written by Kat Kelly
Cities are becoming increasingly more dog friendly, which is awesome for those of us with four-legged friends! Dog-friendly restaurants/bars, outdoor events specifically for pups, and an array of lovely parks are just a few perks of living in these dog friendly communities. Of course, with so many dogs around, some challenges may start to crop up.
One of the trickier situations we encounter is when dogs meet on leash. A leash is a type of barrier, just like a fence or crate is. In this way, the leash can be a source of frustration or create a feeling of being “trapped” for some dogs. Many dogs are fine meeting on leash, however some may be reactive and could be triggered by another stepping into their “bubble”. There are some dogs who may actually be dog-aggressive, with or without a leash on. The trouble is, it can be impossible to tell before the dogs are already nose-to-nose.
So, here are some tips to make sure outings are positive experiences, for both doggies and humans alike!
1. Give Space:
When encountering another dog on a walk, leaving at least a leash distance (~6ft) of space will keep frustration down for excitable dogs and stress down for anxious dogs. If either dog is dog-aggressive or reactive, this space will give the owner time to say “Please give us space, my pup is not friendly!” and both can safely go on their ways.
2. Side-by-side Walking:
If you are in a situation where a meeting of your dogs might be inevitable (e.g., a family gathering, neighborhood picnic, etc.) then you can use the technique of… side by side walking! Instead of forcing your dogs to meet nose-to-nose, have the other owner walk their dog next to you as you walk yours, leaving plenty of space between them. Both people can work their respective dogs with treats and keeping focus on their owner. This lets the pups get accustomed to the other’s presence, scent, and energy in a fun positive way. If, after a good 5 minutes of this parallel walking, everyone is keeping the peace and things are going smoothly, then you can both move onto polite greetings.
3. Polite Greetings:
While in the process of parallel walking, drop back with your dog, and allow your dog to sniff the other dog from behind. Allow no more than 3 seconds, then gently guide your dog back towards you and continue walking. In the dog world, this is a much more polite greeting than meeting nose-to-nose, which could be intimidating or uncomfortable for some dogs. If that went well, switch it up! Let the other dog have a chance to greet from behind. If things are going well, you will probably get a doggie pinwheel (lots of sniffing and circling of each other) and it is off to the races! (Just watch out for leash tangling) If both dogs are still a little unsure, or only one is, that is completely fine. Give some space back and maybe try side-by-side walking again a little later.
4. Meet humans politely too!
Being on a leash when meeting new people can also cause anxiety for some dogs, especially if it is a mini human, a.k.a. children. Space is key here again, at least until you see how your dog may be feeling about this new person. If you sense any nervousness, or you know your dog is not a fan of new people, feel free to ask for even more space and continue on your way. If you know your dog loves new human pals, ask for a Sit as the newcomer approaches, and reward for polite behavior. Do not feel pressured to let your dog meet new people if he/she is uncomfortable. It is ok to say no!
5. Ask for Permission:
Walking right up on someone with a dog you do not know is not only rude, but potentially dangerous. If you would like to meet a new doggie, always ask “Is your dog friendly?” or “May I meet your dog?” first. This will give their owner time to say “Yes, of course!” allowing for a polite greeting, or “No, sorry!” which is perfectly acceptable as well for any reason. As a dog lover myself, it is sometimes hard to hear that you cannot pet an adorable fluffy pup, but I always respect the owners wishes. Even if I think my dog is the friendliest thing to ever exist, another dog may not agree. Not all dogs are destined to be best buds, despite what Disney movies may have taught me. So play it safe and ask first!
While you enjoy the last warm evenings of the year, make sure your fuzzy friend is enjoying them too! Keeping potential encounters while on-leash either nonexistent or as stress-free as possible is a great way to make sure outdoor hang-out sessions are a fun time for all.