Published: October 2, 2017  

Last updated: July 18, 2024  

It’s important to be a responsible dog owner and follow these dog walking etiquette rules when walking your dog. 

Some of these seem like common sense, like cleaning up after your dog and keeping your them on a leash. But you’d be surprised at how many people don’t pick up their dog’s poop and let their dog walk off-leash and approach other people and dogs.

Dog walking etiquette plays more than just a role in keeping walks fun and stress-free. Dog walking etiquette tips ensure the safety of dogs, their walkers, and the surrounding community and keep your neighbors happy. 

Person walking a dog in the grass.

Walking Your Dog Etiquette Rule #1

Keep your dog on a leash

Most cities and townships have a leash law, requiring you to have your dog on a leash while walking in public.

We like to use a 6’ leash, it’s long enough to let them sniff and go potty, but short enough to keep control of them. Do not use a retractable leash, it is dangerous for you, your dog, and others around you.

📖 Read: How to Choose the Best Dog Leash.

Even if your dog is off-leash trained, think about what would happen if your dog got spooked by something and took off. Or, if another off-leash dog started charging your dog! You would have no way of guiding your dog away from harm. 

Educate yourself on local leash laws and regulations to comply with legal requirements while walking your dog in public spaces.

Man picking up dog poop.

Walking Your Dog Etiquette Rule #2

Pick up your dog’s poop

Clean up after your dog… please! I can’t tell you how many times we see dog poop on our walks, at dog parks, and at hotels when we are traveling. It should be a common courtesy to pick up after your dog, but for some reason, so many people decide not to pick up the poop. 

Always carry multiple poop bags and pick up your dog’s poop every time. Even if they just went potty at home, bring a bag… you never know! Leaving your dog’s poop in someone’s yard is a huge no-no.

Your dog’s poop can carry diseases even if they seem healthy to you. Dogs can get very sick by simply sniffing another dog’s poop that has worms, coccidia, and other diseases.

Just think if nobody picked up their dog poop, our lawns would be piled high with feces! Have you ever gone all winter without picking up your dog’s poop in your backyard? One of our neighbors even put out this dog statue that says “No Dumping!”. I laugh every time we pass it.

⚠️ PRO TIP: Get a poop bag holder that clips to your leash so you never get caught without a poop bag!

Two large dogs on leash.

Walking Your Dog Etiquette Rule #3

Do NOT allow dog-to-dog meetings on walks

Don’t let your dog meet other dogs while you’re on a walk. Some dogs get scared or upset when meeting new dogs, even if they’re usually friendly. This can make them act differently while on a leash. It’s called leash reactivity.

As your dog’s parent, it’s your job to keep them safe. You can show your dog that you’ll protect them by having a structured walk. This means keeping them on a leash that’s about 6 feet long. This way, you can stay close and keep them safe from any unexpected encounters with other dogs.

A woman kneeling down holding her dog's paw in one hand and leash in the other hand.

Walking Your Dog Etiquette Rule #4

Limit dog-to-people meetings on your walk

Sadly, not everyone you meet loves dogs as much as you do. Adults and kids can have allergies, be afraid of dogs, or just not a dog person.

Don’t allow your dog to wander up to strangers. If a person asks if they can pet your dog, you need to be your dog’s advocate. If your dog is confident and enjoys meeting new people then go for it. But watch your dog’s body language to ensure they are comfortable with the situation.

Small white dog peeing on a tree.

Walking Your Dog Etiquette Rule #5

Respect your neighbor’s lawn

Proper etiquette extends to avoiding private property during walks. Sticking to public pathways respects homeowner boundaries. 

It’s not okay to let your dog walk on other people’s lawns. In most suburban neighborhoods there is an easement area. This is the grass area that is between the street and the sidewalk. This is the only area you should allow your dog to roam and go potty.

A lot of people in our neighborhood plant flowers around their mailboxes, and they certainly wouldn’t appreciate if all the dogs urinate on them. So be considerate of flowerbeds, bushes, etc. 

Watch out for invisible fences too. We walk by a few yards with invisible fences on our walks. It scares the sh** out of me and my dogs when a dog rushes toward us barking like crazy! I purposely walk on the other side of the street because their dogs go ballistic whenever we walk by.

Small white dog marking on a bush.

Walking Your Dog Etiquette Rule #6

No digging or marking

While it might be natural for dogs to dig or mark their territory, it’s essential to discourage these behaviors during walks. Digging can disturb the environment and create hazards for others, such as uneven terrain or holes that could cause tripping hazards. 

Marking, while a natural instinct for dogs, can cause damage to public or private property. Give your dog opportunities to mark areas that won’t cause damage. 

In general, it’s considered acceptable for a dog to mark a fire hydrant, as this is a common behavior for dogs and doesn’t typically pose any harm. Fire hydrants often have a scent that attracts dogs, making them a popular spot for marking. 

Two dogs pulling on the leash to get to each other.

Walking Your Dog Etiquette Rule #7

Give right of way

Yield to pedestrians, cyclists, and other users of shared pathways, giving them the right of way. When encountering others on the pathway, always be prepared to yield by stepping aside, slowing down, or stopping to allow them to pass safely. 

This not only demonstrates courtesy and respect for others but also helps to prevent accidents or conflicts that could arise from failing to give the right of way. Maintaining control of your dog is crucial in these situations to ensure they do not impede the passage of others or cause any disruptions. 

A person walking their dog on a leash in a crowd of people.

Following the walking etiquette rules

When you’re walking your dog, follow these dog walking etiquette tips to make sure everyone is happy. Always keep your dog on a leash unless you’re in a special area where they can run around. Make sure you’re in control of your dog and ask before they go up to other dogs or people. And don’t forget to clean up after your dog if they go to the bathroom! 

We also need to be careful that our dogs don’t dig holes, mark their territory, or damage things around us. When we’re walking, it’s polite to let pedestrians, people on bikes, and others using the path go first. And it’s super important to pay attention and not get distracted while we’re walking. 

We should also make sure our dogs stay away from other animals and respect their homes. Some people might not be comfortable with dogs, so it’s good to be mindful of that too. It’s a good idea to teach our dogs some basic commands so they listen well. 

We want to be good neighbors, so let’s keep our dogs up to date on their shots and follow any rules about leashes. Lastly, let’s enjoy our walks while being respectful to everyone we meet along the way!

Do you have any other etiquette rules you think I should add to the list? Please comment below and share with our Rescue Dogs 101 community.

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About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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  1. I want to thank you for all the fantastic ongoing information for "Food for thought"
    As well, I love they way you write. It feels like we are having coffee with you!

  2. Dog owner get mad when I tell them to curb your dog , they walking their dog on the property side of the street and theres 6-7 pee spots the dogs have created and owner act like it’s the dogs fault smh it’s the owner who decided to walk the dog on the side they on so it’s the owner fault

  3. Thank you for the tips- I actually found this article as I was googling dog walking etiquette. I try to be mindful where our 7 month old puppy goes during our walks but tonight I stopped in front of a house as the homeowner was parking in his driveway. Our puppy decided it was the perfect time for him to poop unfortunately on the grass area in front of their house. This is the small area next to the street, not their actual lawn. The homeowner proceeded to lectures me even after I apologized and picked up his poop. I explained to him that I tried tugging on his leash to stop him but our pup pulled back. How do I avoid this in the future? It’s so difficult to stop him mid poop a he quite strong. Also, I thought it was okay to allow dogs to use that part of the grass as king as you pick up after them but apparently our neighbor considers that his property.

    1. The easement in most cases is non exclusive… it’s not public property… it’s private property with a with right of way use … like a side walk and or for public utilities… drainage…etc….it’s not a public toilet. You can walk thru someone’s property on the side walk with your dog…but arguably it’s not a necessity your dog pee and poop in the easement …which can be considered overuse and a nuisance…the easement was created for a specific purpose…. Utilities walking to your own house.. . You have your own yard and your own easement attached to your own property if your dog needs to relive itself …. Or find a common area which is public to a degree… but in most cases people have no respect for other people…

  4. I agree 100% with everything you say. I don’t want other peoples dogs on my grass. I am a very respectful dog owner as well.

  5. I have a puppy mill rescue, King Charles Cavalier, that is 1-1/2 years old.  I have had him for 2 months and he is really settling in very nicely.  Potty training is taking some time but going pretty well.  He loves to be a part of any social group although still skittish at times.  Most people are amazed that he is a rescue.  I have an opportunity to take a 9 day trip in another month so he will have been with me a little over 3 months.  I wondered about leaving him at this juncture.   I have thought of splitting the time between two friends as a 9 day stretch is a lot to ask of one person.  Would I need to start over with building trust with my little guy if I do this?

    1. That’s a tough call. He’ll be right around the 3 month mark with you so he should be pretty well settled in. Could you have your friends spend some time with you and the dog before your trip? That way they won’t be strangers. Try leaving them alone together just for a couple hours while you run some errands, etc.

  6. he debi i just started reading your very helpful hints and suggestions i have adopted a very energetic husky they say he is 8yrs old but i differ he has so much energy he is a great walking buddy, we walk about 3-4 miles a day, but when he sees a cat, then its on it takes everything i have to hold him back i am trying more evryday to let him loose in my backyard, it is fenced but im hoping he wont jump it it is truly an adventure with him he is totaly bonded to me your tips are so educational

    1. Thanks Deborah! Huskies are a unique breed. They are known to like to wonder so fence jumping should be a concern. Sounds like he has a high prey drive too. You have your hands full :). Good luck and glad to have you here!

  7. What is the etiquette when you live in an area without sidewalks? If people’s lawn come all the way up to the curb where is your dog supposed to pee? Is there a legal easement from the curb that is actually NOT their property even if they “think” it is? Please help.

    1. You’d have to check with your local bylaws. But usually yes there is a legal easement even without sidewalks. Usually a couple feet. In cases without sidewalks, I recommend keeping your dog as close to the edge as possible. I’m guessing from your comment you may have a homeowner upset with your dog peeing on his grass? Maybe try to avoid walking past his house?

  8. Thank you for your article. I’d like to suggest that you expand the topic of using property easements for dogs to relieve themselves. Most of the subdivisions around me do not have sidewalks; and, dog owners let their dogs go wherever they want. Maybe your directives could specify: “If there are no sidewalks to help you with boundary guidelines, a good rule of thumb is to keep your pet within 4 feet of the street edge.”

    I’d also love a clarification that: “if a homeowner has planted flowers or shrubs on the easement, you should be courteous and keep your pet away from that area.”

    I was SHOCKED when a friend of mine posted annoyance at a homeowner scolding her for allowing her dog to romp through the monkey grass & pee on the banana plants! To make it worse, 15 people responded in support of the dog owner, saying things like: “what was she thinking planting things around the mailbox that dogs like?”

    A responsible dog owner (and I AM one), guides their dog where to walk.

    Thank you!

  9. Loved all your comments, I will post your comments in my HOA Community Board – People just don’t get it! Common Courtesy is not always followed by dog walkers here.

  10. My husband and I just got a dog, and we want to make sure we’re responsible pet owners when we take her out for walks. Your article had some great information regarding this, and I liked how you said to always pick up our dog’s waste, as dog poop can carry diseases like worms, coccidia, and others that can infect other healthy dogs. Thanks for the advice; we’ll keep this in mind when walking our new dog.

  11. Don’t act like having a dog on a leash is optional. In 99% of the places it is illegal – end of story, no matter what the entitled dog owner thinks. Also, thanks for mentioning that a retractable leash in many cases is the same as no leash.

  12. These are really good tips! Number 3 rings true for me. You don’t know how many times we have come up on people whose dogs aren’t on leach or they are on a long lead where the person can’t control them quickly.

    I usually end up having to cross the street or backing off. I am then met with a “Don’t worry, my dog is friendly”. I always reply “But, my dog isn’t!”

    This takes them aback. I don’t think it ever occurs to people that the other dog might not like their dog running up to them.

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