You’re dining on a restaurant patio when a dog, belonging to the people at the next table, begins barking incessantly. Or maybe you’re shopping downtown when you see a dog relieving itself in the doorway of your favorite store. Being respectful of your surroundings are necessary elements of stress-free public outings, says Ann Marie Caffrey, owner of Caffrey’s Canine Care. In other words, what holds true for people in public also holds true for pets--practice good manners and be mindful of other people.
“A dog that’s trained and cared for at home will behave best in public,” Caffrey says. “Your dog is a family member and looks to you for leadership. Consider how a shopping center appears from a dog’s perspective: do crowds make your pet tense or does fido thrive on making new friends?” If it’s not a fit, leave your co-pilot at home.
Canine life coach Mo Lynch Vashel and Caffrey weigh in on pet etiquette basics:
Remember Your Dog is a Guest. While it’s fun to take your pup to a shop or a restaurant, pay attention to your dog’s body language in the surroundings. “Respecting fellow shoppers means respecting their space,” Caffrey says. “Don’t let your dog jump on people. It’s perfectly ok to say no to strangers who want to pet your animal if he/she is feeling tense.”
Be Prepared to Clean Up. Contra Costa Animal Services notes that pooper-scooper laws are critical for both the health and the beautification of a community. Canine diseases and parasites are often shed in feces, and no one enjoys maneuvering through unsightly piles of dog waste. Caffrey suggests carrying a plastic poop bag and several paper towels when taking your pup to a public place. “Relieve your dog in a quiet, off-the-beaten-path area,” Vashel says. “Don’t allow them to do their duty in front of a store or restaurant.”
Keep Your Dog Leashed. Not only is this a smart practice, but it’s also the law. Contra Costa Animal Services requires dogs to be leashed unless they’re on your property or at a dog park with off-leash conditions. This practice also prevents your pet from approaching people or other dogs. “If your dog has the desire to engage with another dog, ask the other owner first,” Vashel says. “Don’t let the dogs rush towards each other. Socializing is important but not necessarily appropriate in a shopping and dining environment.”
Be Respectful. “Many business owners welcome customers with dogs, but non-service animals in public areas can be a big problem,” Vashel says, “especially if they don’t have good manners.” Stores with signs stating, “Service Pets Only” should be respected, even if your pooch is well-behaved. “Service animals need to safely focus on their job and personal pets can unwittingly interfere with their purpose,” she says. “I’d like to see these boundaries respected more to ensure the safety of both service pets and shoppers.”
Banish the Bark. Restaurant policies vary, so call ahead before assuming you can dine on the outdoor patio with your canine. “If you’re eating out and your dog starts barking, offer them a treat to refocus their attention,” Caffrey says. “If your dog is very reactive in public settings, get socialization training before venturing into crowded public settings.”
Mind the Heat. Fall temps in Walnut Creek can reach triple digits, creating an uncomfortable environment for furry friends. “Don’t leave your dog in a car, even if you’re just running into the store for a minute,” Vashel says. “A car can reach 120 degrees in seven minutes when the weather outside is 70 degrees.” Caffrey recommends keeping a portable water bowl and bottled water in the car for outings. And think twice before leaving your dog alone. “Tying your dog up outside a store isn’t fair,” Vashel says. “Your pet may encounter a person who doesn’t like dogs or in the most devastating scenario, your best friend gets stolen while you’re shopping for food.”
Five Second Rule Vashel recommends the “five-second rule” for testing the heat by putting your hand on the pavement or concrete. “If you can’t leave your hand down for five seconds because it’s scorching, then it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. I’ve also seen people putting booties on paws when it’s hot. Dogs cool off naturally through their paws, so putting booties on in hot weather increases the risk of heatstroke. Booties are meant for snow, so when used in summer you’re taking away an essential cooling system.”