One thing I think almost everyone in New York has experienced is being out with their dog and having another dog owner chase you down the street, insisting that their friendly dog MUST say hi to your dog. I work with dogs who are in fact very friendly and would happily greet almost every dog, and I also work with dogs who would be happy to never meet another dog in their life. Some people are working on walking without stopping to say hi to every dog, some people are trying to help their dog become less scared of other dogs, and some people are trying to teach their dog not to bark and lunge at other dogs. And, one thing that they all have in common, is that they find it frustrating that people chase them down with their dogs, and do not respect the fact that they do not want their walk interrupted with a random person running over and insisting that the dogs greet each other.
I think that many people whose dogs like to say hi mean well when they bring their dog to say hi to EVERY single dog they see, but unfortunately this creates problems, and potentially leads to dangerous situations. It is a scenario I see far too often, friendly Fluffy stares at and then processed to runs right up to a dog who does not want to say hi, we’ll call him Ben. Ben then barks and lunges at Fluffy, Fluffy’s owner is appalled and offended that dear Fluffy not only doesn’t get to say hi, but also got barked at! The nerve of that owner, letting Ben bark at Fluffy!
This happens allllllll the time.
Now, when observing the above interaction most people would think Ben was in the wrong. And in fact, he was not. It was incredibly rude of Fluffy to stare at him, run over to say hi, invade his space, all without even checking to see if Ben wanted to interact. Ben was simply making himself very clear that he did not want to say hi. Ben had to do this because Fluffy and his owner were not respectful of Ben’s space and feelings in the first place.
There are about a hundred reasons that I could list that about why your dog should not say hi to other dogs on leash, I could even advise you to never allow this. But, we live in NYC and there are dogs like Fluffy and dogs like Ben everywhere. What we should all aim for are appropriate on-leash greetings with other dogs.
For some dogs, it is ok for them to say hi to dogs once in a while. Once in awhile means saying hi to only 1 out of every 10-20 dogs. Not most, or all dogs. If your dog is insisting on saying hi to every dog they see then they might be friendly, but they are not being polite. Not every dog wants to say hi and they need to respect that. Even if your dog is friendly, saying hi to every dog is a big red flag to an impolite greeter.
A calm, confident, respectful dog will not be approaching copious amounts of random dogs for no reason (just like we don’t shake hands with everyone on the train with us, there’s no reason to. And it would be SUPER creepy if someone was doing this)
The best thing you can do to keep your dog safe is to understand what an appropriate on-leash greeting looks like, and what an inappropriate on-leash greeting looks like. I have also included some pictures of both as basic examples. The lists below are a good place for you to start, but by no means are all-inclusive.
Appropriate On-Leash Greeting
Both dogs consent to the interaction (one of them is not running, walking, or turning away)
Short and Sweet
Dogs greet with loose body language, lots of curves through their necks and backs
They initially turn to sniff each other’s butts
If one dog turns or moves away the other dog does not follow
If one dog does not want to interact a polite dog will see this and continue walking without stopping to say hi
Approaching with a loose leash
Walking side by side on a walk
Inappropriate On-Leash Greeting
Often initiated by only one dog (top left)
Staring intensely at the other dog (bottom right)
The sneak “attack” when one dog comes up from behind on another dog
A dog who is at the end of their leash, staring and pulling towards an oncoming dog (top right)
Meeting face to face (bottom left)
Immediately mounting another dog
Refusing to continue to walk if they don’t get to say hi
Lying on the ground and then springing up as the dog approaches
Approaching the other dog with a tight leash, or pulling
Demand barking, or get-away from me barking at the other dog
If you are unsure if your dog is about to have an appropriate or inappropriate on-leash greeting you should air on the side of caution and opt not to stop and say hi. Remember, just because your dog is friendly does not mean he is being polite. He needs to not only be friendly towards other dogs, but also be respectful of other dogs.
© Leash and Learn 2020