Your Dog Etiquette Guide: Visiting Pet Stores

Golden Retriever in pet store
Don’t take your dog to the pet supply store unless he has an overall easygoing personality and gets along with other people, children and dogs.

The pet store would seem like a logical — and ideal — outing with your dog. But as with any trip to a public place, there are some important things to think about before you take your pooch shopping for a new bowl or toy.

A little planning and some simple training can help ensure that you and your dog are upstanding patrons and have a safe, happy retail visit.

What to Know Before You Go

The pet store experience is not ideal for all dogs. A dog is a good candidate for a visit to the pet store if he is typically friendly and easygoing and is sociable around people, including children, who may invade his space. But be prepared to ask people to refrain from petting or touching your dog if that makes him (or you) nervous.

Your dog also needs to be friendly with other animals. While you may expect to see other dogs and cats at the pet-supply store, your pooch may encounter a variety of animals in cages, including snakes, small rodents and birds. If he’s not comfortable around these creatures, minimize problems by training acceptable behaviors before your visit, bypassing the areas of the store where those animals are located or leaving your dog at home altogether.

Finally, keep in mind that the pet-supply store itself may be scary for your dog. The slick floors, loud noises and shopping carts can be overwhelming for some dogs, who may be better off at home.

How to Have an Ideal Shopping Experience

Keep your dog on a leash. Ideally, your dog should be clipped to a fixed-length leash with only a little slack to prevent him from invading the space of other dogs (or humans) or becoming a tripping hazard. A front-clip harness or a head halter can also be helpful. And be aware of other shoppers trying to get a closer look at a shelf or display — don’t block their way.

Greet politely. Your pooch may be friendly but not every other dog — or person — is. Allow your dog to greet people only when they ask and only as long as he keeps all four paws on the floor. Even if your dog is friendly, it’s important to remember that not all dogs are, especially in an enclosed area and on leash. If your dog expresses an interest in another canine, consider inviting the owner to meet you at the dog park later for a play date.

Minimize messes. While your dog should be fully house trained before you take him to the pet-supply store, the sights and sounds of this new place can cause your dog to forget his manners. Make accidents less likely by taking your pup out to potty prior to going in the store. While inside, watch your dog for signs of marking, such as intense sniffing of a particular area and siding up to vertical items and be ready to move your dog a short distance away from mark-worthy items and redirect his attention to other tasks like heel or making eye contact. If your dog has an accident, don’t cover it up or pretend you don’t see it. Instead, ensure all messes are cleaned up immediately. Many stores have poop bags and disinfectant available, but if not, alert a store employee for help (and politely offer to clean it up yourself).

Treat the merchandise with respect. Remember that while it may be dog-friendly, the pet-supply store is a business, and it’s not acceptable to damage the merchandise. If your pooch chomps down on a doggy chew or toy with gusto, leaving teeth or slobber marks, you are responsible for purchasing the damaged item. Training your dog to “ drop it” or “ leave it” can help manage this situation. Similarly, don’t encourage your dog to pick out a new toy by letting him hold different ones in his mouth. Finally, if your dog bumps (or jumps) into an item and breaks it, alert pet store staff immediately and seek their guidance on how best to respond to the mishap.

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