With nearly a million walks under our belts, we know a thing or two about walking dogs in the city (and what to avoid.) Being a considerate dog walker in Philadelphia (or any city for that matter) is important for a lot of reasons. (And we don't mean just for folks who dedicate their careers to dog walking. This goes for anyone who walks a dog in public.) One of our core values at The Monster Minders is “Don’t be a jerk.” (Really, it is.) Aside from being an official non-jerk, being a considerate walker is important for safety, community wellbeing and staying ahead of the law.
Here are some tips from your favorite dog walkers for practicing good dog walking etiquette in Philly.
Philadelphia has leash laws that require dogs to be on a leash at all times when outside of the owner's property. Always keep your dog on a leash, preferably a non-retractable one, to ensure you have control over your pooch. If you need encouragement about why leashes are important for safety and community respect, check our other post about the importance of obeying leash laws in Philly. (Leashing is the law. It’s that simple.)
Pick up after your dog:
Carry poop bags with you and clean up after your dog immediately. Leaving dog poop on sidewalks and parks is not only inconsiderate and nasty, but also unhygienic for community members. File this under, don’t be a jerk. Jerks aren’t cool. Be cool!
Respect public spaces:
Philadelphia offers designated dog parks for off-leash fun. (Check our article on leash laws for a list of our favorites.) Use public spaces responsibly and be considerate of other users. While in parks keep your dog away from playgrounds, sports fields, and other areas where dogs are not allowed. If it says, “No dogs on fields” it means no dogs on fields. (Yes, your dog is special, but not above community rules.) Remember, kids play in those spaces!
Get Verbal Consent for Socialization:
If your dog is friendly and well-socialized, it’s always fun to meet new dog friends on walks. However, always VERBALLY ask other dog owners for permission before letting your dog approach theirs. And for the love of all things canine, don’t do the thing where you let your dog run up to another dog while yelling, “Don’t worry, she’s friendly!” (How do you know the other dog is friendly?) Always get verbal consent with a quick, “Can they say “hi?” As someone who has a dog who is sneaky-reactive, I always appreciate being asked. Our pooch Jax can walk by a dog perfectly fine but does NOT want to come nose-to-nose. I’m so grateful when people get verbal consent, to which I politely respond with a smile, “I wish! He’s a grumpy old man and will bark.”
This goes for humans too! Know that some people are terrified of dogs and even though your pooch just wants to meet new friends, other humans might feel differently for a host of personal and valid reasons. Respect your neighbor’s personal space and never assume. Get consent!
It's also helpful during outbreaks like the one we are currently experiencing. When dog viral or bacterial outbreaks hit, know that other dog owners may have a different risk tolerance AND their pup could have underlying conditions, making them more susceptible to severe outcomes. Never assume! Always ask.
Keep your dog under control and know when you need to call a trainer:
Work on basic training skills with your dog. Basic commands like sit, stay, and come are the bedrock of control and can really help in public if you need to center your dog. If your dog barks excessively, jumps on or darts for people, or exhibits aggressive behavior toward humans or other dogs, loop in a professional trainer. It will make your walks less stressful for both you and your dog (and your neighbors will likely thank you too!) There is no such thing as a perfect dog, but a little training goes a long way.
Yield to pedestrians:
As a dog walker, it's your responsibility to yield to pedestrians and give them ample space to pass by. Sidewalks in Philly can get crowded so be mindful of your pooch. We encourage allowing your dog to sniff and explore, but just make sure you’re aware of other folks using the sidewalk too. (I know, distracted folks looking at their phones are probably the bigger issue here!)
Avoid using retractable leashes:
In busy areas, keep your dog on a short, fixed-length leash to avoid tripping pedestrians and cyclists. We wrote an entire blog post on why we think retractable leashes are dangerous in urban environments like Philadelphia. Our go-to? The standard 4 to 6 foot nylon leash. Trusty and safe for your pup and everyone else! Sometimes the simple solution is the best solution.
By following these dog walking etiquette tips, you can ensure that you and your dog are respectful members of the Philly community. Dog owners can get a bad reputation very quickly! Don’t be a jerk! Have you ever stepped in a pile of poop and been happy about it? Me neither. By being a cosiderate dog walker, we can keep public spaces dog AND human friendly.