You’re walking your dog. Someone else is walking their dog. Your pup is so excited to meet a new friend, and it’s tempting to go over for a sniff. But this isn’t always in your dog’s best interest — or the other dog’s.
Photo by Virginia State Parks.
Dog trainer David Tirpak writes that on-leash greetings “cause reactivity, condition excitement, and put dogs in immensely uncomfortable situations”. This isn’t true of dogs’ interactions at a place such as a dog park, where either pup can walk away if they’re not that into their new friend.
So why are greetings a problem? Every dog is different, but these are some of the issues:
- If greetings stress your dog out, they often learn that barking, growling or lunging can make another person go away. So then you have a leash reactive dog.
- If your dog isn’t stressed, but just super happy to meet a new friend, you’re still unwittingly training them to be a pulling, lunging, barking arsehole on a leash. “By allowing your dog to say hi to every dog or person that they see on the walk we are essentially telling them, ‘Get excited every time you see a dog,'” Tirpak says.
There’s also another big safety issue: Even if your dog has perfect manners, the other dog may be a growling, biting jerk. (Regardless of whether their owner says they’re friendly.) I have one of those other dogs myself — she isn’t a big meanie, she just gets really nervous in this situation — and trust me, this is not a fun conversation to have:
Me: Please call your dog back. Mine doesn’t want to say hi.
Them: Oh, he doesn’t bite!
Me: Mine might. Please —
Them: [begins lecturing me about how dogs need to socialise]
My dog: Grrrrrrr
Their dog: YELP
Them: Oh crap.
My dog only growls and has never bitten anyone, but I can’t promise you’ll be that lucky with every strange dog. Be kind to your dog and to other people’s dogs by not running up to greet them. There’s plenty of time for butt-sniffing at the dog park.