From the Forum – Tips for new DC dog owner?

Photo of an “old volvo” by PoPville flickr user Phil

Tips for new DC dog owner?

“I’m hopefully getting a dog in July and was hoping for some tips about raising a dog in DC. I just read someone else’s post about how pet owners really need to lookout for chicken bones on the street– something I would have never really thought about. Any tips like that or suggestions on dog walkers/good dog parks would be much appreciated. I live in Bloomingdale, so suggestions about Bloomingdale, Shaw, & Petworth are especially appreciated.”

One reader responded:

Congrats! Here are some tips…

– Dog parks are great for off-leash exercise, but avoid them at peak hours (after work) until you know your dog well. Interacting with a bunch of stranger dogs can be scary. Always keep a close eye on your dog while you’re at the park because you don’t know the other dogs. There is a nice dog park in Langdon Park, which isn’t too far from Bloomingdale and it’s usually not crowded at all. The 11th street dog park is closest to Shaw, it’s fine but can get busy.

– There are always delicious treats on the street, so keep an eye on your dog when he/she is sniffing around to make sure they don’t find one.

– Grooming by Em on Rhode Island Ave is the best grooming I’ve gotten in the area and by far the best price.

– Dogs ARE allowed on the metro if they are in closed carriers. Ditto to cabs, they aren’t allowed to deny you if the dog is in a carrier (doesn’t mean they won’t, but they shouldn’t).

– If you Uber, text the driver and let them know you have a dog once they accept the trip. Most don’t mind but they’ll appreciate the heads up.

– The arboretum is my favorite place to walk with the dogs. It’s beautiful and huge. Dogs have to be on-leash but if your dog is friendly, you’ll meet lots of other friendly dogs to say hi to.”

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57 Comment

  • Langdon Park is pretty far from Bloomingdale. I recommend the Bundy Dog Park at 5th and P instead.

  • ah

    1. Carry a poop bag
    2. Use it always
    3. Dispose of it in your own trashcan

    • emvee

      I hate that this isn’t a given. Sigh.

    • Or a public trashcan…

      • According to DPW, you’re not supposed to put dog poop in a public trashcan.

        • houseintherear

          I do it 2 times a day and will continue to do so.

          • The flyer you link to is from the District Department of the Environment (DDOE). DPW (the Department of Public Works), which is the agency responsible for collecting garbage from street and household trash cans, says not to.
            From :
            “Please be kind to your neighbors and avoid putting your bagged poop into your
            neighbor’s trash container or a public litter can. Not only does it attract rats, who eat
            the feces, the contents of the bag can leak out into the can or onto the street, leaving
            someone else to clean up after your pet.”

          • In reply to textdoc… if this is motivated by the “slurry” issue, I fail to see how depositing properly tied, bagged poop 2x-3x daily for an entire week in one’s own resolves the issue, especially when the public cans are dumped more frequently. More importantly, this is something people need to be able to do and we need DPW to figure out a way to make it acceptable for them. If that means installing lids or a separate kind of bin for poop to keep rats out, fine. But I guarantee you a lotttttt more people will stop scooping poop if they have to carry it blocks and blocks without being about to use a public can.

          • I think the idea is that bagged dog poop within one’s own bagged trash — thus having two layers of bags — will fare better than bagged dog poop within public trash cans, which don’t have bags. (I think some of the ones operated by BIDs may use bags… but the ones that are DPW-emptied don’t, at least the ones I’ve seen.)
            I agree that it’s vastly better for people to deposit bagged dog poop in public trash cans than not to scoop at all (or to deposit bagged poop in a neighbor’s trash can, which is totally unacceptable for reasons discussed in a previous thread). However, it sounds like the BEST and most responsible thing to do is to take the bagged poop back to your home trash can.

          • ^to textdoc: but the issue is that this creates another barrier for people to do the right thing, and expecting already imperfect compliance to somehow rise to the occasion is silly. While I generally agree with your assessment that their proposal would cause the waste to “fare better” while bagged with other trash, 14-21 bags of poop in a municipal can already being hunted by rat populations is non-trivial (especially on weeks where you’ve generated a lot of trash and maybe the can justttt won’t close?)… probably subject to the same problems they’re now experiencing. They need to figure out how to retrofit the cans to keep rats at bay while still preserving people’s ability to use them. I completely agree it’s unacceptable to impact neighbors with dog waste, but public waste systems need to be able to handle this. I appreciate your perspective, but I really think this is misguided.

  • justinbc

    Don’t leave your dog poop bag in your neighbor’s trash can.

  • emvee

    There’s a dog park at the Park at LeDroit that is never too packed. If you’re car-free, you can bring a dog in a ZipCar, provided they’re in a carrier, but dogs are not technically allowed in Car2Gos. Rock Creek is great for hiking with your dog (but please please keep it on a leash). Since you’re in Bloomingdale, provided your dog is well-behaved, Bacio is great about dogs, even bringing out water for them if you want a furry companion while you grab a pizza.

    • *Technically* is the key word here

    • Seconded on the park at LeDroit – much closer than going all the way to 11th or Langdon park. My only qualm there is the fences are a more post-style (not chain link), so if you get a puppy make sure he/she can’t fit through the bars before going in. We got a 2 year old dog in the fall, but he was very malnourished when he got to us so could squeeze right through.

  • Good list! Something I wish other dog owners knew is that not all dogs love to meet other dogs. Always ask before letting your dog sniff someone else’s dog – those of us with reactive dogs will be forever grateful!

    • Yes! Please follow the law and keep your dog on a leash at all times, unless you’re at an off leash dog park. Always ask the owner before you let your dog greet another dog. Don’t assume all dogs are friendly. I second the recommendation for the Arboretum, it’s great for dogs!

    • Yes! This is incredibly important and not something that comes intuitively to people. PLEASE give other dogs space unless you know (i.e., ask their human) that they enjoy meeting other dogs on the leash. My dog has severe leash anxiety (look that up so you’re prepared!), so he lunges and barks when another leashed dog gets too close – it makes for an unpleasant walk when another dog walker is not paying attention and lets his or her dog wander on a long leash uncontrolled.

    • This! All it takes is a quick “can he say hi?”

    • +1000 My dog is terrified of other dogs on leash, she starts yelping and tries to run away. It is hugely annoying when people are like “Oh my dog is so friendly!!’ I really don’t care. My dog doesn’t want to see yours. End of Story.

    • +1. If you’ve only ever had dog-friendly dogs, you might not realize how hard it is for someone with a reactive dog. Walks can be extremely stressful given the number of people with off-leash dogs or dogs on flexi leashes. Btw, flexi leashes can be extremely dangerous for both you and your dog. All you need to do is google search flexi leash injuries. Just say no to those things!

  • Photo caption says “old Volvo,” but that pup looks quite young. 🙂

  • Keep your dog on a leash *and* under your control.

    • Thank you. For clarification, a dog on a 10′ or 20′ lead is NOT under anyone’s control.
      In addition, this includes all park land in the city. I run in Rock Creek Park, and I no longer bother to tell people where they can find their dog after it took off on them.

    • anonymouse_dianne

      Please don’t use a retractable leash. My sister’s friend had her dog get run over while on one of these so-called leashes. Use a sturdy 6′ leash, a harness, and a collar. Double lock the leash to the collar and harness. Many dogs are able to wriggle out of a collar or a harness but not both.

      Find dog-friendly places to hang. Socialize early and often. Try clicker training to learn “watch me” “wait” “leave it”.

      • Seconded on the clicker training and early socialization. Clicker training is useful in sooo many different situations.

  • dcdon

    – keep an eye on all cars at intersections. You see them, but they may not see you and your dog . Cant tell you how many cars make turns without stopping an almost hit my dog. I actually keep them far from the curb until I know all is clear
    – when I see dogs coming towards me while walking my dogs, I also announce “they are friendly” sometimes they respond “mine aren’t” Good to know and I hold back my dogs
    – little kids love to run up and grab at puppies. Stay aware so no one gets scared – kids or dogs.
    – beware of bikers on sidewalks!
    – keep your dog out of freshly groomed tree boxes – your neighbors will love you.
    -pick up the poop
    – chicken bones, pizza crusts, ice cream cones, Chinese food boxes, candy. It’s amazing what is out there!

    • Your first point is such a good one. I’m always extra vigilant about cars with my pup, and hold him very close to me when we’re crossing streets.

    • Yes to all of these! I actually recommend using a 4′ leash with a traffic handle in the city. That way when you’re crossing a street you can keep your dog right next to your side and thus greatly decrease his chance of getting hit by a clueless driver.

  • I’d be curious to hear about if people have found a dog walking service important during the work week. Essentially, any general dog walking service information would be helpful. Thanks.

    • We love our dog walkers – Fairy Tails. We set the walks up online at the beginning of the week, and can see where they went on their walk on a map after, and pay online — everything is very user friendly. Plus, everyone we’ve met who works with them has been great and really professional. Megan, the owner, has gone above and beyond for us several times! I can’t recommend them enough.

    • We decided to use a dog walking service for a mid-day walk during the week when we adopted our dog last fall. We made the decision for a couple reasons: (1) our dog is crated during the day (she gets too anxious if she’s free in the house) and we wanted her to be able to get a break from the crate and (2) we adopted a rescue dog and we wanted her to get some interaction with someone that isn’t us. She doesn’t necessary need the mid-day walk as a bathroom break, but for her temperament, I think the extra exercise has been good for her.

  • Hi OP! Fellow Bloomingdale resident here, and my husband and I will be getting our new pup in just a couple of weeks! We hope to meet you and your little guy/girl around town!

  • Seconding “ah”‘s comment. My BIGGEST pet peeve and something I can’t get over, the amount of poop that is not picked up. When I got my puppy the #1 rule in a city, keep it away from other dog’s poop, etc. Yet everywhere I looked, dog waste left on the ground, DISGUSTING.

    1. Carry a poop bag
    2. Use it always
    3. Dispose of it

  • Tsar of Truxton

    I agree that Bundy is a great option for a local park for a Bloomingdale resident. I would also recommend Shirlington Dog Park for a weekend water getaway (once you have good recall). Many wineries in VA and MD will let you bring your dog, so check them out! I just went to Sugarloaf (in MD) for a hike and wine tasting last weekend and it was great.

    • emvee

      Seconded! Barrel Oak in VA is incredibly dog-friendly as well.

    • Why would you ever let your dog into 4 Mile Run? Its essentially 100% fed by runoff.

      Shirlington Dog Park is great, but you have to cross a fence and take your dog off leash out of the borders of the fence.

      If you want your dog to swim, go to the dog beaches on the Chesapeake.

      • Probably because going to Shirlington and going to “the dog beaches on the Chesapeake” are vastly different ventures.

      • We take ours to Shirlington quite often, and will let him down into the water occasionally. The only times that dogs have gotten really sick, from what I remember, is when the water is stagnant (therefore breeding grounds for all kinds of gross things). We usually only go after it’s rained, and we only let him down there when the water is consistently flowing.
        The actual park itself is entirely fenced in. You do not have to take your dog down to the water (which is NOT fenced in, but has very steep banks on the other side). Don’t ever let your dog off leash if you don’t have good control over them anyway.

        • Actually, right after a rain the water quality is worse, due to influx of surface run-off – oil, pesticides etc. In RC park it can be extra bad due to sewer overflow into the creek.

          • That definitely makes sense, but if I’m choosing whether to let him in stagnant or flowing water, I’m choosing the flowing water haha! We never go the same day or day after a rain either – usually 2-3 days after when the water is still a bit higher. Realistically unless your dog is swimming in an all natural or saltwater private pool you’re taking your chances anyway.

  • Definitely always carry poop bags and clean up after your dog

    Keep your dog on a leash and under control…also the sidewalk is meant to be shared…I’ve gone running several times and have run into dog owners who let their dog wander around freely along the sidewalk on a very long leash and for the most part if the owner sees are hears me they will move their dog out of the way but I have had few instances where the dog owner refuses to reel their dog in and one owner actually yelled at me that I shouldn’t be running on the sidewalk…

    Watch out for all kinds of gross food people decided to just throw on the sidewalk instead of the trash can just a few feet away…I’ve had to wrestle a few gross food items including chicken bones from my pup

    My dog likes to sniff people and can get a little too close for them most people don’t mind but many also do and a few of those have tried to actually kick my dog out of fear…she’s a 15lb dog

  • Find a great vet and don’t let your dog share a water bowl with other dogs if you don’t know them.

  • I liked the puppy classes at Spot on Training on H Street. It’s helpful having the structure in place to make sure you teach your dog all the basic safety and obedience commands. I might have given up on a few that were difficult for my dog had I not paid for the classes.

  • Congrats!

    I’ve found really working on “heel” has been extremely useful in the city. My dog is always on my right side, just behind my step, unless he’s going to the bathroom. This way he steers clear of other dogs, strollers, cars for the most part.

    I taught my dog to always sit in the same spot in the elevator so he is out of the way of others and knows his routine. It is funny when someone else is in his “spot” and he just stares at them.

    Never use a retractable leash. Those things are the worst.

    And PoPville is a great source for dog advice!

  • Yay for new dogs and a conscientious owner!! Other than “all of the above” to everybody else’s suggestions, get a trainer and start early. Most people can’t do it on their own, and a lot of those who do, actually shouldn’t, and their dogs show it. Would you home-school your own child? No? Don’t be afraid to call in a pro. A well-behaved dog is a pleasure to be around, and the process of training WITH your dog means that you can learn what to expect from your dog, leading to good trust. Good training can be expensive (I actually sent my dog to a 3-week board-and-train program but my dog was ‘special needs’) but for me it’s worth every penny.
    Having a dog in the city has been wonderful for me. I’ve met all of my neighbors because I’m out walking him or I’m out on my building’s lawn with him all the time. He has helped me deepen my sense of community and belonging. I hope you enjoy it half as much as I have, because then you’ll be pretty lucky, indeed!

    • Agree–train early and often. While you CAN teach old dogs new tricks, new ones are like sponges who WANT to learn how to navigate their new environment. It’s much easier to teach them how things work when you first get them, preferably with a professional. Plus, honestly, when you first get a dog, you are so excited and motivated to teach them new things; that wears off after a few months (at least it did for me). I highly regret that she gradually became a barker when we’re outside, and I have no idea how to fix it three years in (yes, I have tried a couple of new trainers–no luck).

  • I would also add that it’s great to have either friends or family that’s nearby who are able to watch your dog if you happen to go on a work trip or vacation. We have family that’s about 3 hours away who don’t mind watching our dog about twice a year, and then for any other times we’ve used to find a lady in our neighborhood who keeps the dog at her house at other times.

    We have also watched other friends’ dogs before, but it’s a slight pain because we have a 15+ year old beagle who doesn’t care for playful dogs.

    I would also recommend getting pet insurance for whichever vet you want to take your dog. Look up which vet you would find most convenient and figure out who they accept.

  • -Get a trainer and/or enroll obedience school ASAP — it’s a great bonding experience and a trainer can help you understand dog behavior (e.g. anxiety), and how to respond. Getting the basic commands down can help you get off on the right foot.
    -Leadership/dominance — “nothing in life is free” and you’re the boss. He comes when he’s called (touch or come command) , he waits before he eats (wait command), he sits politely at all door before exiting (and you go first), he doesn’t get to decide when he gets attention from you or others (release command), he only eats what you give him (importance of leave it command). Keep working on this — it will make him a much better dog.
    -Entering and exiting — completely avoid getting excited about seeing him when you get home or acknowledging when you leave except for perhaps a food/toy distraction.
    -Crate training — most dogs are a good fit for it, though some are not. Make the crate the best place ever and they’ll learn to love it.
    -Earning privileges — In same vein, don’t let your dog have lots of freedom, sleep in your bed or up on the couch until they’ve earned it
    -Exercise to exhaustion — tired dog is a good dog. Use the summer to take long journeys across town.
    -Amazon carries most high quality dog food and delivers!
    -Pet insurance is probably worth it, especially for a young dog, but YMMV

  • broken glass- also watch out for that. It can get in dogs paws and is a very expensive and painful ordeal. I have a 3-legged dog, so he would be in really bad shape if he got it on his paws. It’s everywhere in the LeDroit/Bloomingdale area too.

    Also- if you rescue a puppy (I’m assuming you’re a good person and adopting) remember to wait until they are at least 6 months old before going into the dog park. Puppies can catch diseases more easily from the older dogs.

  • OP here!
    Thanks so much for all this great advice, very helpful. Any suggestions on good & affordable vets and dog walkers?

    • We go to Adams Morgan Animal Hospital, and the Doctors Boone (father son team) have been great with our dogs – including the one who is a total jerk when he goes in.

      Also, we use Fairy Tails for walks and pet sitting and they have always been wonderful and easy to use. Love them!

      • Emmaleigh504

        I love Adams Morgan Animal hospital! I’ve only had Dr Boone, Sr and a part time lady vet they have. Everyone that I’ve met that works there has be FABULOUS. Dr Boone finds Donna Martin’s name hilarious. He laughs and laughs. Great people who love animals and their humans.

  • We have used Waggamuffin for walks and pet sitting for 4 years and love them!! They walk the pups alone or in sets of 2 or 3, depending on your dog- no huge group and super reliable walkers.

    In addition to what other people said, the road salt in the winter is a killer for DC pups. Not only do people go insane and use an absurd amount, but a lot of it has chemical de-over that will burn your pup’s paws. Mine start horribly limping within a block or two of contact and have blood red skin in between their pads of they get it on their feet. I know winter is a ways away, but something to keep in mind.

    • Good point! We have tried using little booties on ours but his paws are almost too small for any of them to stay on. You can also use a layer of Vaseline on their paws to help with it a bit. I think they sell lotions/balms that will help protect their paws too.

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