When we discussed walking your dog last month, we focussed on behavior, stressing the importance of controlling your dog, walking him or her with a leash and provided a few basic on proper canine meet-and- greet etiquette. This week, we’ll turn a little inward, separating the good dog walkers from the—let’s just say not-so- good—and the courteous neighbors from those who probably won’t get invited to this summer’s chili cookoff.
If you’re taking your four-legged friend out for a stroll, keep a few things in mind:
Pick up your dog’s poop: This is a pretty cut and dry issue. Under no circumstances is it acceptable to leave your dog’s digestive remains on a neighbor’s lawn, the baseball diamond at the park or in the middle of the sidewalk. Yes, the sidewalk. Finished nodding your head in agreement? OK, we’ll move on. Is there anything that ruins a great summer experience more than a shoeful of fecal matter? It’s extremely unpleasant, to say the least. But before we curse the local canine contingency, let’s point a finger at their caretakers. Dogs eat. Then they go to the bathroom. And dogs on walks seem to go more frequently. Maybe it’s the fresh air. Maybe it’s the extra exercise. Regardless, they’ll need to go. It’s a sure thing. So the No. 1 rule of walking your dog? Be prepared for their No. 2. One bag isn’t going to cut it so grab a few. Now, all you have to do is remember to use it. When your dog stops for a brief release, have the bag ready. Don’t pretend you’re preoccupied with something else or blatantly ignore Thor’s gift to the world. Do the right thing and pick it up. Not your problem, you say? Well, you might want to take that up with the Village of Oak Park, which has an ordinance that requires “the owner of an animal shall be responsible for the removal and sanitary disposition of any excreta deposited by the animal anywhere in the Village.”
Not enough to convince you? How about this, straight from the Village’s website: “Responsible pet owners agree that picking up after one’s dog is the right thing to do. Dog excrement is not only a nuisance, it’s unhealthy and against the law. Owners who fail to pick up after their pets may be ticketed and fined.” And then, a request for informants, a feces federation, if you will. A poop patrol: “Anyone observing a dog not on a leash or an owner not picking up after a pet can report the violation by calling 708.358.5680 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Bring water: Whether you want to go all out—if your definition of going “all out” is about 10 bucks— and get a collapsible bowl or simply bring along a bottle of water, your dog is no different than you. He or she needs to hydrate. If they’re outside for an extended period of time in the warm weather, they’ll need water. And don’t be so quick to use a community water bowl. While well-intentioned business owners may keep them outside on the sidewalk, they may be unintentional breeding grounds for some dog ailments. Besides, the water bowl in your house is seen and protected. Unless you can say the same about the bowl that’s been sitting outside your favorite store on Harlem Avenue for 8 hours, you might want to take a pass.
Manage the extremes: If it’s too hot for you, it’s likely too hot for your dog. Make sure you monitor your dog’s behavior on especially hot days and take breaks when appropriate. It’s a good bet your dog will enjoy a 15-minute pause under the shade of a tree just as much as you enjoy it.
Walking your dog is a great way to bond with your pet and your community. It doesn’t take too much to ensure that it’s a clean, safe activity. Unfortunately, proper prepwork and clean-up is all on the honor system. Unless Mrs. Smith is sitting at her front window, laptop at the ready, waiting for you to walk away after your dog does his business on her front lawn, you can get away without picking up after your dog. But should you? If nothing else, karma may be coming for the dog owner who does the nonchalant walk away from her dog’s poop. And who knows? That karma just might arrive at the worst possible time, like when you cut through your lawn on the way to your car for your nephew’s wedding, ruining your $700 pair of Christian Louboutins and putting a real stink on your day.
Jill Showalter owns Yuppie Puppy and Doggie Day Play in Oak Park. She has personally tended to more than 100,000 dogs since 2007 and has shared stories and advice with numerous dog owners.