Living in a city has its own unique challenges. As Wagsburgh is located in the heart of the North Side, I thought I’d address this with my first column.

Some things to think about when you live with a dog in a city are: what do you do with your dog when you are not home, what equipment should you use to walk your dog, and what cues should you teach your dog to be a good urban citizen?

Most of us leave our dogs loose in our houses when we leave. But, many use crates. Still, others have doggie doors. If your dog barks or whines in his/her crate, this could annoy the neighbors. There are a lot of behavioral interventions available to you such as increased exercise, games to play get your dog better acclimated to a crate, as well as behavioral interventions if your dog has trouble being alone. It is my opinion that you should think long and hard about using a doggie door in the city. This permits your dogs to have access to the outside during the day when you are not home, and also at night. If dogs are outside unsupervised, they can get into trouble by annoying neighbors with barking, fighting with each other as they run the fence line (two beagles in my neighborhood are constantly fighting with each other as they compete to bark at me and my dog as we walk by their house), digging under fences, or even by getting stolen.

Most of us enjoy walking our dogs. In an urban setting, you need to keep safety in mind. That means using leashes. What leashes do I recommend? While flexi leashes might be fine for walks in the park or for pottying in your yard if you don’t have a fence, they are not necessarily good devices to use on the city street or if you are visiting the local farmer’s market with your pooch. Flexi leashes can get caught up around people’s legs and sometimes give your dog too much room to run around uncontrolled. Sadly, I knew a dog who was hit by a car and killed because his owner was walking him on a city street, did not pull him back at the curb, and the dog entered the street as a car was turning.

What about dog etiquette while on a city street? Not all dogs are friendly with other dogs, especially on leash. It is always a good idea to cross the street when you see another dog coming, and not to allow your dog to approach another leashed dog. Leashes are great things, but they do not permit dogs to communicate and greet each other naturally, thus many bad things can happen with a dog-dog introduction on leash. My best advice is to just do not do on leash introductions, especially with an unknown dog.

What conversation about urban dogs is not complete with a talk about poop? I just recently learned that “curb your dog” means to let it bathroom in the street at the curb. Yuck. In Pittsburgh, anything that runs into our sewer drains from the street goes right out into our beautiful rivers. Just pick it up. There are biodegradable poop bags you can buy. But, pick it up and properly dispose of it to prevent any more pollution of our rivers. Also, being a good dog parent means not letting your dog bathroom on someone else’s flowers or leaving piles on the sidewalk or in someone’s yard. This can anger neighbors as well as spread parasites and is just gross. No one appreciates walking on a sidewalk and stepping in poop.

What cues can you teach your dog to help with city living? I think some of the most helpful cues are “leave it” (as in leave that chicken bone on the sidewalk and come get a treat from me), “drop it” (hey, drop that chicken bone you just picked up, please), and “quiet” so that your dog’s barking does not disturb your neighbors. You can learn how to teach these cues from any of the great classes run by the local shelters – both Animal Friends and the two shelters run by the Humane Animal Rescue that are fun for you and your dog.


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Article authored by Lilian Akin, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA