Dogs are great. Dogs are special. You know how I know? About a million websites say so. And then there are dog-hating sites. Which often devolve into dog-owner-hating sites. Well, let me tell you something. I’m been a dog owner for six years. I love my dog. And some of these dog-owner-haters are right. Today let me offer something I haven’t seen on the intertubes: a sober accounting of what people like me could do better.

My fellow dog-owners aren’t exactly a model community. In fact, I see many of ’em doing things that make me want to slap my forehead. When this happens, it’s like being a bike-rider and watching as another bicyclist sails obliviously through a stop sign. Brother, you just brought us ALL down. The 51%+ of us civically conscious dog-owners have a few things to own up to, partly on behalf of the 51%+ of Americans who don’t own dogs. Herewith, a few simple rules that some of my fellow canine-owners – sorry, “life partners” – could stand to review:

Don’t call your dog your offspring, nor you its mommy nor daddy. Just…just stop it.

Don’t abandon your dog’s poop. I don’t actually believe that most dog-owners are as narcissistic as the Jason Segel character in I Love You, Man. (Look it up, man.) I don’t think most dog-owners see their dogs poop and think, “Hey, I’m a master of the universe, I don’t have to clean that up, screw everyone else in this neighborhood.” Yet that leaves us with a vexing paradox: why can’t you walk down any sidewalk in America without seeing dog poop? Well, I think people don’t pay that much attention to what their dog does. Or maybe they love the dog too much: “Hey, my dog’s a master of the universe, she couldn’t have dropped that deuce over there that looks brand-new and exactly the color of one of hers.” And don’t pretend you can’t bring a bag. Tie the bag to the leash if you’ve forgotten it even twice. Pick that s*it up.

Don’t start thinking Cesar Millan knows everything. I understand the cult of Millennials, but what’s with the cult of Millanials? Discipline without love is not the only solution, okay? Instead of queueing up another Millan video, how about reading a book about dog owning. One book? Is that a lot to ask? Dogs for Dummies is fine. How to Raise a Dog You Can Live With is another one. After You Get Your Puppy is also acceptable. Google around. Seriously, this stuff ain’t that difficult.

Don’t bring your dog into stores. What, you can’t tie up that mutt outside? Who the heck would want to steal him? People don’t do that, and if someone did, you chipped him…right? Look, if this is a big problem, how about you leave Fido in the car? Now, look, I can hear the catcalls. (Dogcalls, my ears don’t hear those.) In the sun on a hot day, of course not. Not even with the window cracked open in that case. But considering how rarely you should be doing this, I’m sure you’ll be able to park in the shade and walk the two extra blocks.

Don’t stand there at the dog park bemused – much less laughing – while your dog introduces him/herself in an overly physical way. Not overly physical: dog-to-dog butt-sniffing. That’s expected. Overly physical: jumping on me. Or barking aggressively at me. Licking can be overly physical if there’s a sign that the lickee wouldn’t like a lick. One man stood aloof while his dog mounted my dog and gave him a hump that might have been too intense for a French movie. The look on his face was like “come on, you stuffed shirt, this is how they get to know each other.” I’ve seen that kind of owner in other times and places. I’m sure he’d also tell his kid who got a Navorro Bowman-class injury to just walk it off. Straighten up and fly right, pal. Where you see your dog as a lovable Marley, your neighbors just feel gnarly.

Basically, don’t expect other people to change their behavior because of your precious snowflake. Of course you’ll get frightened looks from mothers of toddlers; as a courtesy, you might say something like “oh he’s very gentle” – but that’s not a rule. The rule is that you don’t force people to vacate a space, or really do anything, because of your canine. The other day, I was walking near a little wooden bridge in a park when my dog decided to stop and smell the base of a random tree; on the other side of the bridge, a lady with two dogs on leash stopped and said, “Can you…?” The “can you” was the problem. Look, I get that your dogs are a couple of barkers, and can’t handle sharing a bridge with my totally awesome dog. But if I get a phone call and decide to stand here next to this random tree for the next five minutes, you have to figure out something that doesn’t involve getting my attention.

Perhaps that sounds over-sensitive. Perhaps you’ve never heard dog owners refer to non-dog owners as “bullies.” I have. At my local dog park, we’re pirates, squatters, mercenaries; anyone who’s paid for the field use has both moral and legal precedence over us. Nonetheless, last spring, the owner of a dog sprinting around the basepaths got into a shouting match with a mom whose 7-year-old girl was with a bunch of other girls trying to play softball. A dad came over; names were called; the dad and dog owner might have come to blows had I not stepped in. (I’m no hero; I just stand between people.) Afterward, the dog owner cursed the rest of us dog owners for capitulating to “bullies.” The next morning, when there are never kids (but plenty of dogs), cops showed up, and us squatting dog owners were forced off the field all summer. We haven’t seen that stupid dog owner since. Again, don’t expect the world to move for Fluffy.

Rant over. Now go out there and enjoy your best friend.

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