Introduction: How to Be a Good Dog-Owner in San Francisco
Need a best friend? Maybe you need a dog.
Already have a dog? Maybe you need a few tips on how to be a better dog-owner in San Francisco.
To do this Instructable you will need:
-a dog, of course
-dog poop bags
This is an item on the Neighbors Project Check List.
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Step 1: CHOOSING YOUR DOG
When choosing your dog, it's important to keep in mind what kind of space you live in. For example, if you have a one room studio where your bed also serves as your dining room table and you do your dishes in the bathtub, a Great Dane would not be your best option. If you have a roommate that's allergic to them or live in a building that doesn't allow pets, then (surprise!) don't get one at all. Birds, reptiles, and rodents are often acceptable pet alternatives to both situations. If you're really desperate for some dog love, volunteer at your local animal shelter.
Also keep in mind your available time. Remember when you were little and you begged your parents for that dog and promised you would feed it and walk it all the time and then once it got to be older than a puppy and you got more homework and more friends your parents had to start taking care of it? Well, unless you still live with them, there's not going to be anyone else to take responsibility. And it will be your--and only your--room covered in dog poop. So, be realistic about how much time you can devote to training and entertaining your new fuzzy friend.
Step 2: YOUR DOG AT HOME
Now that you have found a suitable dog, TRAIN IT. There's not a neighbor out there who enjoys a dog that barks day and night (putting it in the back yard where you can't hear it but the rest of us can does NOT count as quieting it down), jumps all over people, and leaves certain treasures in the flowers. There are TONS of How-To tools out there to help you out.
If your dog is a barker or howler, your neighbors will probably soon feel like they've gotten to know too much about your little cutie. The best way to avoid creating drama with your neighbors is to a) train your dog to have an indoor voice and b) to get to know your neighbors so that you can all talk civilly about any noise problems. This means saying hi to your neighbors, holding doors open for them on occasion, etc.
Similarly, though you may know that your dog is kinder than Mother Theresa and less violent than Ghandi, don't assume that your neighbors want her/him in their face. Keep your dog leashed and out of the way of neighbors until they get to know her/him better. They'll probably begin approaching your dog on their own soon enough. But some neighbors may never want to touch your dog, and it will make your life easier if you respect their boundaries. Don't take it personally; but do be respectful.
Step 3: YOUR DOG ON a WALK: THE BASICS
The NUMBER ONE RULE of being a good San Francisco dog-owner on a walk is PICK UP THE POOP. It may seem obvious enough, but those stray piles on the street are clear signs that some us aren't listening. So when you go on a walk, always bring a plastic bag. Stash them in your coat pockets, or if you're the forgetful type, pick up one of those handy leashes that has a bag dispenser attached. (Check out "Bags on Board" to start.)
Other bare minimum rules include:
-Keep your dog leashed where it is legally required to do so. Again, though you may know that your dog is a big ole Mrs. Softee, a good number of people on the street don't want to chance that she's not, or have to deal with a dog rubbing on or sniffing them.
-When your dog is unleashed in an acceptable area, keep an eye on it for its own safety.
-License your dog-- it's the law! You can do it online. Collar you dog with your phone-number too, so if it chases that squirrel into the next neighborhood, someone will be able to return it to you easily.
-Vaccinate your dog appropriately. (Contact your vet for all that info.)
-And of course-- talk to your neighbors when you're on the walk. Make new dog owning friends, or new dog loving-but-not-owning friends.
Step 4: YOUR DOG ON a WALK: ADVANCED
Those are the basics. There are of course, other ways to enhance your dog-owner experience:
Get to know the other dog owners (and dogs) in your building or on your street. Put up a flyer, or stop to talk with fellow dog-walkers you run into around your place. Some neighborhoods even have dog owner associations, like Duboce Dog for example. These are all people you can trade tales, tricks, and tips with. And much like you, dogs are social animals-- so help yours make a few friends. David Troup, head of Duboce Dog, says: "In my neighborhood, we formed a dog owners' group and managed to get a great new off-leash area in our neighborhood park. I think people's involvement in the group gives them a sense of community and ownership of "our" park, and as a result, everyone takes better care of it and everyone gets a nicer park to enjoy." He also points out that, it's especially useful for new dog "parents."
Beyond your neighborhood, you can check out dog friendly hot spots. Parks are a great place to start (try Duboce or Buena Vista). Some restaurants, cafes and bars allow dogs to socialize along with their owners. Check out www.dogfriendly.com or www.sfdog.org for a bunch of listings. Some places might surprise you. (Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus? Really?)
And don't forget that this is San Francisco-- a city of many outdoor attractions, beyond just parks. Get your furry friend out of the house and on a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, or to one of the many beaches (try Baker, Fort Funston, or Ocean Beach). And whenever you think it's too cold or rainy to head out, just remember your dog-owning friends in Minnesota, or all of Canada for Pete's sake. If they can bundle up and do it, you can surely put on your flip-flops and brave the 65 degrees.
Step 5: YOUR DOG ON a WALK: THE EXPERT
Really it's quite easy to be an expert dog-owner. So far all you've really had to do is pick up some poop and say hello to other people with dogs while you take yours out on a walk or for a beer. To really up your dog-owner game, try the following:
-Walk your friend's/neighbor's dogs.
Yes, I said it. It sounds outrageous at first, but really it's quite easy. If you're going to take your dog for an afternoon in Golden Gate Park, why not call up your neighbor and ask if her/his pup would like to come along too?
-Bring your dog to a Giants' game.
Once a year, Giants fans are allowed to bring their dogs with them to the games. Get one of those $5 hot-dogs for your hot dog and sign them up for the pre-game parade on the field. (See the Giants official website for more details.)
-Go to the Bark and Wine Ball
CLAW (Critter Lovers at Work) hosts a benefit ball where you and your dog can dance the night away and enjoy a full bar and buffet, all while raising money for animal shelters.
-Check out Pugs in the Park
At around 2:30 on the first Sunday each month, pugs (and their much larger owners) gather at Alta Plaza Park (in Pacific Heights) to all run around huff loudly together. The optional-yet-appreciated costumes are hilarious to say the least.
-Take your dog on the MUNI
Why not let them enjoy a cable car ride up the hill? Check out my other Instructable for all the details.
-Cruise dog blogs
Start with Dog Blog which features pictures of dogs tied to things and imaginative commentary. Or try this one, aptly named "Halloween Pet Costumes (a.k.a. Why Dogs Bite People)".
-Do good with your dog
Visit the elderly in your neighborhood, or bring some canine love to the children's ward of a hospital. There are plenty of groups out there that can teach you about volunteer opportunities for you and your pet. Try The Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc., Therapy Dogs International, Inc., or Delta Society.
Step 6: HELP IMPROVE NEIGHBORHOOD-FRIENDLY DOG INFRASTRUCTURE
Though leading by example is great, you can help other dog owners pick up canine emissions by putting up a plastic bag dispenser near your home or in a well-traveled public space (and fill it with the bags you can't seem to avoid collecting from stores). If you're a renter, ask your landlord about putting one up. Or reach out to the local neighborhood association or dog owners' group in your neighborhood for advice and help.
Similarly, you may find that your neighborhood is in need of a dog run so that your loved one and her/his friends can frolic and play. Work with your new neighborhood dog friends and/or the neighborhood association to find a place that serves both dog-owners and non-dog owners. Be careful that you don't end up taking space away from some other established neighborhood group or need; your dogs will become a lightning rod for controversy instead of a great way to bring all kinds of people together.
Finally, encourage neighborhood stores to put out water and/or bone dishes for dogs during the day. It helps attract more customers for the store (the dogs will literally pull people to the store to get at that water), and makes a walk even easier for you and your little friend.