Canine Etiquette

Nothing is less important than which fork you use. Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor.

Emily Post, author, socialite, authority on etiquette (1872 – 1960)

Though I am still somewhat emotionally scarred from etiquette imposed in childhood, I can confidently say today I do not care what fork someone uses at meals. (I have stronger opinions about elbows on the table.) Where rituals of etiquette and dog-households collide in post-2020 America begins with where our dogs cease to be specialty trained work- or therapy- partners, and we behave as though they were “children”. These days, people have dropped the use of specialty harnesses and irritated comeback “therapy-dog” responses when asked. With legislators bowing to public pressure, retailers and other employees were prohibited from challenging whether a Shih Tzu was a “service animal”. People take dogs of all sizes into supermarkets, big box retail stores, to schools, churches and restaurants.

what was appropriate pre-Millennium remains so

Responsible people should not leave animals (or children for that matter) in hot cars while they shop. However, I do not understand why they must accompany grown adults on errands to the Home Depot or to the Walmart. Some go to coffee shops or to diners with their corgi, chihuahua, pug or retriever. Though I understand some dogs may develop separation anxiety, home is far more familiar and appropriate for a pet. But going to work? In the last several years, with established companies changing their policies and office environment to cater to Gen-Z and younger workers, it seems they remain flexible.

dog parks as healthy social venues

Where I take Dexter and Comet to socialize, the city just prior to COVID, re-designed and rebuilt a dog park divided as to cater to different sized dogs. It re-opened last Fall and people were even more conscientious in following an unwritten etiquette. Though, water spigots with built-in bowls at dog-level are located just outside the dog park entrances, dog-people for years had been bringing plastic bowls and buckets to give all dogs water. Others bring dog treats (training aids) for their canine, but just as likely will share them with several other four-footed beggars. The most appreciated etiquette lesson, dog people clean up after their pet.

“pick up after your dog”

Dogs urinating in store aisles or on table legs is likely the most egregious example of an etiquette failure. A dog that defecates in a public place or even on walks in a residential neighborhood is not the issue. One cannot always blame the dog for its behavior. In these situations, the person at the end of the leash should have the situation under control with pockets of poop bags. While I choose to believe that it is an error or omission in judgement when people leave dog droppings where they lie, or other issues like ignoring leash ordinances, residential yard signs say not everyone cleans up after the doggie-doo and need reminding.

some strange dog-etiquette is self-learned

Dexter has a characteristic that seems oddly backwards. He has a deep, throaty growl and bark that would intimidate most who venture to my front door. The Amazon guy, neighbors, and the occasional door-to-door vendor have all experienced it. People who know him though, see through it as “Dexter being Dexter”. Or when we are out working in the yard or on a walk, and he sees my neighbors, it has become not at all unusual for me to apologize for Dexter greeting people as he would other dogs. Another couple routines he has, catches new visitors off guard. As a greeting, Dexter feels very comfortable shoving his butt toward them (asking for a scratch). Or even more awkward, begging for a neck scratch, he will bury his head in your crotch.

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”

Will Rogers, humorist, (1879 -1935)

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