Canine Courtesies

Well-behaved humans make well-behaved dogs.

Humans and dogs have been rolling together for centuries. Cultures all over the world utilize dogs for work, protection, and companionship, and dogs are the only species that actively leave their own kind to be with humans. Like humans, dogs thrive on consistency and boundaries. Striking a healthy balance between love and discipline will always result in a more highly mannered dog, as well as a happier dog, and thus, a happier master. Below are a few take away points to help us all be better dog-owners. 

Control Your Dog
When in public—either in town or on the trails—always keep your dog under some form of obedience. This can be done via voice command (if your dog actually listens to you), use of a leash, or an e-collar. Whenever we hike, our dogs are on lead and voice control. There are three reasons for this: first, common sense states that my dog shouldn’t be running all over the forest, harassing other folks and potentially interfering with wildlife; second, if another dog comes racing up, we know that minimally we can control our dogs and mitigate potential confrontations; and finally, if others are out enjoying the trail and have a fear of dogs, I can read their body language and move myself and my dog off the trail, providing them ample room to pass without concern. Have respect for other members of your community and their right to enjoy open spaces without your dog’s nose in their crotches. 

Ask Before You Approach
There is often a human assumption that dogs love other dogs and public interaction. This is not necessarily the case. When crossing paths with another dog, ask your fellow dog-owner if your dog may approach. If they say yes, then move in slowly and let the dogs get to know one another. If they say no, then move on about your day. It’s that simple. 

Be Present with Your Dog
Every dog owner has experienced this scenario in some form or another. You are out with your dog enjoying the day. Your dog is by your side and from around the bend comes another dog, flying hell-bent directly toward you. The other dog’s owner is nowhere to be seen, and now you’re trying to discern if this is a playful and happy dog or one that prefers to mix things up. Finally, the other dog-owner comes strolling in your direction, talking on his cell phone or playing Pokémon Go, while you attempt to manage your dog and his dog. 

If you’re going to take time out of your busy schedule to exercise and be with your dog, here’s an idea: be with your dog. Put your smartphone away. Enjoy this beautiful place where you are so lucky to live. Enjoy being with your dog, in town, on the trail, in your yard, or in your car.

Let Service Dogs Work
Most people see a service animal and verbal diarrhea takes over. They point at the individual and wonder aloud, “What’s wrong with you?” My dog is a service animal who goes everywhere with me. On her vest, she has two patches: Do Not Pet and Service Dog. I can’t tell you how many times people race up to ask, “Is that a service dog? Can I pet it?” Service dogs are with individuals for a reason—they are working. Leave them alone and let them do their job. Trust me: they get plenty of love and belly-rubs at home once they’re off duty. 

Seek out Training
Like humans, dogs never stop learning. There is truly no such thing as a dog too old to train. Like people, dogs thrive on stretching their minds, pushing their boundaries, and utilizing their athletic bodies. Training opportunities abound throughout southwest Montana. Find one that fits your personality and pull the trigger. You and your dog will have a better and more fulfilling relationship for it, and everyone you pass on the trails will appreciate the time and effort invested. 

Jeff Greene is the co-founder and former CEO of Svalinn, a company that breeds, raises, and trains working dogs, located outside Livingston.