How to Handle Rude Dog Owners

No matter how hard most of us try to be responsible dog people, there are a few who ruin it for everybody.

Not picking up after their dog, allowing their dog to run off-leash in an on-leash area and rushing up for greetings without asking first are obnoxious. Here’s how to handle three of the rudest dog owner behaviors.

Off-leash in an on-leash park

Bad behavior in public places makes it much harder for communities to expand dog-friendly services. Letting dogs run loose in on-leash areas is one of those problematic behaviors. Dogs who rush up to picnickers, on-leash dogs, pedestrians and cyclists besmirch the reputation of well-behaved dogs and result in fewer areas becoming dog-friendly. How to handle it: give the dog owner the benefit of the doubt. Assume they don’t know that it’s an on-leash area. Start nicely, “Your dog seems so friendly! Unfortunately (point to sign), this is an on-leash park. I bet he’ll have just as much fun leashed, or I’m happy to recommend my favorite dog park.”

No picking up

This should go without saying. It should, but not a walk goes by without my dogs discovering lots of left-behind piles. If you catch someone in the act of leaving their dog’s pile, dash over, bag in hand, giant smile plastered on your face. “I hate when I run out of poop bags! But, don’t worry! I have an extra one for you!” Hand over the bag, and chat while the owner picks up. If you don’t see the actual act happening and you come across left behind poop, consider scooping it. Sure, it’s not your responsibility, but pet messes deter restaurants, communities and parks from becoming dog friendly. Think of it as helping the greater good.

“Oh, he’s friendly!”

You and your pup are trying to wait calmly in the vet’s lobby. Or perhaps you’re hiking along peacefully. And here he comes. You know this dog, the grinning, pushy, slobbery, exuberant freight train shoving his nose into your dog’s face before you can say, “Off!” Inevitably, as you’re trying to manage your dog and figure out where the heck this rowdy rover came from, someone shouts, “Oh, he’s friendly!”

You have a couple choices here. If you have a super stable dog who tolerates this type of rough, pushy behavior, consider simply walking your dog calmly away from the fray and allow the distant owner to collect his pup. If, on the other hand, your dog dislikes this type of behavior or if your dog is a reactive pup like mine, the best option is to shout, “Mine’s not!” It may or may not be true, but it’ll snap the oblivious owner to attention quickly. This applies to all unaware dog walkers who are busily chatting or texting away while little Fluffy ping-pongs around the neighborhood. Never hesitate to shout that your dog is unfriendly—whether it’s true or not—to get a distracted owner’s attention.

If the other owner is confrontational, simply remove yourself and your dog from the situation as quickly and safely as possible. Err on the side of kindness and giving the benefit of the doubt, but never put you or your dog at risk. Ultimately, safety is more important than dealing with rudeness.

Meet the Author: Maggie Marton

Maggie is a writer and author, whose first book, Clicker Dog Training: The Better Path to a Well-Behaved Pup was published by Open Air Publishing. When she's not writing (or reading books about grammar), she teaches writing courses to college students and professionals who want to nail down the basics of communication. Outside of work, she hikes, throws dinner parties, plays with her three dogs and cat, and travels as much as possible.

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