I’ve always lived in a small town, and though I can see the appeal a big city has for many people, I’ve never wanted to live in one. Dogs really don’t care what your preference is when it comes to rural or urban living, but city dogs need to have some specific skills to stay safe.
My dogs are used to a laid back and quiet environment, and we rarely meet other people walking their dogs when we’re out for a stroll. The only distractions include an occasional rabbit, deer or squirrel. If we take the dogs with us to a city, they’re excited and act like a tourist trying to take in everything at once. But they are also unsure and a bit uncomfortable as well. Big cities are full of life and activities that can take a little time for dogs to get used to.
Staying Calm in a Sea of People
Crowds of people fill the city sidewalks, all heading to their own destinations. Some are wearing uniforms or dressed like clowns or other characters a dog may not recognize. It’s important to help your pet feel comfortable and calm in a more chaotic environment. There may be people who want to pet your dog, and it’s up to you to make sure he knows how to politely greet people and when you should tell someone no. The last thing you want do is force your dog to do something he’s not comfortable doing. Some dogs are wary of strangers by nature.
Being Attentive to His Owner
With a lot more traffic and other distractions in a big city, a dog needs to pay attention to his owner, and it’s a must to keep him under control at all times. Retractable and long leashes can put a dog at risk of being injured if he steps out into traffic or rushes out of an elevator when the door opens. City dogs need to know and obey basic commands regardless of any distractions around him, especially when meeting other dogs while out walking. The “watch me” or “look at me” commands get your dog to focus on you and can be crucial if you need to get your pet’s attention.
Leave It and Drop It Commands
A city dog is more likely to find litter and garbage lying on the street or sidewalk, and it only takes an instant for a canine to grab something up. The “leave it” and “drop it” commands can save a dog’s life and save you money at the vet when you can prevent your pet from eating something he shouldn’t have. Since dogs are closer to the ground than you are, it’s not difficult for them to find a wrapper with part of a sandwich inside, cigarette butts, bones, cups, plastic bags or plastic utensils with bits of food on them. You may not see him grab something off the ground before you can tell him to leave it, but you can at least get him to spit it out by telling him to drop it.
Acclimating to Distractions and Noise
Larger cities have a variety of scents, distractions and street noise – people on skateboards, skates or bikes, someone pulling a wagon, in a wheelchair, pushing a shopping cart, jackhammers and other loud construction equipment. If a dog hasn’t been exposed to these sights and sounds, it can cause him to be nervous or scared of the noise and movement. Cities also have a lot more car and truck traffic on the noisy streets. Dogs that aren’t used to hearing the sound of garbage trucks, blaring sirens or honking horns may be bothered or scared by sudden loud noises.
Walking on Different Surfaces
City dogs will encounter different types of surfaces they need to feel comfortable walking on. If they live in an apartment it could be a slippery hallway, stairway or lobby floor. Elevators, automatic or revolving doors can also be confusing for a dog that isn’t used to being around them.
The American Kennel Club recently added a new title to their Canine Good Citizen certification program. The Urban Canine Good Citizen tests dogs in specific skills they need to know in a big city environment, skills that help you keep your pet safe and under control.
A well mannered dog that’s comfortable and relaxed makes life easier for his owner, whether it’s in a large city or a small town.
Read more articles by Linda Cole