By Vicki Cleaver,
CleverPawz Dog Training
AS a professional dog trainer, one of the things I hear the most is “it’s okay, my dog is friendly.”
Yes, that may be true, but that friendly dog may be having a “bad fur day” and just that once, behaves rudely towards your puppy.
This could leave the puppy terrified and shaking, causing a lot of emotional harm, especially if it is during the critical socialisation period.
So, what are the social norms and why is it acceptable?
Do you allow your dog to greet other dogs on leash?
Ask a professional dog trainer and the answer is likely to be, don’t do it.
This is based on the thousands of hours they have spent learning about the application of current scientific theory and are well versed in reading dog body language, which can determine well before if an interaction is not going to be a pleasant one.
Ask pet owners and many believe it’s okay and often even encouraged.
When you go shopping, do you say hello to every stranger that passes by?
Similarly, for our furry friends, not every dog is a social butterfly and often it is not safe to do so.
Let’s take Milo who is not a “happy camper” when it comes to greeting other dogs on a leash.
The leash restriction inhibits his ability to get away.
His behaviour is translated into barking, jumping, pulling and lunging on leash at the other dog.
He is wearing a collar and the collar tightens around his neck and causes physical pain.
This scenario happens within seconds and then leashes are tangled around owners’ legs, tempers have flared, dogs can’t get away and it has turned into an unsafe situation.
Does this sound all too familiar?
Pet owners may even yank their dogs away and then yell and growl at them for “naughty behaviour.”
So not only has the dog felt physical pain with the collar tightening, but the dog has also been reprimanded when all it was attempting to do was create distance from the other dog.
Our scientific research informs us that dogs learn by association and there are always consequences to behaviour.
Milo has now learnt that dogs and/or people equal pain, and as he is unable to escape the situation, next time he will continue to lunge, bark and react in order to make the other dog go away well before he even gets close.
Hence a “reactive” behaviour has been trained.
Given social norms exist and here are some basic protocols.
But, I am still going to maintain, don’t do it.
Dog-to-dog greetings – if you must
You are awesome. Build a trust account so your dog wants to hang with you despite distractions.
Reward your dog with “yummy roast chicken” for calm behaviour around dogs.
Train your dog to walk on a loose leash beside you.
Preferably, set up initial greetings with dogs known to each other.
Ask permission for your dog to say hello.
Learn to read the body language of dogs. A wiggly body and wagging tail are good signs versus a stiff body posture, ears back or tail tucked between the legs, which may indicate an unsafe greeting.
Keep leashes loose to avoid any aversive, such as pain in the neck or being yanked away.
Avoid confrontational head on interactions, rather curve towards the butt.
Three second rule – one, two, three and exit in an excited tone. Reward for coming with you.
“Give Your Dog Space Jackets” are helpful to pet owners.
Sadly, the minority of people seek out the services of professional positive dog trainers to train their dogs to avoid these situations.
The majority of people only seek professional help when something goes seriously wrong.
Be your dog’s advocate and just don’t do it.
Caption: Photo credit: School of the Dogs.