The Vancouverite’s guide to proper urban dog ownership

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Dog etiquette

Vancouver is a city of dog owners and dog lovers, but it’s also one of the most densely populated cities in North America, and urban dwellers often find themselves in close proximity to their neighbours and, by extension, their four-legged friends.

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Without the large, fenced leashes our suburban counterparts enjoy, the urban Vancouver dog owner often finds themselves pounding the city pavement multiple times a day exercising their pooch – which means navigating crowded streets and parks, dodging other dog owners, strollers, children, tourists and joggers.

Here are some tips to keep you and your dog safe, happy and healthy in this urban jungle we call home.

Always clean up poop. ALWAYS.

Although this should be obvious, I constantly find myself dodging bombs in city parks.  It’s just really gross and very disrespectful.

Diseases and bacteria are carried in dog feces, so it puts the health of others at risk if it’s left on the grass. Always tie up the bag before you put it into the trash.  And never let your dog urinate on people’s planters, or the trees on their front yard.

Always have bags at the ready, and don’t be afraid to gently remind someone leaving their dog’s little present behind on the grass.

It’s also against the law, although the city has only handed out four tickets for infractions in the past year.

Know thy commands

The SPCA in the U.S. recommends all pet owners have their dog trained to sit, stay, “leave it,” come and heel. These are the commands that are going to keep your dog from doing something stupid, like knocking over a jogger, or choking on the chicken bones left behind on a park bench.

“Leave it” is hands-down the holiest of these commands.  If your dog becomes fixated on a chicken bone or pile of garbage, this command will help you break his gaze from the “forbidden fruit” and they’ll come back to you.  As someone whose dog has rolled in a HOMELESS PERSON’S FECES I wish I had trained my dog earlier on this one.

Come is a good command if you accidentally drop the leash or your dog starts sprinting out of the dog park into the False Creek.

There are loads of amazing obedience classes in the city that will help you nail these four commandments to keep you and your dog safe.

Not everyone loves your dog

I’ve had people recoil at the sight of my 15-pound Norfolk terrier, so don’t just assume people love dogs, or want yours to be near them.  Another simple idea, but one a lot of dog owners don’t get.

Some people are allergic to dogs, some are afraid of them and others just don’t like them.

Not everyone wants a dog at their social engagement.  Always get permission to bring your dog to a friend’s party or barbeque.  And don’t be insulted if they say no.

Just because you’re okay with your dog giving you kisses or jumping up to greet you doesn’t mean other people will feel the same way.

And don’t assume that you can take your dog everywhere with you.  Before you leave the house to run errands with your pooch think about where you can tie them up outside.  Dognappings or targeted dog thefts have been reported to the Vancouver police, and leaving a pricey purebred tied up outside a Starbucks to grab a latte may put you at risk of theft – and heartbreak.

Always keep your dog on a leash

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen someone on the seawall with a dog running off-leash I’d be a rich lady.  Although most are well behaved, they’re still instinctual beings, and the sight of another dog, squirrel or shiny object might send them sprinting away.

Your dog can be an angel, but it can also scare people if they see a giant Bernese Mountain Dog barreling towards their child.

Having your dog leashed means it’s safe from traffic and won’t follow its instincts to run after a bird, a child or another dog.  Or god forbid run straight into traffic, something my terrier would do in a heartbeat if left unleashed.

Don’t use a retractable leash – especially on seawall. These just aren’t meant for an urban environment. Twenty feet of instant freedom for your dog can become a taut wire just waiting to trip up cyclists, joggers and plain old pedestrians.

Plus, it’s against the bylaws to let your dog run all willy nilly on the streets.

Be a good citizen

Being a good city dog owner doesn’t end once you stop being outside, especially if you live in an apartment or condo tower.  Elevators and escalators can be a confusing – even terrifying – experience for your dog.  If you’re waiting for an elevators stay a few feet away to the side – let other people board and exit before you.

Ensure that your dog’s license is up to date so if it gets lost the proper authorities will know how to find you. Having your dog tagged and microchipped is important too.

Following these basic rules of so-called “petiquette” will go a long way to curb negative interactions between Vancouverites and our four-legged friends – and keep this city pet-friendly.

CTV Morning Live segment: An urban dog owner etiquette guide

Do you have a beef or compliment with Vancouver urban dog owners?  Leave your comment below – and it could be used in a future segment.

Image: SF Citizen

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About the author

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Darcy Matheson is the founder of PetFundr, a crowdfunding site for animal welfare projects. Her first book, "Greening Your Pet Care," is available on Amazon and in major book and pet stores.
@darcynews

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