poop on the ground
The number one rude habit of dog owners that our experts identified was, unsurprisingly, failing to pick up your dog’s poop. But it’s not enough to simply pick it up and bag it—you also need to find an appropriate public garbage to throw it away in, says Erin Askeland, certified animal health and behaviour expert for Camp Bow Wow®. You may think that someone else, like the grounds crew, will pick it up for you but it’s your job, she explains. “A park worker actually thanked me [when I threw the bag of poop in the garbage] and said most people don’t bother; he also said he’s not allowed to say anything to those who leave the poop behind,” she says. “This is incredibly rude behaviour.”
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Talking on your phone at the dog park
Dog parks are for dogs, so why can’t you do your thing while your pooch does his? “When you take your puppy to the dog park, yes he’s there to play with his friends, but just like a child, it’s important to keep tabs on him and watch his behaviour,” says Halle Rieckmann, dog behaviour expert and owner of Heel House K9 Training. “If he gets upset or starts picking on another dog, you’ll need your hands free and all of your attention to help him out.” And while your dog can’t say it, chances are that she doesn’t like you being distracted either.
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Putting your dog outside when he won’t stop barking
Banishing your pet to the backyard when he won’t calm down may make you feel better but it’s sure to upset your neighbours, says Sara Ochoa, veterinarian and consultant for doglab.com. If your dog barks non-stop, talk to your vet about possible reasons for the behaviour and measures you can take to address it, don’t just make it someone else’s problem by putting the dog outside, she says. There are also products you can buy to help with barking.
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Ignoring “No Pets Allowed” signs
We know how much you adore your pooch but there are some public spaces, like restaurants and stores, where dogs aren’t welcome or are explicitly banned. Yet too many dog owners think those signs apply to all pets except theirs, so they either sneak in or brazenly bring in their animals, says Ruth MacPete, veterinarian and author of Lisette the Vet. This is disrespectful to the place you’re in and to those around you—you don’t know who there might have an allergy to or serious fear of dogs, she says. Follow the rules.
Calling it a “support” or “service” animal when it’s not
A service dog has a specific definition—a “dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability,” according to the Americans With Disabilities Act —and it must be specially trained, tested, and certified. However, some people choose to call their dogs a “support” animal or even lie about them being a trained service dog in order to take them places they don’t belong. This isn’t just rude, it’s dangerous, MacPete says. “People who flaunt these rules make it harder for those dog owners who truly depend on their certified service animals,” she says.
Allowing your dog to pee on other people’s property
Letting your dog pee on fence posts, mailboxes, shrubs, trees, trash cans, or car tires that are on someone else’s property is a no-no, says Neil Cohen, owner and head trainer at Sit Means Sit. “While it is in male dogs’ nature to ‘mark,’ there is nothing that says he needs to do it anywhere he chooses,” he explains. “It shows poor manners for the human and the dog. Additionally, it teaches the dog that there are no boundaries. Dogs, like children, need to know their boundaries.”
Dropping the leash to let your dog “make a friend”
Your dog understandably gets excited when she sees a new dog but allowing your dog to just walk up to another dog and owner is begging for trouble, Rieckmann says. While many dogs like to make furry friends, some dogs don’t do well with other dogs, especially if they are leashed and the approaching dog isn’t, she explains. “Dogs are just like us in that they enjoy their personal space and want to warm up to meeting a new friend,” she says. “Don’t be that obnoxious party guy that hugs everyone the first time he meets them—no one sticks around him for long!”
Letting your dog off-leash anywhere that isn’t a dog park
“Being on a leash in public is an absolute must, no exceptions,” Rieckmann says. Yes, your dog needs to be leashed even if he follows voice commands, even if he thinks the leash is uncomfortable, even if you’re in the woods and you don’t see other people, and, yes, even if you think that he’s so gentle and sweet nothing bad can happen. Even the most well-behaved pup can have an off moment and snap, startle, or run away. If you want off-leash time, go to a dog park or other place made specifically for that purpose.
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Saying “it’s OK, she’s friendly” to excuse bad behaviour
“Just because your dog is friendly with you, doesn’t mean she will be the same with every person or dog he encounters, and you can’t predict her actions in every situation,” says Askeland. Letting your dog get away with bad manners because “she’s a sweetheart” makes you look negligent and doesn’t teach your dog the skills she needs to be in public, she says.
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Allowing your dog to jump up on other people
Dogs are naturally gregarious and love to show their enthusiasm for new (or old) human friends by jumping up on them. You may think this is cute but it could catch a person unaware, knock them down, or cause other injuries, particularly with kids or senior adults, Askeland says. “Just because a dog might do this out of excitement doesn’t mean it’s appropriate,” she adds.
Ignoring what your dog is trying to tell you
Just like we like other people to listen to us, we need to listen to what our dogs are trying to say, Askeland says. When dogs bark, snarl, lunge, or whimper, they are trying to tell you they are uncomfortable with the situation and you need to take it seriously, she says. “Dismissing this behaviour could put someone else or another dog at risk of injury,” she adds. Pets can communicate a wide range of feelings and wants, but since they can’t exactly talk.
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Forcing your dog to accept being petted
Having a stranger ask to pet your adorable pup can feel like a great compliment, but sometimes dogs aren’t as open as their humans to new friends, Askeland says. And yet when the animals resist being petted, hugged, or otherwise manhandled, Askeland often sees owners forcing their dog into social interaction by holding them in place. Not only is this rude behaviour but it can make your dog more fearful of strangers over time as they will build a negative association to people or animals approaching them, she says.
Knowingly bringing an aggressive dog around other people or animals
If you know your dog is prone to aggressive behaviour toward others, particularly children or other dogs, it’s rude and dangerous to bring that dog to public places, MacPete says. Unfortunately, some owners of aggressive dogs are either in denial about their nature or mistakenly think they will be able to always control them, and that’s when people or animals get hurt or even seriously injured.
Giving human medications to your dog
It’s true that there are some crossovers between human and canine medicine, but that doesn’t mean that anything that works for you will work for your dog (and vice versa), Ochoa says. “Most human drugs are not approved for dogs and can make your dog very sick and even die from just a small amount,” she explains. The meds could also cause them to behave in unexpected—and dangerous—ways. Always talk to your vet before giving any medication to your dog.
Next, check out all the ways dogs are smarter than you think.