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Teddy’s Tales: Petiquette

The world of dog is all-new to me. There are so many things I didn’t consider pre-pup. Dog etiquette – petiquette? – for instance.
Perhaps it’s the nature of busy NW3, that and the amount of dogs around here, but I’m discovering that there are certain rules of engagement among dog-owners that are worth respecting if you want to be on nodding terms with the local community.
So far, I have discovered that:
If your dog dislikes puppies, it’s the done thing to warn the owner of the puppy that’s blithely lolloping towards you, before he gets the fright of his young life. I have been on both ends of that situation and it’s not pretty either way. (And oh, the shame of a snarly dog that’s yours.)
When dogs say ‘hello’ they sniff and circle each other, which can be tricky when they are both on leads. I remember Kevin-the-Trainer talking about this: when dogs get knotted-up their owners start to flap, everyone gets stressed and dogs get bitey. So, it’s both polite and smart not to let the leads become entangled, which often involves the owners doing a small, country-style dance.
It’s sensible to save experimental forays with extendable leads to wide-open spaces without much foot-traffic: trip risk!
Expect a dog that’s in season to be kept on a lead, and forgive her owner for sounding a little crazed. We witnessed a woman doing a good impression of a car alarm the other day, shrieking, ‘ON HEAT! ON HEAT! ON HEAT!” at every passing dog/owner.
When another dog has a go at yours, or vice versa, a loud, clear, “sorry,” from the offending party is apparently called for – clearly once the seething mass of teeth and snarls is brought under control.
And then there is the question of where a dog does its business.
A notice put up in one local street strongly suggests that dogs relieve themselves on Hampstead Heath rather than their street. Why? It points out that a couple of houses are so often and thoroughly peed upon that liquid actually seeps under the front door. Ugh.
And then there’s the poo. Every few months, presumably when they’ve stepped in it one too many times, someone takes it upon themselves to draw neon circles around the offending matter. I’m assuming this is to highlight the problem. It works.
Considering the amount of the stuff on the streets and green spaces of Hampstead, it’s amazing that I have only actually witnessed someone not pick up once.
A yellow lab was crouched alongside a well-used path on the Heath. Edging away from the dog was its twenty-something owner, looking everywhere but at her dog in an effort not to acknowledge the situation. As I slowly walked by I glanced at the dog, then at the girl, then at the dog, in tennis match fashion, until she felt compelled to say, “I am going to pick it up!” I smiled and moved on, then looked back to see that she had moved on, too, without stopping to stoop. Way too English, I walked home thinking of all the things I should have said.
But if it happens again, I think I’ll take my friend’s advice: “Just smile and say loudly, “Would you like a poo bag?”.” I like it: direct, diplomatic, clearly considered petiquette.

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