Skip to Content

How to Keep Your Dog Calm in Public

Share your tips for a chance to win treats for your dog

If your dog is hyper when visiting new places, there is hope!

The key is lots of exercise, lots of patience and to slowly bring your dog to more and more places over time.

I lucked out with my dog Ace because for the most part I can bring him anywhere and he is relatively calm.

I like taking him to coffee shops and restaurants, dog friendly bars and outdoor events. In the San Diego area, there are a lot of opportunities to do these things.

But, some dogs are a little more challenging in public places.

I thought I’d share my tips for helping a dog stay calm and behaved in public, but I want to hear from you, too.

5 Tips to keep your dog calm when out in public

1. Lots of exercise beforehand!

If you want your dog to be calmer out in public, try exercising her a lot more. If you’re currently walking her for 30 minutes a day, start walking her for an hour. Not just the morning before you take her somewhere, but every day that you possibly can.

A lot of dogs just have so much pent-up energy from weeks or months of not enough exercise. Their owners don’t even realize it, but if the dogs just got more exercise, they’d naturally be a lot calmer when out and about.

2. Use a collar that makes your dog easier to handle.

My dog wearing his Gentle Leader San Diego Beerworks

This is another issue that puzzles me, along with a lack of exercise. Why do people insist on using regular collars when their dogs pull so much? Do they think they’ll be judged for using a prong collar? Are they hesitant to spend $15 on a Gentle Leader or a no-pull harness?

The Gentle Leader is my default collar because it minimizes my dog’s pulling more than anything else I’ve tried.

My dog is well behaved and I am a good trainer, but I still like to use certain collars to minimize his pulling when we’re out in public. It makes the experience more relaxing and enjoyable, and it means my dog gets to tag along more often.

And ditch the retractable leash for now. OK, maybe for good. 🙂

3. Carry highly valued treats.

Keep dog calm in public


Another tip that seems obvious, right? But few people actually bring treats.

And not just any treats! Oh no, dry dog biscuits just won’t cut it for most dogs. You should find something your dog is willing to work for.

4. Lots of practice over weeks and months.

We all want our dogs to behave perfectly right away, but it’s not fair to bring them to a busy outdoor restaurant and expect them to behave if we haven’t taken them to quieter places to practice first.

A good place to start is a quiet park with picnic tables. Just sit down with your dog and maybe a coffee, and work on keeping your dog in a “stay” with mild distractions. If it’s not going well, you can always leave.

Another option, once your dog has had more practice, is a coffee shop with outdoor seating during a quieter time or maybe a casual, fast-food type place as long as it’s not too busy.

I try to sit on an end as far away from all the commotion as possible. I also like to keep my body between my dog and the most likely source of distraction. If I expect people to be walking by on one side, I have him lie down and stay on the other side, preferably under the table or against a wall or other barrier. Then I give him treats to encourage calm behavior and focus.

If your dog is having a hard time, you can always take your coffee and go.

5. Practice lots of basic obedience.

People are always emailing me to ask how they can get their dog to stop barking at other dogs or how they can stop their dog from freaking out in public.

It often comes down to basic obedience.

If your dog will listen to you and stay when told, then you are ahead of 99 percent of other dog owners. Another good command to work on is “watch me” where you reward your dog for eye contact. If you practice those two things every day in various environments, I bet you’ll see some noticeable progress.

Every time you work with your dog, you are reinforcing a positive relationship, which only helps your dog pay attention to you in more challenging environments.

Green Bark Gummies dog treats
Ace with Green Bark Gummies dog treats

How does your dog behave while you’re out in public? Naughty or calm or somewhere in between?

Let me know in the comments!

Prasert

Sunday 5th of April 2015

My pup loves these treats.

Emma

Saturday 4th of April 2015

I just thinking the other day how well these treats work to get my dog's attention when out for a walk! She loves them, which is great since she's so reactive to other dogs when out for walks, it completely distracts her!

Julie

Friday 3rd of April 2015

Such a wonderful post!

Anna

Friday 3rd of April 2015

Yes, Kuba can be a whiner too! He doesn't get treats just for existing and I don't think he's very spoiled, ha ha. The lady wasn't mean though. And who cares anyways, treats worked well in that case. Yay.

Anna

Thursday 2nd of April 2015

Great, common sense tips!

We had a problem with my dog yipping in front of a store while left alone for 5 minutes. So embarrassing. My solution was to practice Stay. First at home, in the yard, in a quiet corner at school while waiting for my son. Then, I tied him again in front of the store, cued Stay, moved a few feet away, came back, rewarded. Repeated, repeated, slowly increasing distance and getting out of sight for a while. An older lady saw me giving my pup treats and commented how spoiled my dog already is, ha ha. Anyways, it worked. After just five minutes of practice in front of the store, many looks from passersby, he got the message that he's not getting abandoned. From now on, we never had a problem with tipping. He actually lounges and relaxes.

Right now, he's on a leash in a sloppy Down at my feet. We went for an hour evening walk, he ate dinner, and there is no reason he cannot stay calm for half an hour.

Good luck with training, everyone! It's a never ending story.

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 3rd of April 2015

I don't leave Ace in front of stores too often, but I'm sure there are times where he would also yip, which would be so frustrating/embarrassing! Haha! He is a whiner, and it gets really irritating. He'll whine if we're with a group camping or at a picnic and, God forbid, I head to the bathroom without him and leave him with the group.

Good for you for figuring out a way to overcome the problem. That's hilarious that someone told you your dog is spoiled for getting treats! Haha! Good grief.

Anna

Thursday 2nd of April 2015

*yipping, not tipping