The Urban Dog: tips on an appropriate meet and greet
There is a common and somewhat strange social pressure to let or encourage our dogs meet other dogs they see while on leash in the community. It may be because seeing our dog happy brings us so much joy, but is also may be that we think our dog has to or wants to meet and greet all other dogs. This is truly not the case. In fact, teaching your dog that sometimes we greet dogs while on leash, but most of the time we do not, is my professional suggestion and preference.
You see, the leash (and sidewalks) are not designed to allow dogs to approach the way they naturally or appropriately should meet and greet each other in off leash settings.
In the dog world, an appropriate initial interaction would include a very large C shaped curved approach from a distance. Because leashes do not allow a dog to freely engage, in fact, they often frustrate the dog and prevent them from being able to approach another dog on their terms – we commonly see poor leash greetings (and even aggression) creep up over time.
Many dogs are not pro-dog social with all other dogs. Many dogs are fearful or unsure or even selective about who they do and do not feel comfortable engaging with. The confines of a leash actually exasperate this fear/apprehension/discomfort, which in time can lead to leash aggression or frustration (barking, lunging, growling on leash).
- To avoid putting your dog in assumed enjoyable situations with other dogs on leash, always look for calm, confident behaviour from your dog & the other dog before choosing to approach. This looks like a calm relaxed tail wag (not high, fast, rapid wags), neutral body tension and a gentle eagerness to move forward.
- If you do choose to let your dog meet another dog on leash, make sure to keep the interaction brief (3-10 seconds).
- Keep the leash nice and loose during the entire interaction (tension will cause any potential for conflict to increase).
- Use a happy voice while they engage to help diffuse tension, and then move on!
- Walk your dog on a front clipping, well fitted anti-pull harness to reduce neck tension/leash frustration.
- If your dog is fixated, excessively pulling, lunging, barking, is standing stiff/tall/alert, unable to listen to any cue that you give it, then I would encourage you to turn around and walk another direction.
Calm leash greetings can be fun and socially appropriate, but the more excited your dog is, the less likely the interaction while on leash will go smoothly.
- Avoid correcting, punishing, shaming or physically interrupting your dog for any behaviour that you do not like (especially while around people or other dogs), instead focus on what you want them to do instead and reinforce the more desired behaviour with praise, play or food rewards
- We encourage you to toss any training equipment that is used to reduce pulling/poor leash manners such as a prong collar, choke chain, shock collar as these have been deemed non-ethical by the BCSPCA.
It is important to know your dog, their comfort levels, their social interests & do your due diligence to ensure it is a positive interaction for both dogs.
Lastly, what gets rewarded, gets repeated. If your dog is pulling, whining, obsessing and jumping to gain access and approach another dog – and you continue to walk towards the other dog, you are inadvertently rewarding your dog for all of these undesirable behaviours, by allowing them to sniff/approach the other dog!
Get calm, patient and polite behaviour before rewarding them with an interaction if they seem to be keen to meet and greet.
Until next time, happy meet ups!