Petiquette, please: Owners must learn to help dogs mind their manners

May 11, 2015

Pet ownership continues to be a booming trend in the U.S. In 2014, the American Pet Products Association reported, Americans spent $58 billion on their pets; the forecast for 2015 is estimated at more than $60 billion.

But it’s not just about money. Charlotte Reed, who tracks pet trends, says pets have increasingly become part of the family — and, like some parents, pet owners don’t always set the proper boundaries for their charges, particularly dogs.

"The subsociety has grown — your pet is like a fur kid," says Reed, author of "Miss Fido Manners Complete Book of Dog Etiquette" (Adams Media). "You can take (your dog) to events, and after observing many of these activities, I realized people (don’t) know how to behave."

Thomas P. Farley, aka Mr. Manners, an etiquette and lifestyle expert at, agrees. Owners have to be honest in their assessment of their pets’ personalities, he says, to "avoid incidents by the pet whether threatened or acted upon."

Some rules of "petiquette" from the experts:

Don’t confuse manners with laws: Having your pooch on a leash and making sure licenses and vaccines are up to date are requirements in most municipalities.

There also may be laws requiring cleaning up after your dog, aka "pooper scooper" laws.

Owners should research regulations not only for their municipality but also any public place. (Trained hearing or service dogs are usually permitted to accompany their owners wherever the public is allowed.)

Street sense: The website of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers tips for walking your dog. (go to and search for "walking 101"). Keep Fido off the neighbors’ lawns and gardens. Also use a leash that allows the dog space to roam but isn’t too long.

"The well-trained city dog needs to respond to a minimum of four basic commands: ‘sit-stay,’ ‘heel,’ ‘leave it’ and ‘come,’" the website notes.

If your dog is rambunctious or aggressive, it may be worth investing in training.

Never let your dog approach strangers without asking their permission, the ASPCA notes. Even more important, never let your dog approach a child or another pet without the parent’s or owner’s OK.

Shopping: More stores are pet-friendly — but not all. "It’s always a good idea to ask, ‘Can my dog come in?’" Reed says.

Even in a pet store where dogs are typically welcome, make sure Fido behaves. And be mindful of the inventory, Reed says. If your dog puts a toy in its mouth and drags it around the store, she suggests buying it. The spread of saliva is potentially a health hazard, she says, adding, "I wouldn’t want (another) dog to get sick later from using that toy."

Restaurants: As far as dining out with your pooch, Reed says, it’s only OK if the dog "is well-behaved, can sit calmly through a meal and will not beg." It’s also inappropriate for the dog to sit with paws on the table, she said. "If he starts barking uncontrollably, then you have a problem." Time to grab the check and go home.

Apologies accepted: Another point to consider comes from the website of the American Humane Society: When your dog does something to upset or inconvenience another person, apologize.

"Shrugging it off as an overreaction or a personal slight will not improve your dog’s behavior and may negatively impact your reputation in the community," notes the "Etiquette for Dog Owners" article (go to, and type "etiquette" in the search field).

"Dog owners have to realize that, wherever they go, they’re canine ambassadors," Reed said. "Their behavior affects everyone around them."



McClatchy-Tribune Information Services