If you ever take your dog for a walk, then learning these 5 dog walking rules are critical.

We know walking your dog every day is such an important part of being a good dog owner. It not only gives you and your dog much needed physical exercise, but also great mental exercise. But did you know there is an etiquette to dog walking?

Check out the top 5 Reasons to Take Your Dog for a Walk.

Whether you are walking your dog in a neighborhood or park or the city, there are dog walking rules. I know, some of these seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t pick up their dog’s poop!

person walking two large dogs on leash in a park

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Walking Your Dog Etiquette Rule #1

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Keep Your Dog on a 6’ Leash

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

When walking your dog he should always be on a 6’ leash. Do not use a retractable leash, it is dangerous for you and your dog.

My favorite leash is a simple leather leash, 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. Your dog may be friendly, but don’t assume all other dogs are.

Walking Your Dog Etiquette Rule #2

Pick up your dogs poop

This is the number one complaint I hear in our NextDoor Neighbor app. Clean up after you dog… please!

Be prepared to pick up your dog’s poop every time you take a walk. Even if he just went, bring a bag… you never know! Leaving your dog’s poop in someone’s yard is a huge no-no.

Get a special poop bag holder that clips to your leash so you never get caught without a poop bag!

I can’t tell you how many times we see dog poop on our daily walks. It should be common courtesy to pick up after your dog, but for some reason, so many people decide not to pick up the poop. One of our neighbors even put out this dog statue that says “No Dumping!”.

Your dog’s poop can carry diseases even if he seems 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?

Walking Your Dog Etiquette Rule #3

Do NOT allow dog-to-dog meetings on walks

Some dogs get nervous when meeting other dogs. Your dog could be friendly as can be, never shown any signs of being aggressive, but still become leash reactive. And if not your dog, it could be the other dog.

You, as your dog’s leader, need to prove that you will advocate for your dog. By creating a structured walk you can let your dog that you will be there for him, to protect him at all costs… and this can only be done on a 6’ leash.

Walking Your Dog Etiquette Rule #4

Limit dog to people meetings on your walk

Sadly, not everyone you meet will be a dog lover. 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, this is easily done by keeping your dog in a heal position on a 6′ leash.

If a person asks if they can pet your dog, you need to be the best judge if this is a good idea or not. Is your dog confident in himself, does he enjoy meeting new people? Only allow people to pet your dog if you are certain your dog is comfortable with the situation.

Walking Your Dog Etiquette Rule #5

Is it OK to let your dog walk on other people’s lawns?

No, keep your dog off of people’s lawn. I know it’s hard to believe, but not everyone loves your dog. And they certainly don’t want your dog peeing on their beautifully maintained, green lawn!

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.

Stay off of private property! Be considerate of flowerbeds, bushes, etc. Non-dog people and even dog loving people don’t want your dog on their property.

Something else to consider, is if your dog enters a yard with an invisible fence, there could be a dog in that yard protecting his territory and come rushing at your dog and attack him!

We walk by a few yards with invisible fences on our daily walks. It scares the crap out of my dogs and me 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.

So what do you think? Do you walk your dog on a 6’ leash, pick up his poop, and say no to doggy meetings? Have any other etiquette rules you think I should add to the list? Please comment below to share with our Rescue Dogs 101 community.

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About the Author

Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, three dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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?

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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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