Petiquette: Rules for every responsible pet parent

Bringing a pet into your life can bring immense amounts of joy, to you and all those around you. To ensure this, all you need to know is a little bit of pet etiquette to help your furry friend better understand the human world.

Petiquette is about being a responsible pet owner and considering the needs of your pet as well as those around you. 

Whether you’re a new dog or cat owner or your furry friend has been with you for a while, here are some top etiquette rules from Dr Rosalind Holland (BVSc), on how to keep your pet safe and happy – while respecting the environment and people around them.

Dog etiquette

Dog owners in New Zealand have a long history of working closely with their beloved pooches. 

Regardless of the kind of dog or what role they play in your life, there are still important rules that should be followed when out with them.           

Public etiquette

First and foremost, no matter where you are – a park, the beach or even just walking down the street – you should always have your dog under control. If they are having off-leash time, remember to keep your leash close at hand and have your dog well-trained in a quick recall. Practising off-lead exercises will ensure your dog can reliably come back to you when called.

This is important not just for the safety of your animal (they could run away or into danger), but also to ensure that they don’t bother other animals or people. Ensuring your pet stays clear of wildlife will further protect all involved.  

Don’t forget to always bring a bag with you when out walking too – it’s important to clean up after your dog whenever they do their business.

Starting with polite interactions

When out in public, you should always be mindful that not everyone loves animals as much as we do – some people (and other animals) may be scared or just don’t want to be bothered. 

Just like people, all dogs have different levels of comfort when it comes to socialising. Dr Holland shares that all dogs are different especially when it comes to their personalities and how they react to things, “If your dog is the shy and retiring type, then visiting the dog park at peak time is probably not going to be a great experience for them. It is also important to remember that even if your dog loves everyone, other dogs you meet might not want to make friends, so make sure you have control of your dog at all times in public.”

Dr Holland further emphasises how the key to navigating these interactions is understanding canine body language, which "can help you understand better how your dog, and any other dogs you meet, are feeling." 

What happens when you’re not at home?

If you’re leaving your dog alone at home, be sure to provide them with water, access to a comfortable place to rest and appropriate toys for when boredom strikes. This could include an interactive food toy like a frozen Kong. 

Some dogs can get stressed if left alone and might become destructive or very vocal – so try not to do this for extended periods. To work on this behaviour, owners can work with a certified behaviour consultant to address any underlying causes and teach dogs how to be comfortable when you’re not home. 

Sticking to the rules

It’s important to do your research and follow your local council's rules, so you stay on the right side of the law. This includes rules surrounding on-leash and off-leash areas, noise curfews, and licensing regulations.

Local councils across New Zealand require dogs over three months old to be registered with their local council, and your details must be updated regularly. While not technically a rule, Dr Holland also highlights keeping your pooches' vaccinations up to date, “Don’t forget to keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date as well as their microchip details on the New Zealand Companion Animal Register.”

Cat etiquette: Where to get started?

Cats require plenty of love and affection, and a safe environment. As one of the most frequently owned pets in New Zealand, understanding these petiquette tips couldn’t be more important. 

Keeping the claws at bay

Cats are known for their sharp claws, so as a pet owner, it’s important to make sure your cat has access to scratching posts and are encouraged to use these, rather than your furniture or carpets. For older cats who have trouble retracting their claws, it can be a good idea to get your cat's nails trimmed (or clipped) every few months.

As adult claws can be much sharper in comparison to a kitten’s, Dr Holland recommends setting safe habits early, "Always encourage your kitten or cat to play with toys rather than hands, if they do direct play towards a person then initially redirect them by offering a toy instead, and if the behaviour persists stop the game."

It’s important to understand that cats will learn quickly if you establish these boundaries with them early on. Dr Holland agrees, “Cats will quickly learn that it is no fun to play with hands and will instead play with their toys. Although cats can sleep a lot they can get bored, and this may lead to rough play, so it is important to make sure they have lots of fun things to do.”

Desexing and microchipping: Here’s what to do

Having your pet cat desexed can do wonders for both their health and behaviour. Not to mention that it’s also an important way to help control unwanted cat populations in the community.

It's also recommended that all cats be microchipped and registered with the New Zealand Companion Animal Register, which helps find them if they get lost or stolen.

Leading the way: How to be an environmentally friendly pet owner

Being a responsible owner doesn’t end with taking care of your pet; you should also consider the impact your pet has on the environment.

New Zealand is home to unique and diverse wildlife– and as pet owners, it’s our responsibility to ensure we take precautions when out and about with our dogs so they don't accidentally disrupt or harm wild animals or their habitats.

This means always keeping your dog on a leash unless you are in a designated off-lead area. Some areas, such as sanctuaries or national and regional parks, are pet free and this is enforced by law.

When it comes to the coast in particular, the Department of Conservation is championing the "Lead the Way" programme. Which encourages owners to keep their dogs on leashes while they take in the sights and sounds of our stunning coastline.

If you want your cat to enjoy the great outdoors without putting them or wildlife at risk, a catio or a cat enclosure is a great solution. Catios are enclosed outdoor patios which allow our beloved feline friends to enjoy some time outside, while still feeling safe.

No matter which furry friend you have, it’s important to consider how they are protected. SPCA Pet Insurance could provide peace of mind by helping to cover eligible vet bills for accidental injury and illness – keeping your pet healthy and happy for years to come.