2 Words You Should Never Say To Your Dog

On average I walk dogs roughly two to three hours every day. In that time I meet my fair share of dog owners and our dogs meet and greet before moving on. There are two words that I hear far too regularly. They make me instantly alert and prompt me to move on as fast as possible. Be nice. 

When someone tells their dog to “be nice” it instantly tells me they’re worried they won’t be. That’s incredibly unfair to me and the dogs I’m walking. They have made the decision to gamble with my dogs. That’s not their decision to make. 

If you think there is a chance your dog will react badly to greeting other dogs then you need to take action. Put your dog on a lead, curve out of their path and give them a little warning “Hey, she’s not always that friendly”. 


It’s Not Fair On Your Dog Either

If your dog is reacting badly to greeting other dogs then that tells us there is a problem. For whatever reason your dog is unhappy in the situation. Stop forcing them into it. It doesn’t help to put them in an environment they don’t have the skills to deal with. You need to prevent it happening by avoiding other dogs until you can hire a professional trainer or behaviourist to help you. They can guide you through how to overcome the problem. 


doberman confidence
Ticoh with his Tug-E-Nuff Toy

The Fall Out: Meet Ticoh 

Ticoh (photo above) is a young Doberman I walk five days a week. He’s just under a year old and so he’s particularly sensitive to the experiences he gets. A few weeks ago I was walking Ticoh in a local woods. A lady with four dogs began to approach me on the path. One of her dogs was a muzzled sighthound. As the lady did nothing to stop the dog greeting us or to indicate any problem I assumed it was friendly. Lots of sighthounds wear muzzles to stop them killing squirrels, rabbits and such should they spot one. 

When the dog got near he targeted Ticoh muzzle punching him, growling and chasing after him. After the initial fiasco Ticoh ran back to me squealing and looking for some protection and reassurance. 

The lady turned to face me looking tense as if she was anticipating verbal abuse. I told her to put her dog on lead if she ever saw me again which she agreed to and I walked off frustrated. 


The Result of Her Gamble

Before this interaction Ticoh had always greeted other dogs confidently and politely. Ticoh’s a difficult dog to live with in many respects but his social skills were fairly impeccable. In the several greetings with other dogs we’ve met since this event Ticoh has; squealed and ran away from two excitable but friendly Whippets and growled whilst faux-charging dogs with his hackles up on two other occasions. 

He’s scared. This other dog owner’s gamble has resulted in Ticoh being scared of other dogs. Her split second decision to gamble that her dog would be fine will result in months of confidence building. If I wasn’t a dog trainer perhaps I wouldn’t do that confidence building. I might make a few bad socialisation decisions and end up with a dog-aggressive doberman. 

[Further Reading: Behaviour Adjustment Training 2.0 by Grisha Stewart (Amazon US)


Be Responsible 

Put your dog on a lead. Curve out of other dog’s way. Give other dog owners a shout to warn them. Contact a professional. Dogs like Ticoh everywhere will thank you for it. 


6 thoughts on “2 Words You Should Never Say To Your Dog

  • September 1, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    And what about dogs who run up to a reactive dog on lead? Believe me it’s a nightmare and undoes all the hours of previous positive work, despite me asking them to recall.

    • September 1, 2016 at 10:00 pm

      I agree Karen it is a nightmare! I did a video on just this subject several months ago which would be worth a watch and I will link below. Grisha Stewart has some good tips on this in her book BAT 2.0. Throwing some treats in the approaching dogs direction can also sometimes help bide you some time to make an escape.

      Here is the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CO5yr3evnbk

  • September 4, 2016 at 4:02 am

    excellent advice!

    • September 4, 2016 at 10:54 am

      Thank you Amy!

  • September 25, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    I used to say it to my dog but she would be on a lead.
    It was the other owners who gambled with their dogs & and left me with no choice.
    Suggesting to other owners to keep their dogs away rarely worked, moving off the path rarely worked. Shame to put the onus on one owner….sorry if I appear a bit defensive here but owners ignoring my pleads to keep their dogs away have ruined many walks.


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