Hallways and lifts present a daily challenge for city-dwelling dog lovers. For such a common part of urban life, elevators especially can be rather tense places. When forced into these confining contraptions, with strangers well inside of our comfort zone, even we humans can become edgy. We stare at the numbers above or the floor below, eager to peel away from unknown folks with uncertain intentions and very certain odors. Now imagine being a pooch in this same situation, restrained by a guardian who may be just as nervous as him! For the benefit of all concerned, it behooves pet parents to better handle close-quarter tensions in the buildings that form our skylines.
Here are six tips to help you do exactly that:
1. Always precede your dog through hallway doors
Lead the way, not because you’re “in charge,” but simply because you are better equipped to handle any surprises that may be waiting. In hallways, make a habit of walking your dog along the wall rather than in the center so you won’t have to reposition her if the pup next door makes a break for it.
2. Be friendly
If there’s a person with tense body language headed your way down a hallway, a reactive dog is more likely to, well, react. Before your pup has a chance to decide that a nervous stranger is a threat, say hello! Most of the time the person will respond in kind, and in so doing he’ll have to breathe. Not only have you converted a tense situation into a positive one, but you’ve effortlessly deputized someone who was canine disinclined as a training assistant. Add “administrative ability” to your resume — you’ve earned it.
3. Stay back and stay prepared when waiting for an elevator
Always stand well away from the door and to the far side of the building exit. Whether it’s a human absent-mindedly fiddling with their smartphone or a dog anxious to sniff the outside world, a passenger’s exit could prove problematic if you’re not well positioned and prepared.
4. Place your pup
Ding! If the lift is empty, step all the way in and have your dog sit behind and to the side of you. I recommend doling out verbal praise liberally and treating once in a while, especially if your pup assumes the position without being prompted.
5. Be positive
Many people are afraid of dogs, and upon seeing one inside, a prospective passenger may decline to enter. Thankfully, unavoidable encounters can be terrific opportunities to demonstrate that the average pooch is perfectly harmless. Positive exposure to negatively charged stimuli is a sure path to reducing fear and phobia, for people as well as pups. If you are well positioned when the door opens, it will be clear to even the most fearful stranger that this ride will be a safe one. Invite them in and treat yourself, your canine charge, and the person to a great experience.
6. Ask for an invitation
When entering an inhabited elevator with your dog, offer an upbeat greeting to the other passengers. A salutation as simple as, “Room for two more?” will both ease the inherent social tension and subtly inform passengers that your pup is no danger to them. Your openness will be contagious, and with any luck your dog will get a good petting out of the exchange. What could have been a minute of awkward, stiff confinement is now a chance to make a new friend – we call that “trading up.”
In the big buildings of the big city, a calm head and a pro-social attitude are the dog lover’s most versatile tools.
About the author: Logan Grendel is a writer, activist, and artist, born and raised in New York City. Urban Dog Care NYC is Logan’s dog-walking business and main source of dog stories, about which you shouldn’t ask unless you have several hours to spare. For the latest canine conversation by Logan and the UDC Squad, see them on Instagram, like their page on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter. You can also order Putting Paws to Pavement, his new guide to living with dogs in a city setting.