The Importance of Social Manners in Dogs

Twix struggles with nerves around some other dogs, he doesn’t like it when dogs bound up to him

Hands up if you read the subject of this guide and sighed.  Go on, be honest.  Whilst we understand that in a world full of rules, guidelines to follow, appropriate and accepted social behaviour, adding to these may seem like yet more rules to follow.   But it is so important as a dog owner to be aware of an ‘unwritten etiquette’ for the well being and safety of your dog, you and other dogs, animals, people in your surrounding environment.

In the same way there are behaviours that are socially acceptable for humans in society, the same applies to dogs.  We live in a heavily populated world where it is important to be mindful, respectful and aware of others and your surroundings.

There are so so so many benefits to having a dog as a family member.  They encourage exercise and regular walks and it is a fantastic way to meet other people.  A dog can give you a sense of connection to other people with dogs within your community.  Whilst dog walkers all have one thing in common, their dog, not all dogs are the same.  Not all dogs or their owners want the same thing and being aware of certain basic ‘rules’ will ensure that you and your dog are being courteous towards other dog walkers in your community.

It is your responsibility as the dog owner to teach your dog how to behave, not to dominate them, but to train and teach them on what is acceptable behaviour in our human world.

Your dogs may be friendly but it doesn’t mean all dogs or people want to be approached by them

Be Aware of Your Dog

If you are the person in charge of a dog, then you are responsible for controlling the dog’s behaviour in public and ensuring that no harm comes to them or anyone else around you.

Dogs are naturally social animals.  One of the most important things about controlling your dog in a crowd is not about the dog at all. It’s about you projecting calm, assertive energy, then being a diligent owner by watching your dog and what is going on around them.  We have all seen the owner who is busy talking to someone while their dog, is a few feet away, pestering a person, getting into a fight with another dog, or eating something that might be dangerous.  This is the type of situation that is so easily avoided by simply keeping your eyes on your dog at all times and ensuring you know what your dog is doing.

Be Aware of Other Dogs

Another hands up moment.  Honestly, hands up to anyone reading this who has either been in a situation where we have either muttered the words “it is okay my dog is friendly” or been on the receiving end of this statement.

Imagine the following scenario: You start a new job in an office.  On your first day as you are introduced to the other employees, do you go up to each one of them, give them all big hugs, sit on their laps, touch their faces and jump up and down with an excitable squeal?  If you answered yes, are you still an employee in this office? How did others react to your behaviour? How you would respond if this happened to you? Would you feel awkward, offended, embarrassed even?

This may seem like an extreme and quite frankly strange and far fetched example.  However, this scenario happens time and time again between dogs when they are being walked.

Dogs who bound over to over dogs, initiate play, smell each others bottoms, jump all over each other.  This is fantastic when it all goes well, happy faces from dogs owners and happy dogs.  But what if the other dog is on a lead? What if things go wrong and the two dogs don’t get on?

The Importance of Recall

Kyra loves her walks off lead in the countryside

Seeing your dog off the lead running in the countryside, on a beach, in a park is just wonderful.  But does your dog come to you the instant you call them?

The greatest challenge of “coming-when-called” is the reality that there will always be something out there that is more enticing than whatever we can offer some dogs.  Until you are absolutely certain your dog will come back to you when called, no matter what the situation, don’t put your dog in a situation where their lack of reliable recall can endanger them or someone else. Do not let them off the lead in places where they can run away and get into trouble.

Enclosed fields are a fantastic place for recall training.  It is safe with few distractions and no harm can come to your dog.  Now we don’t want to put a dampener on things as of course this is a fantastic first step, but once you are confident of your dogs recall in a secure and safe area, do not take them immediately out to a park full of wonderful and exciting smells, other animals and people.

A long training lead is a fantastic way to continue recall training without your dog being let loose until you are absolutely confident they will return to you no matter what the situation.  Whether this is a group of people to say hi to, some dogs having fun to play with, a pile of cow dung to be rolled in, the scent of a rabbit to follow.  You must be able to guarantee your dog will return to you before letting them off the lead.  Otherwise the reality is, you simply are not in control of your dog or being considerate towards others.  Check out our guide Teach Your Dog 4 Basic Commands for help on training your dog.

Respect The Lead

Gau Gau’s current recall isn’t reliable enough to be walked off lead

There is a reason why another dog is on a lead. As mentioned earlier your dog may be friendly and even if you scream, “he’s friendly!”, this doesn’t mean another dog wants to meet your dog.  Maybe they do not like other dogs, maybe they are very nervous, scared or ill.  If your dog bounds over to a dog on a lead this could trigger a stressful response from the dog and also cause unnecessary stress to the owner.

A few years ago, one of the team from Benafim Dogs was walking a 6 month old puppy in a park on a lead.  Two big dogs came out of nowhere and literally flattened the puppy within seconds.  Thankfully the puppy was physically not injured.  Psychologically however the puppy was left traumatised.  Of course this is an accident, accidents happen.  For the puppy however, they were left terrified of other dogs and terrified of being on a lead.

Be Aware of Other People

Your dog may be a social butterfly but not everyone likes dogs and some are scared by dogs.  Think of something you don’t like or are scared of.  Spiders perhaps? How would you react if someone bound up to you with a spider and threw it on you?  Again, rather an extreme example but not to those who are scared of dogs.

The behaviour of a dog running up to people can also be annoying at times, your overly friendly dog may lead to unpleasant consequences. Your dog may stain a person’s clothing with their dirty paws, or your dog may accidentally scratch them, knock them over or pee on them.  Yes this has happened to one of us whilst sitting on a beach!  We laughed, others may not find it quite so amusing!

Walk you dogs on a lead if you do not have complete control of them

Be Aware of Children

Not all children know how to behave around dogs or maybe are scared of dogs.  If you are in an area with lots of children then simply put your dog on a lead until you have safely passed them.  Your dog may be fantastic with children and a real softy, but it is just sensible to put your dog on a lead around children.  The last thing you want to happen is for your dog to get too excited around a child, to accidentally hurt them or scare them.

Clean Up After Your Dog

This may seem like an obvious thing to do but picking up your dog’s poo matters.

Not picking up your dog’s poo is not only bad for the environment and public health, it’s also really not pleasant to  be walking around with dog poo on the bottom of one’s shoes, or, to be cleaning recently rolled in dog poo off a dog.  Always carry poo bags with you, check out our review on The Best Dog Poo Bags.

Dog poo isn’t a fertiliser like we do with cow manure.  Dogs eat more protein and their waste is highly acidic, contains pathogens and microbes, and leaves excess nutrients in places like our lakes and rivers.  Dog waste also contains nitrogen, which explains why your grass can turn brown or yellow in spots.

Dog poo can also carry diseases such as roundworm or salmonella which is harmful to other dogs.   It takes two seconds to clean up and dispose of properly

This may seem like an obvious thing to do but picking up your dog’s poo matters.


The key is to know your dog, be aware of your surroundings, be respectful of others, their feelings and to keep one eye on your dog at all times.  As a dog owner, you need to take full responsibility for their actions.  It is normal for them not to know what is right and wrong in social situations and the need to be taught these.  In exactly the same way you have been taught how to behave in public and how to get on in society, your dog needs the same from you.  By doing this your dog, whether on a lead or not,  will be able to join you or vice versa for fantastic walks, social activities and live a fulfilled and happy life.