To My Fellow NYC Dog People



To my fellow NYC dog people,

As a dog person myself, I am very aware of what the laws and general rules are regarding how to safely walk my dog around the city without incident. The effectiveness of these rules hinges upon the fact that everyone follows them. If Smiley is on leash but nobody else bothers, well, it's just a bad idea.

So, to my fellow dog people of lower Manhattan, the rule is simple - I shouldn't have to worry about your pet or its poop. You dealing with your companion allows me to focus on mine without worrying about her acting out towards, or my having to control, an unleashed or poorly controlled animal.

1. Leash Laws, people! In NYC it is required by law that your dog be on a maximum 6' leash in any public space, including parks, building lobbies, and elevators. Recognizing that dogs do need to run and play off leash, there are several free dog runs in the neighborhood, including the Fishbridge and Wall Street runs.

If your dog is off leash that means I have to worry about what your pet is doing, especially if he or she is running up to Smiley, who is very protective and anxious when on leash. I can almost guarantee the encounter will not go well, and it will be me who has to try to pull Smiley away while pushing your dog away at the same time. Thanks.

Oh, and so you know, carrying the leash in your hands is not the same as walking your dog on leash.

2. Just because your dog is small, or nice, or "fine"... Dogs are dogs, and no matter what size they need to be on leash. Between traffic and other animals there are many deadly canine obstacles outside. And just because your dog gets along well with others, doesn't mean the neighbor whose butt she decides to sniff does. Again, don't make other people worry about your dog!

3. Personal space, please! If I don't know you, your children, or your pet, it's probably not the best idea to come right up to me and Smiley without any announcement or introduction. So if your dog is on leash, please control where it walks so it isn't suddenly on my dog's butt or by my leg.

By the same token, do not decide to pet or have small children approach my dog without asking first if it's OK with us. The number of adults who just reach down to pet her along with the number of small children that come running right up to Smiley's mouth is truly astonishing. Teach your children proper respect of dogs and a little about dog etiquette.

4. Lobby, Hallway, and Elevator are still public space. Dogs are territorial creatures, and the lobby is home turf for many dogs who would normally fight out their territorial disputes. Since they cannot go that route, they tend to snap at each other. For this reason it is much less stressful if everyone practices dog avoidance. If we are in an elevator, do not try to bring your dog on. In the hallway, let's try to back up or turn a bit to avoid confrontations. And let's always keep our dogs on leash!

5. Dog run etiquette. Smiley loves the dog run! Socializing, playing, and otherwise having a great time at the doggy playground is always a fun time. But then there are a few people who screw it up for everyone. So here are some basics:

  • Don't bring a unfixed or sick dog into a run - no need. And I shouldn't have to explain why.
  • Listen to and communicate with the other people. For example, Smiley gets mean when a newly arrived dog tries to play with her toy. Once the dog is in the run everything is OK, it's just that moment when the new dog runs over to check out the toy. So I ask people to wait outside for a moment while I put the toy away. And a few times people have been nasty, when I am just trying to avoid a problem.
  • Don't assume that all dogs get along. If needed, walk around the block and give the other folks a chance to leave quietly.
  • Whoever starts a fight leaves the run. Even if he or she just got there.
  • Pick up you dog's poop and rinse off your dog's pee and poop! Leaving that to fester will cause bacterial infections in other dogs.

Which leads me to... 6. PICK UP YOUR DOG'S POOP! It's the law. There are a lot of dogs in the City, and I know mine poops 2-3 times a day. That's a lot of poop, which is why there is a Pooper Scooper law in NYC. Every pet store carries holders and little bags (we now have scented pink heart ones), and if you can't afford those you can use those plastic grocery bags. Even if your dog is small, you still need to pick up its poop. If you forgot a bag, ask. I am more than happy to give you one of mine.

So, you see, most of the rules boil down to respecting others by simply taking responsibility for your own pet. That allows me to be better able to take responsibility for mine, and so on.