You may be out for a walk with your dog and it’s all too common to hear “it’s ok my dog is friendly” or “can they say hello?” as another dog and owner approach without hesitation. Their dog may be leashed but the owner tends to be following the dog’s lead. Also, the dog may also be unleashed, coming towards you unrestricted. So is it ok for dogs and owners who have never met before to meet in this unstructured manner? The simple answer is no, it is not ok. If you stop to consider all the reasons why, you will be protecting both your dog and the other dogs you encounter.
First, we’ll take the perspective of the owner with the approaching dog. Let’s take a look at some reasons why it is not a good choice to let your dog greet other dogs, even if he happens to be a social butterfly.
Does your dog listen to your basic obedience cues?
In these situations, basic obedience is key. It is especially important to have reliable recall to get your dog back to you should you see any questionable circumstance come up. This is a matter of safety. Also, what is the end goal of your dog interacting with the other dog? If you are looking to socialize your dog with another dog, this would not be the best way to begin.
Now, let’s consider the other dog. There are a few key questions to ask yourself as you consider whether or not the dog would possibly be approachable:
- Have you ever seen this dog before?
- What do you know about the other dog’s history?
- Do you know anything about it’s temperament?
- What do you know about it’s relationship with it’s owner?
If you have never met or don’t know much about the dog, keep your distance. Consider the following partial list of some of the many reasons why another dog and owner don’t want to be approached. The dog may be any of these:
- In training and trying to learn
You may be thinking that your dog gets along with everyone, people and dogs, and you’ve never had a problem. If so, count yourself lucky and know that random greetings can happen without a significant incident. However, it’s always a roll of the dice, especially if you are not paying close attention to each dog’s body language. As a trainer, I regularly am called on to unravel issues that have come up when these seemingly innocent greetings “suddenly” turned undesirable and even dangerous. The benefit you think your dog (or puppy) is getting from these short meetings is never worth the risk of a bad experience.
To help facilitate better meetings, remember the following:
- If your dog is off leash, never let him go greet another leashed dog. Call him back to you.
- If your dog is on leash, control the distance between dogs (lock the leash if it is retractable).
- Communicate with the other owner. A dog may look well behaved but may be working hard to do this. Always ask before approaching.
- Understand that not all dogs are friendly all the time. Support that dog and owner by respecting the boundaries.
What if I am the owner/dog being approached?
Now, let’s shift roles. If you are the owner of the dog being approached, you will need to be a strong advocate for your dog and do your best to take control of the situation. When you hear “it’s ok, my dog is friendly,” always be ready to speak up and let the other owner know it’s not ok for their dog to approach. Tell them why and keep it simple. Repeat yourself as needed. Short phrases like “no, my dog’s not friendly” or “no, my dog needs space” are appropriate. It is not only ok but necessary and very helpful for you to say no to the interaction. Keep guiding your dog through the process. Give space to get distance from the dog as needed and as you are able.
When is it ok to let dogs greet each other?
Think of the times you have seen two people talking while their dogs calmly wait. The conversation is an interaction between the owners, and the dogs are waiting on their owners to tell them what’s next. The dogs are focused on their owners more than each other. The owners have control and can decide what is the best next step towards further socializing the dogs.
Dogs that aren’t social aren’t automatically bad dogs, they are just dogs with different needs. If we each do our part to listen to other owners about their dog’s needs, we will go a long way in keeping all our dogs safe. Teaching your dog to learn how to have good interactions can help lead to more good interactions. Instead of having to take care of possible traumas and the aftermath, it is far better to avoid incidents in the first place.
Contact Perfect Manners today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced trainers. We would love to help solve any leash walking issues you may have.