It is a joy and a privilege to be able to take our dogs for public outings. It is a great way to socialize our dog, provide enrichment, and spend quality time together. Some people require the assistance of a service dog, while others are out purely for leisure. It is important to keep in mind that every owner and their dog have their own reasons for being out and to respect their space unless you have politely asked for permission to approach them. Educating ourselves about proper etiquette when greeting dogs, as well as when allowing dogs to greet each other, and the risks associated with improper etiquette will help enlighten the negative stigmas surrounding dogs in public spaces.

Greeting Dogs in Public

Meeting a new dog can be an exciting experience for a dog lover, but it is important to always practice proper etiquette to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Always ask permission before touching or interacting with a dog. If the owner welcomes you to greet the dog, avoid eye contact and hovering over the dog while approaching and during contact. Speak calmly and move slowly, avoiding loud outbursts or sudden movements. Always allow the dog to smell your hand prior to petting. If the dog moves away from your advancement, respect their boundaries and stop any further advancements. If an owner’s answer is no, respect that answer without further questioning. Many dogs in public spaces are working or in training, while other dogs may be uncomfortable being approached by strangers, or are protective of their owner, etc. Failing to use proper etiquette can have dangerous consequences for everyone involved. Not only is it considered disrespectful, but it is also risky because dogs tend to defend their space and belongings when threatened.

Avoidance Etiquette and Dog-to-Dog Greetings

It is a common misconception that any dog in a public space must be social and overly friendly. Just like people, most dogs do not have the desire to interact with strange dogs. These dogs, who make up the majority, are considered “dog selective” or “dog tolerant.” Teaching your dog to not greet or engage with every dog that they encounter is an important part of socialization because it will allow them to feel fulfilled without unnecessary engagement. Allowing your dog to approach a strange dog puts them at risk for injury or illness. It is important to be aware of other dogs’ vaccination and health status before allowing interaction to avoid the risk of communicable diseases. It is also difficult to predict how dogs will get along before allowing interaction, so it is important to learn and become fluent in nonverbal communication, or body language, to avoid any unnecessary conflict. Knowing how to properly introduce your dog and when to avoid engagement is the key to creating and maintaining healthy relationships with other dogs.

If you come across another dog in public, it is good practice to create space between the two dogs. This can be accomplished by crossing the street, aisle, or even just the other side of your body. In doing so, the dogs will typically remain calmer and more focused on their owner, as well as a smaller likelihood of unwanted interaction. It is likely that you will come across unwanted advancements from a dog in public at some point, so prepare yourself to advocate for your dog without hesitation. Your dog looks to you for safety and comfort and it is your responsibility and duty to maintain that. If a dog and its owner approach without permission, politely but frankly ask them to stop. Negative interactions can lead to lifelong behavioral issues such as reactivity, so it is important to be mindful of other owners and their dogs and to always ask for consent before approaching.

Many dogs have never learned or have not learned how to properly greet other dogs. This is due to many factors, such as lack of general socialization, always being on a leash, behind a fence, or rushed greetings by well-meaning owners. Always allow dogs to meet in a neutral place so that one dog does not feel territorial. Allow the dogs to be around each other, but not to greet each other or make contact until both are calm and relaxed. When the dogs are allowed to greet each other, make sure both leashes are loose. A tight leash can often cause frustration and may unintentionally cause your dog to display offensive body language towards the other dog. If either dog displays any behavior, such as body stiffening, low growling, hard staring, avoidance, or becoming overly excited, it is best to calmly separate the dogs. If both dogs engage in play, keep them on a loose leash initially to ensure there are no pushy behaviors or mounting. If the play remains appropriate, allow the dogs off-leash to play and enjoy each other’s company. When allowing your dog off leash in a public space it is important to ensure they have good recall. This a basic obedience command and it is paramount to maintaining a safe, controlled environment for your dog and those around them.

While many dogs enjoy the opportunity to interact with familiar people and dogs, they do not want to interact with everyone they come across. Social media and dog park culture have created stereotypes that suggest that all dogs should be overfriendly to strangers, as well as being friends with and interacting positively with all other dogs. This has caused owners to allow and even push their dogs to have unwanted interactions. It has also caused a negative stigma surrounding dogs who are not “dog social,” deeming “dog selective,” “dog tolerant,” and “dog reactive” dogs to be bad dogs when they make up the general population of dogs. The next time you are out and about with your dog, remember that all dogs are individuals and that there are many reasons besides companionship that they may be out with their owner, and to always ask for consent before approaching. Well-behaved dogs, even those who do not want to be pet or greeted by another dog, should be welcome in public spaces, too.

Pet-Friendly Businesses in Elko

  • Coffee/Ice Cream Shops – Ask for a “Pup Cup”!
    • XP Gaming & Café
    • Dairy Queen
    • Sierra Java – Drive Thru
    • Cool Beans – Patio or Drive Thru
    • Starbuck’s – Patio or Drive Thru
    • Mudd Hutt – Patio or Drive Thru
    • Good Blends – Patio or Drive Thru
    • Spoon Me
    • Fizz Drinks – Drive Thru
    • Artic Circle – Drive Thru
  • Hobby Stores:
    • Bristlecone Bikes
    • 5J Music
  • Shopping
    • Princess and a Redneck
    • Lamoille Farmers Market
    • Chique Unique Antiques
    • Home Depot
    • Cal Ranch
    • IFA
    • JoAnn Fabric and Craft
    • Petco
  • Restaurants – Patio Only:
    • B.J. Bull Bakery, LLC
    • Mattie’s Taphouse and Grill
    • Dreez
    • The Klub
    • Stray Dog Pub & Café
    • O’Carroll’s
  • Florists & Plant Nurseries
    • Jewels Floral Studio
    • Evergreen Flower & Gift Shop
    • The Petal Merchant LLC
    • 2 Wild Poppies
  • Hotels
    • Home2 Suites by Hilton
    • Hampton Inn
    • Rodeway Inn
    • Travelodge by Wyndham
    • Gold Country Inn and Casino
    • Super 8 by Wyndham
    • Thunderbird Motel
    • Shilo Inn
    • Ramada by Wyndham
    • Maverick Hotel and Casino
    • Baymont by Wyndham
    • TownePlace Suites by Marriott
    • Best Western
    • Travelers Motel
    • Motel 6
    • American Inn
  • Tire Shop & Lube Center
    • Big O Tires
    • Caveman Tires
    • Les Schwab Tire Center
    • Purcell Tire and Service Centers
    • GCR Tires & Service
    • Grease Monkey – $5 off an Oil Change if you bring your dog
    • Silver Street Express Lube
  • Banks
    • Elko Federal Credit Union
    • Greater Nevada Credit Union