Tips For Dog-Walking Etiquette

Unwritten rules—and sometimes written laws—help dictate how to keep you and your dog safe while walking.


Dog walking is great exercise for you and your dog. A study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine highlighted the health benefits for you and showed that the idea of walking the dog prompted more people to start exercising. But you need to do it safely, for you and for your dog.

Pay Attention to Your Dog

The best tip for walking your dog in a public place is basic: Pay attention to your dog and what he’s doing. You need to be able to anticipate what’s going to happen next, so you can reward him if he’s good, correct him before he’s bad, and keep him safe.

Don’t Text and Walk

Walking your dog is not the time to be talking on the phone or, worse, testing someone. Talking and texting divert your attention from what your dog is doing. And if you suddenly need two hands–because your dog is doing something he shouldn’t or because he’s being attacked–one hand is already holding the phone.

Sides Don’t Matter

Dog trainers say it doesn’t matter which side of you the dog is walking on, as long as he’s not pulling and disturbing other people or dogs. Hunting dogs and show dogs are expected to walk on the left side of their handler, unless asked to do otherwise.

On Leash

Keep your dog on a leash, unless you are in an enclosed area where it’s permissible (and no strange dogs are there, too). Walking on a leash isn’t something dogs do naturally. They normally run around, sniffing, eating what they find, urinating on other things.

Walking is a modern, man-made convention, and dogs must be trained to do it properly. If you can’t do it yourself, don’t be ashamed. Find a fear-free trainer, a dog club that offers classes, or maybe a Cooperative Extension office that offers canine-education courses.  Don’t feel bad. Most humans need to be taught the right way to do it too.

If you’re walking at dark, dawn, or dusk, be sure both you and your dog are visible. Wear bright clothing and/or one of the many commercial light apparatuses that help you stand out.

If  you’re running with your dog, be sure that your dog is physically fit to run with you and that you find a surface that won’t injure his pads.

Carry Poop Bags

It’s extremely important to be prepared to pick up poop. Leaving the poop there is not only rude, it can be dangerous if someone slips in it, and (in some areas) you may be fined.

Poop bags are not expensive, and not only are there a countless number of brands available, but you can also get special holders to put the bags in while you’re walking, in case you’re concerned about the smell or simply uncomfortable carrying the bag.

Note: Some public walking paths have poop containers, so you don’t have to carry it with you, and often provide poop bags. The downside of not having the bag with you at that correct moment is going back and trying to find the pile.