How to Act in Public With A Dog


As I prepare to embark on a whirlwind early weekend of dog-themed activities and get togethers in New York City, it is with great expectations that I know the majority of folks I will encounter know how to treat, handle, and respect their dog. Now and again though, somewhere along life’s highways and biways, I encounter less than customary human manners in dealing with dogs.   It is amazing how there are certain people who just don’t know how to act in public with a dog.

Every dog should have a specific set of behaviors that he or she should be accustomed to before they interact with the general public. I firmly believe and follow the adage that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners. Nod your head if you agree.

The minute you and your dog step foot outside or welcome visitors inside, there are basic tenets that should be followed. I cringe when I read statistics that dog bites are on the rise, and I often break down in disbelief by the number of dogs relinquished to shelters for “behavioral problems.”

Here’s a basic breakdown of the absolute bare minimum behaviors you and your dog should follow when interacting with the world at large (i.e., venturing outside, entering an expo, going to a pet-friendly hotel, etc.): (In other words do you know how to act in public with a dog)

Scoop the Poop

I hesitate mentioning this, but while pondering the content for this article tonight on our evening walk, I literally counted six piles of animal feces within a two-mile walk. Leaving poop behind in a neighborhood is gross and unsanitary; leaving it behind at a pet-friendly hotel ruins it for everyone. Be a responsible pet parent and clean it up. There are products from pouches to pooper scoopers to packs that allow your dog to carry his own waste (Doodie Pack), so there is no excuse. Just do it.

My dog in his “Doodie Pack”

Canine Good Citizen

The American Kennel Club launched the Canine Good Citizen Program in 1989. It’s designed to teach responsible dog ownership behaviors to pet parents, while dogs learn basic training and good manners. The core of the program is the 10-step testing process. Whether pedigree or mutt, spunky Sparky or golden oldie, dogs of all shapes, sizes, and ages are eligible.

Even if you don’t want the official title and papers for your dog, if your pooch can pass the basics of the CGC, then he or she makes for a well-rounded, accepting canine member of society. Well, that and it feels pretty darned good to tell folks what having his CGC title means—at hotels, in our travels, at expo, and everywhere in between. I had my dog certified and we had fun learning the basic things required to pass, too! The bonding experience was worth it and I really learned how to interact better with my dog.


Speaking of Pet Expos

For the love of Lassie, please know if your dog gets along with other pets, is accepting of people, routine sounds, and crowds before going to an expo. Smaller dogs can get stepped on, so a dog buggy/stroller is a good idea if you want the fun of a pet expo without the fret of an injured pooch.

Case in point: Last year, I attended the Central PA Pet Expo with my dog, Dexter, and his canine partner in crime, Zoe. We had a booth there for Wigglebutt Warriors, and all pets in attendance got along. There were many adoption booths, and it was with a heavy heart that I spied dog after dog, cat after cat, waiting for their forever homes.

The reasons for giving these dogs up just broke my heart in a million pieces. They ran the gamut:

* New baby came along: Um, hello, there are ways to acclimate babies and pets.

Learn More: How to Add a Baby to a Dog Household

* He growled at other small animals (seriously, don’t get me started).

* Wanted a younger, more well-behaved dog (no words for this one).

Again, with love, time, training, and positive reinforcement, dogs adjust and become loving member of the family. Some people should just not be allowed to have a pet.

Refer back to the tenets of Canine Good Citizenship and be a mindful, respectful human being, too. Keep reading and you’ll see why I say this.


Don’t Raise a Hand or Jerk on a Collar

While out walking my dog earlier this year,  I witnessed a man chasing his dog down the street. Ever the “I’ll help, be right there” person that I am, my random act of kindness was quickly thwarted by a slap—but not to me.

The dog apparently got loose while on a walk and his owner was chasing after him. As he scooped the little guy up (a shih tzu mix perhaps), he slapped the dog on the butt and repeatedly yelled over and over “No! No! No!” and jerked the dog close to him.

I yelled over “hey” and before a second word could float his way, he picked his dog up and quickly walked off, perhaps caught in the act or just not wanting to deal with an obviously stunned me.

No matter how upset you are or what the dog did to frustrate you, hitting/spanking/slapping a dog is never appropriate. Never. Yanking the dog back to you demonstrates how amazingly powerful and scary you are, but teaches a dog fear.


Putting your hand(s) on a dog as a form of punishment is not only wrong but as harmful to the relationship you want with your dog (counterproductive in fact).

Dogs are bigger spirits than we as humans. Watch an abused dog as he or she is rescued from a kennel; I’ve lost count to the number of dogs I’ve seen wag. They trust us, believe in us, and give us second chances. Give them a break, don’t hit, don’t slap.

Jerking on a dog’s collar is also counterproductive and actually harmful to a dog’s sensitive throat area. Avoid neck, spine, and other injuries by training your dog to walk comfortably with a harness that best suits your dog’s needs. I travel with my dog frequently throughout the year, and the numbers of pet parents who yank and pull their dog as a means of control is an epidemic. So just don’t become part of it.

Is there anything you’ve done to be the best pet parent you can be and would like to pass on to others? Bark at us below in the comments.

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  1. We use collar corrections all of the time with our dogs. They are an effective way to train if done correctly. I guess the problem is that some people have no idea how to use the training collar. If the collar is around a dog’s throat where it might injure, it is not in the correct position. It should he high and just under the ears. It is one of the most effective ways to maintain control of the dog because you are controlling the dog’s head.

    1. If the average citizen knew how to do that and teach a dog without injury, I’d be all for it. Most of the people I have seen with yanking a leash are just plain harming their dog.

  2. I am surprised at the lack of control owners have over their dogs, every time I take my pup for a walk. It takes time to train, but most dogs just want to know what you expect of them. My dog and I’ve had dogs pull their owners across the street in order to meet us. While most are friendly, they jump all over my Collie.
    I’m glad you highlighted Canine Good Citizen training. It’s a great method to train dogs.

  3. Mom has high hopes of getting Bailie her CGC but right now we are focusing on her passing obedience one tonight. She will have to take obedience two and the CGC class, but that will wait until fall as we are into nose work right now and will start tracking in the spring. Mom only has so much time to take us to class and work on homework. We will see if she gets her CGC or not. She is only 8 months old, so she has time to mature a bit before tackling it all.

  4. It is amazing how some people treat their pets. There should be a test before someone is allowed babies or pets! LOL Thanks for the great tips and have fun whirling in the New York Doggie Circles!

  5. Great advice; these are the things that I’m aware of and that notice in others. I always pick up poop and I’m blown away when people bring dogs to events (or to the pet store) and don’t clean up after their dogs. And I’m careful about corrections. All of our dogs are always in training, but it’s important that I correct as I’ve been taught and not allow frustration to enter into the scenario – leading to jerking the leash. If I’m stressed (like today), I leave our dogs at home.

    I’m terrified to travel with them beyond a roadtrip – LOL.

  6. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! Unfortunately, there are people out there that think hitting and jerking is the answer. If they only knew that positive reinforcement works better and helps build their relationship. I have a feeling that is only the beginning of that man’s problems 🙁

    1. Thanks so much and we concur. It really makes us so sad to see folks who have no idea what they are doing on the other end of the leash.

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