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.
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.
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.