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MISS CONDUCT

How do you get people to leash their dogs in places where it’s required?

Plus, finding the right words when the boss does something weird in a meeting.

How do I approach someone at a clearly marked “leash your dog” area? Most people make excuses as their dog jumps all over my leashed dog. I have pointed out in a friendly voice that “maybe you’re not aware this is a leashed area.” Often the reply is they know but unleash their dog anyway. One woman asked why I would bring my dog if I know no one follows the leash rule!

K.P. / Westwood

You’re already approaching them correctly; the fact that you’re not getting anywhere isn’t your fault. The lack of off-leash space for dogs in the Boston area is a real problem — the Globe had an article this month about the issue. For a long-term solution, start hitting meetings of town government and seeing if there are movements afoot for more dedicated space, or off-leash hours in existing space.

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In the short term, there isn’t much to do besides escalate to Animal Control, and if the situation looks dangerous, you should. If there’s a particular park or playing field you go to, there might be times of day when people are most likely to congregate for de facto, if not de jure, off-leash hours. If so, you can time your own visits accordingly. And your victim-blaming neighbor was morally in the wrong, but still pragmatically correct. If your pup is stressing out among the unleashed dogs, get them out of there — don’t insist on sticking around to make a point.


A co-worker had a one-on-one meeting with her manager during which said manager picked her toes. What could my co-worker have done or said? (Really, this happened to my friend, not me.)

Anonymous / Framingham

I’m tempted to say they could have done or said pretty much anything at that point, since the social contract had been violated — just go full absurdist, like on The Good Place when Chidi put the Peeps in the chili pot and made it taste bad.

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But we both know that’s not possible in the real world, so I’d say whatever principles your colleague normally uses when dealing with their boss should still apply. What’s the relationship like? How does the boss take criticism or feedback? What is the boss’s general level of social savvy? Do they have a sense of humor? For that matter, what would be your friend’s reason for speaking up? There’s a knee-jerk impulse to say something when a person breaks a social norm, but it’s not an obligation. Sometimes it’s best not to say anything. If you do, though, “Do you need a minute to take care of that?” or “We’re not on Zoom with the camera off, I can see you” or “Do you mind not doing that?” ought to do it.

(I’m using “you” rhetorically — I do believe this happened to your friend. In my experience, this is the kind of story that people want to claim as firsthand, if it is.)



Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.