Dear Miss Behavin’:
I’d love to bring my dog with me to get a coffee downtown, but her excitement usually gets the best of her and she ends up causing a scene. She’s sweet with people and friendly toward other dogs, but how can I teach her some social etiquette?
Temperament, age, energy level, and basic training all play a role in whether or not your dog can successfully spend time in public places where manners matter.
It’s important that your dog be social with both people and other dogs as you’ll encounter both in a downtown area. Dogs that are fearful of children, reactive toward other animals, or nervous in crowds can be easily overwhelmed in downtown areas.
Age is also an important consideration as young dogs, or adolescents as we call them, often have a hard time heeding their basic training when they encounter a surplus of stimuli in an exciting area full of opportunities that will test their self-control. If your dog is young, she might just need some practice and time before she’s ready to hit the avenue.
If you know your dog is hyper or accustomed to regular exercise, you’ll need to give her an outlet for her energy before taking her downtown. A run at the park, a game of fetch, or a long walk before heading downtown should greatly improve the likelihood of good behavior. It’s also worth mentioning that this will give her an opportunity to relieve herself in an appropriate area instead of on the sidewalk just outside of the local bakery. This “warm up exercise” might make all the difference in curbing her excitability.
Last but not least, basic training is essential when taking your dog to public places. In addition to basic obedience, I recommend enrolling in a course to prepare and test for Canine Good Citizen, a program put on by the American Kennel Club that awards good behavior in the community and at home. Training will strengthen your relationship with your dog and give you more opportunities to do things you enjoy with her, like a leisurely stroll downtown.