Anyone who has been to France or Germany or a number of other European countries will note the dog friendliness of towns. What a dream: to go to a café or a restaurant with your pup curled up at your feet.
Rarely are the dogs disruptive and in fact, many people delight in the well-behaved pooch wagging its tail for them. OK, I do remember a few incidences in a beer garden in Bavaria where dogs barked at each other, but these were quickly controlled by their owners, who were equally upset as the other guests.
Part of the problem we have arrived at in the U.S. is that there is a perception, beyond hygiene issues, that dogs will be a nuisance in dining facilities and shops. I cannot argue, since I am not sure how much less intent on training the average dog owner in the U.S. is than in Europe.
I would like to encourage all dog owners to work on public manners, thereby increasing our chances of being allowed in a variety of places in the future.
Annapolis is one of the more dog-friendly towns I know. Owners of shops and cafés often welcome the outdoor visit. I look forward to spring, when we can sit in sidewalk cafes with our dogs at our sides. Winter is the perfect time to prepare our dogs for these excursions.
Start by taking your dog to the pet store whenever you buy dog food. Pet Valu on Bay Ridge Road has a newly renovated store and is rarely overcrowded, so that you can go and practice some basic manners indoors.
If it is not too cold, try window shopping at the Annapolis Harbour Center and training at the same time.
My tip for your trip to the stores this weekend: Keep your dog from pulling.
Work on a loose lead, allowing sniffing, but no dragging the owner! You should feel free to look at objects and ask your pup to wait patiently without you having to worry about losing your arm.
When someone approaches, ask your dog to sit first and wait as you either allow the person to touch your dog or shake your hand. At the register, have your dog in a sit-stay (or down-stay) and do not hesitate to correct.
Remember to praise after you release your dog from the command. The people at the register in pet stores understand and those in line may even be impressed and follow your lead!