I’ve been wanting to write about this for some time, even though it makes me sound petty and not very neighborly. Specifically, I’m referring to the unwritten etiquette of taking a dog out into the world, whether for a walk, a run or just to hang out at the park. I shall elaborate.
I am fortunate to live a couple of blocks from our local greenway, a paved path that winds around a public golf course, rec center and along a creek. The greenway is lovely and is one of the things that drew us to our neighborhood. I can make a three and a quarter mile loop door to door and, except when the weather is either too wet or too cold, most days my dog Bentley and I can be found enjoying the fresh air and getting our steps done. Bentley is always on a leash and I am never without plenty of plastic poop bags.
So, what’s my gripe? I have a few. First is the issue of the leash. There are clearly marked signs along the path stating the law that all dogs must be on a six-foot leash. The sign doesn’t say, “only some dogs need to be on a leash,” it doesn’t specify certain breeds that need to be on a leash, or even that it is okay for really well-trained dogs to be off the leash. It says, “ALL dogs.” Now my Bentley is really well-trained. He’s very good off the leash. But the law is very clear and even my very special fur baby uses a leash! And there is a good reason for this law. One day a few years ago, Bentley was attacked by a dog off the leash and we both narrowly escaped serious injury. Not every dog is friendly and not every dog is well-behaved. And let’s face it, even the best trained can give in to instinct when faced with threat or distraction.
Complaint number two? Well, it’s number two. I carry my own stash of plastic bags, but for those who don’t, there are a couple of bag receptacles along the path with extras. Why do some dog owners let their pet relieve himself and not clean it up???? Yes, it’s messy and inconvenient, but c’mon people! This is a public greenway where neighbors and others walk, run, bike and stroll with kids. Think of this as an extension of your backyard and scoop the poop!
Third on my list, people who allow their dog to come right up to my dog’s face to “play.” “She’s really friendly,” or “He’s just saying ‘hi’.” Well, if I’m running or walking with my headphones clearly in my ears, Bentley close by my side, this is not the time to let your little darling “play,” or “say hi.” I am working out and Bentley is working, too. It’s his job to stay in the “heel,” position and run along with me. When another dog is allowed to just approach us, it distracts Bentley, making for a dangerous situation for us both. One day this happened and Bentley, distracted by a very friendly golden retriever, got under my feet and we both went down. He was fine, I sustained a badly bruised knee that took months to heal (no pun intended). I am all for allowing my dog to socialize, but read my cues when I’m not available for that. The same goes for people without dogs who approach Bentley to pet him without asking my permission. Our leash time is his work. I’m not being unfriendly, I’m actually reinforcing his training so that he will continue to be the well-behaved dog he is. And frankly, when someone asks permission to pet him, I almost always oblige. Hey, he’s soft, adorable and sweet.
My final complaint is actually not just for dog owners, it’s for anyone walking, running or biking on the path. If you’re walking with a group, be aware of personal space. The path is designed for two way passing. DO NOT spread yourselves out and block the path, and if you hear someone coming from either direction, move aside to allow others to pass.
Okay, my rant is nearly done. I may sound like a grumpy, curmudgeonly, unfriendly person. Quite the opposite. I am extremely friendly and love my neighborhood. But the public areas are shared and in order to ensure everyone’s enjoyment, certain rules must apply. It’s common sense, people! I’m sure you all teach your children to be good citizens and neighbors. Well, behavior on the greenway is the perfect time to model good behavior for them, and to show what it means to be a responsible dog owner.
To re-cap, here are the four takeaways:
- Dogs must be on a six-foot leash
- Scoop the poop
- Ask permission to approach
- Share the path
Now, let’s all get out there and HAVE SOME FUN!