There are many dogs out there who like dogs but their friends need to be chosen wisely or new dogs in homes who are still aroused in unfamiliar environments and may be barking as a way to cope. The random street greeting should not be an assumed and many folks who say “my dog is aggressive” quite frankly don’t have the time to say, “he’s afraid of big dogs and you look like you are not paying attention so it’s easier for me to say my dog is aggressive”. So, just because someone tells you that, does not mean you should run away screaming but you should respect that they do not want their dog to say hi, they should be allowed to do so and are probably doing you a lovely favor by walking on their merry way.
A guardian and their dog avoiding the random street greeting is not something to be afraid of or to label your neighbor’s dog as “bad”. What scares me more than a guardian who has come to terms with their dog’s uncertainty around other dogs is when I see tension building with one or both dogs as two guardians laugh and smile at the end of very tight leashes. Leash and body tension can very quickly turn sniffs, wags and pounces into snarls, growls, lunges and even bites. It can happen to your dog, here are some ways to keep your dog friendly and safe.
1. Make it a rule to ask every single dog guardian if their dog is friendly. If they hesitate or say “sometimes”, politely move on. It’s tough for people to come to terms that their maturing dog is growing more choosy over his canine pals or that a one-time attack has caused a huge impact on how their pooch views others. Bottom line, your job is to keep your dog safe and if it means not sniffing another dog’s butt, he can get plenty of social time with dogs you know love other dogs.
2. Watch body language, people and dogs. If you see someone silently getting further away from you or trying really hard to get their dog’s attention because they spotted you and Fifi, it might be a sign they don’t want their dog to say hello to yours. It is so hard to say out loud “my dog is not friendly”, respect their space and you will keep your dog safe. It’s also important to learn some canine body language so you know when your sweet puppy’s greeting is appropriate or when one or both dogs are close to getting into trouble.
3. Teach your dog some leash manners and pay attention to him. Not only does your dog get rewarded for naughty behavior if you allow him to pull you to every Fido you approach, but his body language as he strains at the end of the leash may not be sending good vibes to the other dog. This rule also assumes that you are paying attention to your dog when you walk him, a 90-lb. dog in one hand and a cell phone in the other is not a good idea. Your dog only gets your undivided attention a small portion of the day, do the right thing and train him to be relaxed on leash and keep your eye on him when in all public places. Just because you are in a vet clinic, doggie daycare or dog-friendly shop does not give you freedom to drop your leash.
4. If your dog is “sometimes” friendly, don’t chance it. Educate yourself, get help and train him to focus on you rather than “sometimes” getting snarky with neighborhood pups. Your dog does not have to say hello to every dog you pass. You could hug every single person you pass on the street, but you don’t. Please give your neighbor a big thumbs up when they tell you their dog is not friendly, the social stipulation in the human world makes that so difficult to say out loud. And, you keep your dog-friendly dog safe.