Your Neighborhood, Your Dog

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Filed in Dogs, Getting a New Puppy/Dog, Safety

When you bring a dog into your home, you do more than just add it to your family, you also add it to the neighborhood. As a responsible pet owner and as a member of your community, you'll want to make sure that your pet is a welcome member of your neighborhood. But how do you make sure that your neighbors are as happy to have your dog around as you are? It's easy, provided you take a few important things into consideration.

Keep Your Pet Contained

Besides the local ordinances that cover leash and fencing requirements, it just makes good sense to keep your dog safely contained in a fenced yard or on a lead (only when supervised) or in your apartment. Most neighborhoods and communities have strict requirements governing free roaming pets. The arguments supporting the need for "pet containment" are many. For starters, there is the safety of the pet. Too many pets are lost to the dangers of roaming. Car accidents, ingestion of toxins and pets who are forever lost top the list of reasons why it's safer for your pet to remain contained. Then consider the benefits for your neighborhood. Roaming pets are the cause of untold amounts of property damage and splintered friendships, from over turned trash cans and piles left in front yards, to roaming pets who use doggy doors to get into other people's houses, to harming children. Your neighbors are likely to be more willing to accept a dog who is safely contained on their owner's property.

Remember the Children

If your neighborhood has children, you have a clear responsibility to socialize your dog, especially if it is likely to come into contact with children. We all remember that house on the corner that had the big, drooling, viscous dog. We used to cross the street before getting to that house so that we didn't have to walk in front of it. A "mean dog" can easily become a disruption in an otherwise pleasant neighborhood. If your pet is not socialized to children and their noises and behaviors, your have a responsibility to keep your pet away from children and vice-versa. Many people have trained guard dogs on their property. There should be notices to warn others that the pets on the property are not there to be friendly. You should take the time to speak to the parents of the children in your community to let them know that their kids should never approach your dog unless you are there to supervise the visit.

A Welcomed Addition

Being a responsible pet owner has many different meanings. For most professionals in the field, a major part of being a responsible pet owner is obedience training. A pet who is well trained is a joy to be around. More importantly, a well-trained dog is less of a safety risk. One well known training program around is the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen training program, which promotes responsible pet ownership through the public service of socializing and training your pet.

When People Come on Your Property

If your house is a busy place, with neighborhood children coming and going, deliveries being made and service/repair companies moving about, you'll no doubt want to socialize your pet to be aware, but passive when strangers come into their territory. A house that erupts with howls and barking every time the doorbell rings or when a car passes by is a house, which is likely to draw fewer visitors in the future. Dogs who have to be closed in a bathroom any time someone comes on or near the property is a potential danger to the neighborhood. If your dog acts like he is going to lunge at the person on the other side of the door, that is considered an unsafe situation.

Barking the Night Away

There is nothing that will turn good neighbors into fast enemies like a barking dog (worse yet, more than one barking dog!). If your dogs are barkers, you will need to take some steps to improve the situation. Obedience training will go a long way to improve the situation. Go beyond the basics and train your dogs to bark on command. Once dogs learn this skill, they are less likely to bark for no reason.

Make some introductions

When your get a new dog, take the time to go on a walk of the neighborhood and introduce your new family member to your neighbors. This is a great way to get in touch with busy neighbors, but it does so much more for you, the pet owner. If your neighbors have met your pet, they are more likely to be of help if your pet is ever lost or injured. This is also a great way to let neighborhood parents know about the "friendliness level" of your dog.

An untrained, obnoxious dog is a bane to any neighborhood, while a pleasant pet is such joy to be around. Prevent some stress and difficulty for you and your neighbors by following these Good Neighbor steps.

Deirdre Kelly is a teacher, free lance writer and dog owner living in Florida.

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