10 Simple Ways to Show Kindness in the Dog World

I just read this perfect little post on Chookooloonks and I couldn’t help but be inspired. Karen Walrond has exactly the kind of spirit I most envy. Her website is the place I instantly turn when I need a moment of peace. This afternoon, she did not disappoint. Instead of just reading and then going on with my day, which is what I usually do, I decided to take her words to heart and have performed some of the small kindnesses she suggested already.

As I was doing so, it got me thinking about dogs. What doesn’t? I contemplated all the easy things we dog people can do for each other to make life a little more pleasant and a little less stressful. If only for a moment. Below is a list of what I came up with. Please feel free to add your own in the comments.

1. Re-leash – When walking off-leash on a trail, it’s always polite to re-leash your dog when you see another dog coming, especially if that dog is on a leash. I can’t think of one instance where this act hasn’t made me grateful and I try to practice it as much as possible.

2. Ask Before Approaching – We all love dogs and we all love to touch them even more. Even if a dog is dancing around in excitement to get to your waiting hands, the owner may be less than thrilled. A brief “is it okay if I say hello?” will often go a long way to a more positive interaction. Even if the person says no, they will probably be happy you asked. This goes double if you have a dog by your side.

3. Encourage – If you see someone struggling, either in a class or in the park or out on the street, offer words of praise or support. I’ll never forget the day a police officer pulled over to tell me how impressed she was with my training skills, especially since at the same time Shiva was barking and lunging at the car. It gave me the confidence to keep trying.

4. Compliment – Everyone likes to hear their furry family member is cute, even if that same dog is currently snarling at the end of the leash. I spent the first six months thinking my dog was a monster. If someone actually seemed to like her, it blew my mind.

5. Walk away – Sometimes the kindest thing to do is to leave a dog entirely alone. I can’t tell you how many times I praised every deity in the pantheon when the person approaching us on the sidewalk turned a corner. If I could have bought each one of those people a beer, I would have.

6. Share* – It’s a little silly but I get annoyed at the dog park when someone brings a whole bag of treats and doesn’t seem interested in doling them out. I have a dog who doesn’t give up easily. If she smells doggy biscuits, she won’t leave a person alone until she gets one. Perhaps it’s a bit rude (okay, it’s very rude) but I am always touched when someone not only gives her a treat but makes sure she sits first before doing so. The same goes for toys.

7. Water – Dogs are always in need of it, especially after a run around the agility course or the ball field. There is always someone who has forgotten to bring a bowl in the pre-outing rush. Why not offer to share yours?

8. Withhold judgment and unsolicited advice – This is another area in which I think not doing something is kinder than doing something. If you see someone having difficulty with a particular behavioural issue, sympathy is always more appreciated than book or collar recommendations.

9. Scoop – I don’t think this one needs further elaboration.

10. Laugh – When a dog is misbehaving, no doubt the human feels utterly mortified. Haven’t we all been there? Laughter assures them it really is no big deal that Brutus just puked all over your $300 pair of one-of-a-kind handmade shoes.

*Of course, if you are going to do this, it’s probably good to check in with the human first, in case of allergies.

42 thoughts on “10 Simple Ways to Show Kindness in the Dog World

  1. Wonderful list. I like seeing people expect their dog to behave (sit before getting a treat). I’m thrilled when walking Justus or Hickory Dock when someone tells me how well-trained/well-behaved they are (though we have a LONG way to go). Thanks.


  2. I love this post Kristine. We all need to be considerate of our fellow dog owners. I love the re-leash and I can’t believe people bring treats to your park! That’s simply not allowed at the parks here – no food! I love hearing that other people like my dogs too. I mean, sure, I think they hung the moon, but ‘m possibly a little biased.

    I know you’re not a fan of unsolicited advice, but some of the best things I have learned are from that very thing! There was a time, not so long ago when I had no idea about things like Easy-Walk harnesses, Grain-free foods and clicker training. I’m so lucky that the people who guided me were sympathetic and kind in their presentation and very grateful that they chose to share these better ways with me. I would never even have known to ask their advice because I didn’t know there was another way. I think we just have to be kind, withhold judgement and always respect if they aren’t interested.


  3. I think you’ve got a great list! I don’t know that there’s anything I can add to it. I just think the world would be a better place if we were all kinder to each other in general.


  4. I loved your list as well. Definitely #8 is important and ask. I’ve been really impressed with kids who ask to pet our dogs because they were taught in school and I have almost forgotten to thank them because I get so blown away. So that would be my add: thank people for asking.


  5. Thanks for the wonderful advice cos I am planning to have my own pet maybe this year it is because of Shiva. Anyway thanks a lot!


  6. I love every single item on this list – and would just add, if you DO share your treats . . ask if it’s okay first, just in case the dog has allergies ( if someone is generous enough to offer Cali a treat, I will usually say yes, even if I know she is going to be a little itchy . . it makes her SO happy!!!) Cali is relentless if she thinks someone has a treat . . sometimes it’s embarrassing! Hey, I tagged you on my blog 🙂 http://www.thedailydogblog.com/dogs/ive-been-tagged


  7. I love the whole list. Nod, nod, nod. My favourite is probably #2 having had too many unsolicited little hands reaching out for giant dog 🙂

    Funny thing about Brutus. That actually happened here to a lady (Georgia’s first boyfriend’s owner) whose beautiful Prada shoes got peed on. She got huffy. I have to say no one was particularly sympathetic. Why would anyone wear expensive shoes to a dog park?

    Happy leap year Ms Tonks! x


  8. Great list! I kinda agree with Jodi though on the unsolicited advice. Whenever I offer a kernel of advice, I try to do it in a “I’ve been there” type of way. I first offer up my sympathy (my dog used to do that too, isn’t it awful) and then give a tidbit on something that helped us. You can immediately tell if someone is interested in hearing more or not so it’s important to pick up on the people cues just as much as the dog cues.

    I might have to print a link to this blog post on business cards and start handing them out 🙂


  9. Great list! I always releash, even when the person whose dog is on-leash says their dog is friendly. No-one likes the kind of dive-bomb treatment Gwynn wants to give an on-leash dog when he isn’t.
    Glad you mentioned asking about treats first – that’s a huge peeve of mine, especially since Gwynn got sick from chicken jerky, and a few weeks later some woman was giving him handfuls of it at the park without my permission. And, of course, he can’t tell the difference between the bad bought jerky and the home-made stuff I give him now, so he was loving it.


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  11. Great post! I get a bit perplexed when people get grumpy when other dogs want to play with their dog at the off-lead dog beach…

    I would also add, if someone is calling their dog and it’s being ‘independent’, ignoring the recall and following your dog, don’t keep walking away from the person, just stop and walk towards them so that they can grab their dog. It’s such an easy thing to do and we’ve all been there!


  12. I like the part about making sure the dog sits before giving him treats. I notice people are often willing to share, but they will say in a very sweet voice, “Sit? Sit?” and my dog does not always obey this tone of voice. Then the person typically gives him the treat even if he is not sitting.

    So, I appreciate when someone uses a firm voice, makes my dog listen and then shares some of their goodies. And I appreciate when they do not make a big deal about his drool. If you don’t want an strange dog to drool on you, then leave him alone! 🙂

    Great list!


  13. I try to do most of this. Sometimes at the dog park, I have no idea who to ask if I can pet the dog.
    But we often have treats with us (the only way to get Junebug out of the brambles) and other dogs smell it. If we have plenty, we’re happy to share, but I always say “It’s duck jerky. Is it alright if I share?”
    But I have to add, if you bring treats to the park, and now you’re leaving, and you have a host of dogs following you (or maybe just my Beagle), could you please just pause one moment and let us get our dogs? It’s really takes less than a minute. If you keep walking, my dog will keep following you and annoying you for much longer.

    As for clothes- I’ve been drooled on, had muddy feet planted firmly on my thighs, and even been peed on. My answer is always a smile and a shrug. I wash. I don’t wear anything to the dog park that doesn’t, because well, it’s the dog park.


  14. Very good list!

    I agree, sometimes it’s better to just leave people/dogs alone, and it’s always nice when a person is perceptive enough to realize that.


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  16. I heartily approve of this list! I especially love it when someone understands that my dog is quite shy and prefers the ball-throwing kind of interaction to the petting kind. So, #2 is important to us!

    Out of curiosity, how would you deal with a situation where the dog is actually being mistreated by his/ her owner? Saying something might not help in that instance, you know?

    Anyway, discovered your blog through Kurgo’s Facebook page and am delighted to find you 🙂


    • That is a very good question. I think it’s really hard to judge whether or not a dog is actually being mistreated, especially if you are considering the legal definition of abuse. In those situations confrontation may not be the best option. You certainly don’t want that sort of anger directed toward yourself, right? I think if you see something that really worries you, it’s probably best to contact the authorities. Either police or your local animal welfare organization. It can be hard if you don’t know where the person lives, such as if you see them in a dog park, but I’d think even if you can get the license plate number from their car an investigator would be able to follow up and make sure the dog is okay.

      A tricky situation to be sure! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!


  17. Great list…share, compliment, ask, scoop… all good points. I wish ppl wud ask me before approaching Pluto. It would save them from being knocked down by my ever excited pup…


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