The Dual Role: Dog Family and Good Neighbor: It’s More Than Just Picking Up Poop!

Mar 14, 2024

One thing we probably share is a deep love for dogs, or animals in general. We’ll always have that common ground to chat about. But what about people with whom you don’t have that immediate common connection? Not only do I regularly bump into dog people who treat pooches differently than I do – there are also people who aren’t excited about having animals around them at all! The horror – kidding, but am I?

People find personal joy in different ways

Animals have always been a central part of my life. My pets are the first on the list to take care of in the morning, and the last before I go to bed. At times it’s been necessary to spend a big chunk of money caring for them, and of course feed them quality food. That said, they add serendipity to life, so it’s hard for me to understand how other people live without a furry agent of chaos.

Obviously, people pull joy from lots of different things or beings. Travel, art, children, spouse, human friendship, sentimental objects, physical exertion, music, the intricacies of making a perfect souffle, the thrill of skydiving. Some in my family have gone skydiving, why would anyone jump out of a perfectly good plane? I don’t get it, but viva la difference!

Why DO some people choose not to share life with a pet?

There are lots of reasons people in our communities who choose to live pet-free, and often it often doesn’t have anything to do with disliking animals.

⦁ Some people would love to have a pet, but their income, landlord, health, or lifestyle don’t permit it. If you ask people why they are currently pet-less, they’ll likely mention how they must travel for work, are allergic, have a no-pets lease – not that they don’t like pets.

⦁ Some people have religious prohibitions towards some animals, likely from some historical issue, that has carried through, like many other things that we just do, or don’t do, that become custom.

⦁ Some people have had a traumatic experience with an animal and now fear or avoid some types of pets.Others simply have a phobia or unidentifiable anxiety about some species of animal. Snakes, I don’t get them, but many people find them loveable. Rats, apparently, they are incredibly intelligent, clean, and social – but for now, I’m taking a hard pass.

⦁ Cleanliness and order are top of mind for some people, and the extra fur and unwanted ‘customizations’ a pet can add to a household just isn’t for them. Some don’t crave ‘clawed’ furniture, go figure…

⦁ Environmental or ethical considerations cause some people to forgo sharing their home with a pet. They may feel animals shouldn’t be treated as property. Or are trying to reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible.

⦁ Many people just didn’t grow up with personal experience around animals. If you didn’t grow up with a dog, cat, furry other, trying to figure out how to safely lift one without getting scratched, fear of dropping or care expectations can be daunting. It’s a lifelong responsibility, so knowing what to expect, and what is expected of you, is an important consideration.

Ways to be more inclusive in a pet-diverse community

While we like to say “we’re a pet-loving society,” we share our neighborhood with people who have other people and pastimes that are just as important to them as my dog and cat are to me. We like to share that 66% of households in the US own pets and 57% of UK households own pets, but that means there are a lot of homes that are entirely pet-free! Those households are full of friends, co-workers, and neighbors who don’t deal daily with pet fur, poop, zoomies, barking, nor do they probably want to.

Do you think you’re an inclusive, responsible pet household?

Take these questions into consideration and see how you do! Full disclosure, I got about half with regards to Bella the basset, and Moose the cat :/

⦁ Do you have a completely leash trained or excellent recall off-leash dog?
⦁ Do you ‘walk’ your dog or kitty in a stroller, are they secured?
⦁ Does your pet go out to dinner with you at restaurants with good manners?
⦁ Do you deal with your pet’s poop 100% of the time?
⦁ Do you make sure your pet is secure when home alone? Aka, not barking songs of despair?
⦁ Is your pet the neighborhood Welcome Wagon? In everyone’s business?
⦁ Do you de-fur furniture before guests or is fur part of the charm?
⦁ Do you exercise your dog regularly to preclude ‘zoomies’?
⦁ Do you have rules about others interacting with your pets? Aka, know their limits?

We’re not going to say if you do ‘x’ number of these, or don’t, you’re the neighborhood scourge or exemplar to all, you know your ‘hood, we’re just throwing out some things to think about:

Be mindful of leash lessons - Passersby don’t really want to have to fend off a bounding unleashed dog, unwrap themselves from a flexi-leash, or worry that a cinched-up dog is strangling when they are pulling hard against a short leash. Training our dogs to walk politely on a leash is the first rule of community-centric dog care.

Carrier Consideration is a must - Wheeling a stroller-bound dog or cat doesn’t free us from responsibility, either. Make sure stroller pets are clipped into their rolling ride. Close the top if your pet seems anxious or barks at passersby. Be mindful of kids at eye-level on bikes or in strollers, or anyone who seems uncertain about passing your pet. A cat in a stroller or on a leash can make even other cat-lovers a little nervous, if they think the cat might escape.

Maintain cafe manners. Restaurants who have voluntarily opened their patios to pets have accepted the extra risk and responsibility, and they're trusting you to be diligent, respectful pet parents! Before bringing your dog to a pet-friendly brewery or cafe, train your pup to lie or sit calming at your feet at home, parks, and other less-crowded areas. While it often seems like “everyone” is asking to pet your dog at the cafe, chances are almost certain there are others who are hoping your dog will stay put and not push their wet nose or sharp paws into their lap. If your pooch begins to get restless, take a page from the book of a polite parent with a ceaselessly crying toddler and wrap up your dinner to go, or take your furry infant for a brief walk to settle down.

Poop. Just. Poop. Dog poop is shitty, literally and metaphorically. It’s brought some neighbors to the edge of their last nerve when not done in a considerate way. Scoop your pup’s poop and consider a catio for your outdoor-loving cat. A dooloop makes this ‘chore’ a lot less hassle.

#LeaveNoTrace Tips:

  • Always bag your pet’s poop
  • Do NOT throw it in a neighbor’s trash can, even on trash day
  • Do not put the bag down on the curb with the *intention of grabbing it on the way back
  • DO throw it in a designated public trash can
  • DO hold the bag(s) on your dooloop until you’re home and dispose properly!

The dooloop makes neighborliness and cleanliness easy, (plus, the color options are endless!) get one for yourself and to give to a neighbor, who may not know the rules and shit….

Distract from barking. We pet guardians can tell when our dog is just barking to say “I’m here!” or barking to say “back off.” People unfamiliar with dogs may assume every bark from a passing dog is a threat. While it’s not always possible to train a dog not to bark when they are out and about, with consistent positive reinforcement we can train them to attend to us instead of passing dogs or other exciting distractions.

Don’t let your pets make their neighbor’s home their own. We pet lovers tend to assume most people find our dog or cat just as cute as we do. Moose our cat ‘worked’ a neighbor’s cocktail party…. While some keep a close eye on their pets, some of us may not regard our dog’s occasional excursion over to the neighbor’s patio to say ‘hi’ or our cat’s tendency to stretch out for a nap on their car hood to be a big deal. But even if our neighbor welcomes a wandering animal with a friendly pat, it doesn’t mean they necessarily want daily unannounced visits or cat tracks across their newly washed vehicle. *we do our best to know where Moose is, take him or organized walks – he is a unusually social cat.

Fur-free seating. This suggestion might be a bit controversial, given all those mugs that declare ‘pet hair, don’t care’ [OR ‘if you don’t want pet hair on your clothes, don’t sit on the furniture.’] But if you invite someone into your home, it’s simply polite to offer them a seat that’s not upholstered in pet fur. It’s simply: Just keep a clean throw in a nearby closet and toss it over a comfy chair for visitors OR ‘keep one comfy chair covered and whip it off to reveal a fur-free seat beneath’! This will help suppress the silent shudders of visitors who just don’t get how you put up with it OR ‘head off your awkward attempts to use a sticky roll to remove fur from their black slacks before they leave’.

Zoomies. They make pet parents laugh, but a sudden case of the zoomies can startle someone who has never experienced this in a home or yard. If you can tell your dog or cat is about to erupt into unrestrained, joyous activity, do give your visitors or dog park companions a heads up, because sometimes a dog’s all-out run in your home or at the dog park isn’t just alarming, it can even knock people down. Bent knees at the dog park are helpful.

Start a conversation. Pet people are usually alert to people who want to pet our dog or cat. We’re ready to say “sure, go ahead,” or “no, not now, thanks.’ But we aren’t usually as aware of people who are quietly avoiding us, or who go stiff when a dog settles down by their owner’s feet at the next cafe table. If you notice someone seems uncomfortable around you and your pet, a quick “is it ok if my dog or cat sits here with me next to you?” [OR ‘Are you allergic or uncomfortable around animals? I can move over there.’] is a conscientious gesture, especially when there are other seats you could move to. Or strike up a conversation if you see them looking at your pet: “Do you have a dog at home? I’ve had Hero here for six years, and he’s great with people.”

Stroll mindfully. Whether your canine walking companion is a cute ragamuffin, a stoic shepherd, or a robust pit bull, there are likely to be other walkers who are anxious about passing them. Give them plenty of space and a friendly hello, or even step off the sidewalk to let people pass if you notice they are uncertain – especially children. They’ll think kindlier of all dog parents if they see you’ve taken note of their concern.

Be a community-inclusive pet parent

There will always be a part of me that thinks everyone ought to be as happy to see my pet crew as I am, or that visitors should accept that my dog has as much or more right to lounge on my furniture as they do. But if I want to really call myself a pet-aware person, I need to be thoughtful and inclusive of the people in my community who don’t share that sentiment.

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