Be a Good Dog Neighbor
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
Robert Frost wrote that “good fences make good neighbors.” It is equally true that good dog owners make good neighbors. Neighborly relationships are ruined every day by unconscientious dog owners, and poorly trained dogs. But, if you take the right measures, you can have your dog and your friendly neighbors too, whether you have good fences or not.
One of the biggest issues people have with their dog-owning neighbors is excessive barking. The best way to keep your dog from barking and infuriating your neighbors is to keep him inside when you’re not available to supervise.
This doesn’t just benefit your neighbors. Dogs left alone in the yard can escape and get in to all sorts of trouble. They are also left open to teasing by other animals, neighborhood kids, and mean neighbors. But as far as the excessive barking, you have no way to control the behavior, or correct it if you aren’t around to witness it. If you leave your dog outside all day while you are at work, you have no way of knowing if he is disturbing your neighbors, so it is best to leave him inside. If he is not well behaved enough to be trusted in the house, crate training is a wonderful and safe option.
You can also take measures to limit your dog’s barking in general. Come up with a “be quiet” command like “hush,” or “enough.” When your dog barks, say “hush” and “sit.” If he sits and stops barking, give him a treat. Tell him to hush every single time he barks, and give him a treat every time he sits and stops, and he will learn that hush not only means that he must stop barking, but also that he is going to be rewarded.
Teaching a place command can help as well. Place is a target exercise that cues your dog to go to a specific location and hold a down stay. You can use this as an alternate behavior to excessive barking. Read the article on Teaching Place to learn the steps to shaping this behavior.
Pick Up the Poo
Another issue people have with their dog-owner neighbors is dog waste. It is unpleasant, smelly, and a huge pain if you step in it. It also spreads disease. Dog waste left out can seep into the ground water or flow into streams and make people and other animals sick.
Police your yard regularly for doggy piles. There are many affordable pooper scoopers available, so the fact that dog waste is gross and you don’t want to touch it is no excuse. Also, always, always, pick up after your dog when you are on a walk or at the dog park. Not doing so is unsanitary and intolerably rude. There are lots of small, handy carriers for biodegradable bags, some of which even attach to your dog’s leash for superior convenience. Never leave the house to walk your dog without some baggies to pick up after him.
No matter how good your dog is about wandering around the neighborhood and always coming home, you should not allow this behavior. Dogs who are allowed to roam often lead a sort of double life. Much like a flock of neighborhood kids, roaming dogs will hang out together and form a pack. A perfectly mellow and non destructive dog can wreak havoc when grouped with a bunch of other dogs. They can tear apart garbage cans, chase children, or tease or injure other animals.
Roaming dogs also face the danger of being hit by cars, being stolen, being picked up by Animal Control, or being injured by another animal or person in the neighborhood. People can be cruel, and as hard as it is to understand, there are lots of people out there who just hate animals; you don’t want your dog to be at the mercy of these kinds of people.
When your dog is not in your home or yard, he should be with you, and always on a leash. You have zero control of a dog not on a leash, no matter how well trained he is. The best way to avoid disaster is to leash your dog.
Dog Park Manners
Do not let your dog off his leash until he is in the dog park, and always pick up after him. Dog parks are shut down all the time because of lazy owners’ reluctance to clean up after their pooches.
Also, you must understand your dog’s behavior so you can anticipate trouble. Know your dog’s body language so you can tell if he is frightened or about to behave aggressively. If your dog is bullying other dogs, stop him immediately. The dog park is not a babysitting service; you must supervise your dog and be ready to diffuse any situations that may arise. If your dog is continually bullying, it’s time to go home. The dog park is there for everyone to enjoy, and a whole dog park’s good time can be ruined by one bully dog. If your dog is extremely dog-aggressive, do yourself and your neighbors a favor and keep him out of the dog park until this behavior has been reversed.
If you follow these tips, use your good judgment, and think about how you would like you and your dog to be treated, you can be a great dog neighbor. There’s no reason that dog people and non-dog people can’t get along and have fun, fulfilling neighborly relationships.