It's Okay If Your Dog Can't Handle Public Spaces | Pupford
September 27th, 2023
Filed under Podcasts
And, that is okay!
While social media often makes us believe otherwise, not every dog has to be out in public places with you. In this article, I want to help normalize and provide an empathetic view to those who don’t feel like their dog can handle extremely public places.
Here’s some of what we will cover:
- Why is this dog here? (A quick story)
- Train (and raise) the dog in front of you
- Don’t force your dog (or yourself) into situations
- Many dogs in public spaces have been practicing for YEARS
Let’s do it! ⬇️
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WHY IS THIS DOG HERE? (A QUICK STORY)
About a month ago I went out to a fantastic restaurant on a weekend evening with some family and friends.
The restaurant has ample outdoor seating that is right along a busy NYC sidewalk. There’s a constant stream of pedestrians, dogs, kids on scooters, and the occasional bicyclist coming through this bustling area.
Throughout our meal, a family with their large dog a few tables away was constantly struggling with their dog.
He wouldn’t lie down.
He was barking at strangers.
He was barking incessantly at dogs that walked by.
He knocked some items off the table as he lunged from under the table.
It wasn’t fun for the dog and it certainly wasn’t fun for the family eating dinner. And unfortunately, constant corrections (many of which I don’t agree with from a humane standpoint) were being given to the dog…
But is it really the dog’s fault?!
I’d argue no.
The dog was put into a situation where he clearly hadn’t been appropriately trained on how to handle and act in that situation. And to make matters worse, no real training was happening during the meal. There was no reinforcement for good behavior, just corrections for undesirable behavior.
The dog was set up to fail.
Of course, I don’t have the full context of the dog’s or family’s situation but it was unfortunate that the dog was facing constant reprimands when it simply hadn’t been taught any better.
I left the meal wondering to myself, why. Why do we take dogs and put them into situations where they’re set up to fail?
(One note too, I didn’t really mind the barking from a personal standpoint. It didn’t affect my meal and that’s not my point of the story. I was more concerned and sad for the pup.)
TRAIN (AND RAISE) THE DOG IN FRONT OF YOU
In the age of social media, some people feel some type of cultural pressure to take their dogs everywhere!
And if locations allow it, that’s great! But, what if your dog just isn’t cut out for it?
Some pups have great manners overall, but just get stressed out or overwhelmed with large crowds.
Some pups have great manners overall, but just get anxious when they have to settle or relax for too long while outside.
Some pups have great manners overall, but may have a history of unfortunate experiences that happened in public spaces that trigger an emotional response.
And guess what…
Even though your favorite Instagram doggie account takes their pup to every dog-friendly restaurant, bar, and cafe, that doesn’t mean you have to as well.
Every dog is different and our training and rearing should be unique and personalized accordingly.
DON’T FORCE YOUR DOG (OR YOURSELF) INTO SITUATIONS
Part of our role as pup parents is to tap into the nuances and unique personalities of our dogs.
And if your dog is clearly exhibiting excessive signs of stress, what do you gain by staying at that restaurant, cafe, or park?
Of course, some stressors can be valuable but there is always a fine line.
And forcing your pup into spaces they can’t handle often unfortunately just turns into more stress, anxiety, and negative associations in the future. It can become a vicious cycle!
MANY DOGS IN PUBLIC SPACES HAVE BEEN PRACTICING FOR
I want to bring up one final point about taking your dog into public spaces.
The dog you see laying calmly at their human’s feet while out at dinner has probably been practicing that behavior for months, if not years. It likely took a concerted and consistent effort to train that behavior over time.
So if you’re wanting to work up to where your dog can handle being out in dog-friendly public spaces with you, be patient! It takes time, consistency, and proper training techniques.
Learning to settle for extended periods of time can be an extremely challenging behavior to teach even the most well-mannered and responsive of dogs!
RECAP OF DOGS & PUBLIC SPACES
While many of us want to take our dogs with us everywhere we go, it’s important to remember our dog’s needs and capabilities. Some dogs don’t enjoy crowds, extended settling while outside, or being in an unpredictable place like a dog-friendly restaurant.
If you’re looking for tips on improving impulse control and behaviors like settling/place, be sure to check out 21 Impulse Control Games!
What has been your experience taking your dog into public places like dog-friendly stores and restaurants? Tell me in the comments!