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Rules of the Road

If you’re a dog owner in the city, chances are you already know there are some definite dos and don’ts for dog walking in tight metro spaces. Maybe you’ve even been frustrated by the poor etiquette of other dog owners, and perhaps you know someone who could benefit from learning how – and how not to – walk a dog responsibly. For everyone’s benefit, here’s a handy list of rules of the road for people who walk their dogs in DC.

1) Obey traffic signals. Traffic signals must be obeyed at all times. This applies whether you are walking a dog or not, but it’s especially important if you are trying to get across the road with a dog in tow.

 2) Use crosswalks. Crosswalks are there for pedestrian safety, so use them! Jaywalking with a rambunctious animal can only lead to disaster. Keep yourself, and your dog, on the crosswalk and pay attention to timing. When the light is about to change, don’t make a mad dash for the other side of the road, because your dog has a mind of his own and may not cooperate. Play it safe for yourself, your dog and the motorists around you.

3) Find an appropriate restroom. If you’re walking your dog and it looks like he’s about to urinate or defecate on the sidewalk, do your best to stop him. Move him, if possible, to an out-of-the-way area. When you first take your dog out for a walk, try to encourage him to get his business out of the way by finding a spot that’s appropriate for him to go. That way he’ll be less tempted to go on the sidewalk during your journey. And, if he defecates, then you need to obey rule #4…

4) Pick up after your dog. Always pick up your dog’s poop. It doesn’t matter where he goes; the fact of the matter is if you don’t own the property he’s pooping on, it’s your responsibility to pick up and throw away what he leaves behind.

5) Leave room. When you’re walking on sidewalks and other tight, public spaces, don’t let your leash out so that you and your dog take up the entire walkway. Be considerate and leave room for others.

6) Don’t monopolize wheel wells. Wheel wells are intended for wheelchair and bike access, so don’t stop and park your dog in them.

7) Don’t trespass. When you encounter a nice, open yard, your dog will be tempted to explore it. However much fun he might have playing in another person’s yard, or however convenient it may be for him to use a yard as a restroom rather than the sidewalk, be aware that if your dog is on a stranger’s yard it’s trespassing. Never let your dog go onto other people’s yards without permission.

8) Don’t combine biking and dog walking. If you enjoy biking, resist the urge to leash your dog to your bike and try to ride while “walking” him. Even with special leashes built for this purpose the entire exercise poses a danger to everyone – especially pedestrians – in high traffic areas.

9) Stick to the rules in public places. Don’t let your dog off his leash in public areas, and definitely don’t if there are posted rules about keeping your dog leashed. There may be aggressive, albeit leashed, dogs in the area. They’re well within their rights to be there, particularly if they are on a leash. But your dog may get too close trying to investigate and a fight could ensue.

10) Know your venue’s rules. If you want to take your dog out with you running errands, dining, or otherwise enjoying all the city has to offer, know the rules of the places you go to. Many establishments in DC are dog-friendly, but there are plenty – including lots of restaurants – that are not.

11) Ask permission. Never approach another owner’s dog without asking permission first. The dog could be aggressive or have other issues that make it nervous when approached by strangers.

12) Stay vigilant. If your dog is aggressive, be alert and aware of the presence of other dogs or people that your dog might try to attack. And if your dog is friendly, remember, your dog is not every dog. Just because your dog loves new people and new experiences doesn’t mean every dog does. There are dogs that are terrified of or threatened by some of the most common features of city living, so remember rule #11 at all times.

Now, if we could just do something about all the chicken bones…