Pet Etiquette in Fort Collins: How Do we Rate?


In a city like Fort Collins, pets are a large part of our lifestyle. They join us on trips, during a stroll through Old Town or to hang out with friends and family at social gatherings. Although dogs are the most mobile, cats are part of the mix when it comes to dealing with neighbors or guests in the home. And what about exotic pets that need delicate handling? Should friends and guests be interacting with them at all?

Creating clear boundaries as a pet owner and “admirer” is essential to handling situations when pets and people come together, but both sides don’t always agree on the rules of pet etiquette. That being said, what exactly ARE the rules of pet etiquette? What is appropriate for people to do or expect? Well, aside from the picking up after your pet kind of thing…


Animals, Owners and Using Common Sense to Read the Room

Animals can be a bit unpredictable. Even the best trained animals have slips ups.

For example, my friend had us over for a holiday dinner, and I made Snickerdoodles from scratch. We left them on the table with the rest of the pot luck items, and a while later we hear a crash. I asked my friend if we should go check and see if the dog got anything off the table, and she immediately said, “He knows better than to do that, so it’s all good.” A few minutes later I wander into the kitchen for something else, and sure enough, he was gobbling down the last of my cookies. Not only was my friend totally surprised, but mortified because she is an excellent dog trainer.

This is a funny example, but it can also be a bit more dangerous if you aren’t mindful of your surroundings and reading clues. That means it’s up to you to read room and make the best choice. In my opinion and in my experience as a pet sitter, the animal and owner give you clear signals, if you pay attention.

Here are a few common scenarios I think can help people on both sides of the fence (pun intended) and support healthier human/animal interactions.

pet snake Mango on Irina Jordan's hands...

Man-handling someone’s animal while you are out and about in town or visiting a person’s home. Always ask an owner first if it’s OK to pet their animal, and watch for the animals’ reaction to see if they are OK with it too. After all, they are the one getting touched and you wouldn’t like it if someone started randomly groping you! Each pet is different, and needs to be approached differently to see if they are receptive.


Mind your kiddos! Be sure children don’t get too close and startle a pet and vice versa – that can cause stress for everyone involved. This situation can be a bit more challenging when you are visiting a person’s home, but it’s important that someone supervise kiddos (especially young ones) because the rules that apply in your house with your pets, may not fly at friend’s house. It’s also a good idea to ask people about a pet’s disposition before you come to their home with children.

Managing how your pet interacts with other humans and pets. Don’t assume everyone you meet wants to connect with your pet, especially at common community events like fairs and farmer’s markets. What you think is cute other people may find annoying and invasive. I’ve known dogs that jump up on me while their owners are standing there and nothing is done to restrain them, aside from a verbal reprimand. As a short, petite person, when large dogs do this it’s a bit intimidating. As a defense, I usually gently knee a dog in the chest, but, it shouldn’t have to get to that point. Just know that is an acceptable reaction to get the dog to come down to all fours.

Pet interaction is obviously also a common issue in parks and with dogs off-leash. As the enforcement of leash laws for dogs becomes more restrictive in Fort Collins, it will be interesting to see how this impacts clashes. Dog parks can also be full of challenging behavior cases as the dogs run and do their thing, and not all owners are equally mindful. Do your best to check out the situation each time and see if it’s a park that will actually work for you and your dog before you let set them free.


Cats, neighbors and leash laws. Despite the fact we have a leash law for cats in Fort Collins, cats are still out and about in many neighborhoods. I’m fine with indoor/outdoor cats, but neighbors (especially with HOA’s and beautiful gardens are typically not). While I’m bummed my cats now have to stay indoors, I also think neighbors need to relax a bit when dealing with cats and their behaviors. Yes they sometimes dig into gardens, but there are also things you can do to keep them out. And who’s to say it’s definitely a cat and not a wild animal?

These common scenarios just scratch the surface of sharing life with other people and pets, but are common things that happen in a pet-friendly city. What do you think about how people and pets get along in Fort Collins? Are they courteous or clueless? What things drive you crazy? 

I also wanted to end this post saying that I’m so thrilled Oreo, official kitty of the Armstrong Hotel, has been reunited with his owners. He is an amazing cat I’m so glad you are all back safe and happy together! As for the people who took him, you clearly have no clue about pet etiquette or possess even a shred of common sense. You took an animal away from his safe home and abandoned them, risking their life and terrifying them to boot. Shame on you.

Photo credit: Jacob Feuer , Katie, Nataliya Ford, Greg Eichelberger 

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