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Following the Unwritten Rules of Dog Walking Etiquette

Pet owners have been defining the do's and dont's of walking their pets through their actions while out on Long Beach's streets.

To non-pet owners, the way some people act when walking their dogs may seem strange: they zigzag between sidewalks, load their pockets with plastic bags, and ask each other if their dogs can play together.

But for dog walkers, this is all just another form of etiquette.

The laws of dog walking etiquette are difficult to define, particularly since most are unwritten. Yet Long Beach dog walkers seem to know and abide by them, as if through another sense.    

"Sidewalk respect is the cardinal rule," said Greg Ennaus, who walks Brunck, his Golden Retriever, through his West Holme neighborhood. "If I'm walking my dog and someone else is already walking their pet on the sidewalk, it's a given that I pass them by stepping onto the street, or crossing to the sidewalk opposite them."  

Claiming ownership to a sidewalk might seem as territorial as urinating on it. But sidewalk etiquette has much to do with the safety of others and pedestrian harmony. Marie Walpole learned all these rules before bringing home Torre, her mixed breed puppy, nine months ago.  

"My youngest son always thought nothing of going up and petting a dog," said Walpole, who walks Torre on East Market and East Chester Streets. "So it always seemed respectful when people stepped to the side with their dog, instead of walking past me with my children on the sidewalk."  

It may not sound surprising to ask an owner permission to pet their dog, but requesting permission to let dogs greet each other is something owners try to instill, too.

Teresa LaPuma walks her two dogs, Rosco and Paris, every morning on Shore Road. Scrambling over tangled leashes and cleaning up after the mixed breeds can be challenging, but being greeted by another owner and their dogs unexpectedly can be nerve rattling. 

"You should always ask, 'Is she friendly,' or 'Is it okay to bring my dog over,' before doing it," LaPuma explained. "My smallest dog gets nervous around hyper dogs, setting my bigger dog off, which causes them to pull me. It's an unwanted experience that can be avoided by asking first."   

Dog walkers that respect the pet-related rules of the beach and boardwalk, cleaning up after their animals, and passing along the rules of etiquette may be the reason Long Beach has a reputation as a dog-friendly community. 

But, like anything else, there's always room for error, which is why Megan Mooney follows her own etiquette rule of carrying more than one bag when taking her two Labradors out on Arizona Avenue in the West End.   

"You never know when your dog's going to need a second clean-up," Mooney said. "Most neighbors won't take too kindly to the mess you left behind simply because you already cleaned up the first one."

Joel Scott October 12, 2010 at 12:15 PM
Great article
Joseph Kellard (Editor) October 12, 2010 at 02:39 PM
Thanks. I'll share your good words with the author.

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