Christine Hibbard, CTC, CPDT
You’re out on a relaxing walk with your dog when you see another owner walking towards you with their dog. The owner says to you, “can our dogs say hello”? How do you decide whether allowing your dog to greet a strange dog on leash is a good idea? After all, some of these greetings go beautifully with both dogs and owners parting company with a smile. Other greetings with dogs on leash go horribly wrong with both dogs and owners leaving the scene upset with pulses racing. What went wrong?
If you’re not sure how your dog will react to an unfamiliar dog on leash, my advice is simply don’t do it. You owe it to your dog to be their advocate and enough scary encounters with other dogs can result in your dog developing negative associations with other dogs. That’s something none of us wants to happen.
But what if your dog loves other dogs? How do you decide if that unknown dog will enjoy meeting your dog? After all, how many times have we said “yes” to the “can our dogs meet?” question and had the encounter go wrong? Here are some tips for making this dog/dog greeting decision and some tips on keeping the encounter a pleasant one.
How is the other dog looking at your dog? Is the other dog staring at your dog silently without looking away? Just say “no”. Polite dogs look and then look away, look and look away, they don’t stare. Is the other dog avoiding looking at your dog completely? Just say “no.” Some dogs won’t look away from your dog because they are anxious or fearful and there could be other reasons they can’t look away. Regardless, it’s still a “just say no” response to a dog/dog greeting.
Do you feel comfortable reading the other dog’s body language? I won’t go into a full blown description of dog body language here, but if the other dog seems uncertain (tail tucked, ears back, won’t look at your dog) then that other dog is afraid and regardless of whether that owner is trying to “socialize” their dog on leash, for your dog’s and the other dog’s sake, just say “no.”
Is your dog, the other dog, or both dogs dragging their humans toward one another? Some owners think this is a sign that their dogs will love meeting one another. This is a circumstance in which I always say “no.” Dogs are sensitive to barrier frustration (seeing another dog but not being able to get to them) and that combined with their oxygen supply being choked off if they’re on neck collars can cause the initial contact between the dogs to be too heated. Even if both dogs love other dogs, the level of excitement when they first meet can cause a scuffle between the dogs.
So, you see a dog on a loose leash coming towards you with relaxed body language, looking at your dog and looking away, ears up and rotated out. You decide to go for it and let your dog meet another dog on leash, now what?
Keep it brief. All most dogs want by way of a greeting is a a quick butt sniff. (Isn’t talking about dog behavior fun?) If both dogs go nose to nose (how rude!) one should veer off for the butt sniff. If one dog’s head goes above the other dog’s head, either play will break out or a scuffle will break out. If you’re lucky and play breaks out, drop the dogs’ leashes (if it’s safe to do so.) When dogs get tangled up and feel their escape route cut off, they can get afraid and play can tip to a scuffle. Again, keep it brief, thank your playmate’s owner and enjoy the remainder of your walk! If you want to talk with the owner of the other dog, separate the dogs after their initial greeting and put them on a sit next to you.
Do you have other tips for successful on leash greetings? Please take the time to share your knowledge and experience!
Brenda Huber says
The onleash lessons I learned in your Reactive Rover classes were phenomenal, and made the entire difference for us having an enjoyable walk!
Christine Hibbard says
I’m so glad to hear that your walks with Rambi continue to be enjoyable. You two were fantastic in class. It was so much fun to watch the improvement from week to week. Rambi got less reactive because of your excellent skills.
I’ve always found it helpful to make a point to introduce myself to the person on the leash. I think it reduces *my* anxiety and that seems to travel down-lead.
Great Article, Christine!
Thanks for this article! I needed this reminder, esp. since the giant breeds usually get one of two responses from other people: fear or a running full tilt “I must meet your dog!” I still have “advocate, advocate, advocate,” circulating in my head from our very first meeting a year ago. I now feel ok with saying “I’m sorry, but not today.” One leash issue I have come across (based on my breed) and it follows something one of my fellow giant breed friends planted in my head: sometimes it is not the dog-dog greeting that is the issue, but rather the people who are not paying attention to their dog or will not let you leave. I now size up the owners as much as the dog(s). 🙂
Steve Benedict says
I’ve read some of your other articles and the thread that seems to run through them is “use common sense”. I consider myself fairly good at observing dog psychology. However, I never come away from one of your posts without picking up something new. I hadn’t considered dropping the leash for a few moments, to avoid tangling or frustration. My dog Zac loves everybody and all other dogs, but he can get pretty excited if he’s restrained from butt sniffing, especially if the other dog is allowed to.
Thanks for the tips on greeting other dogs. It sounds like you’re saying: “when in doubt…leave it out.”
Christine Hibbard says
@Steve Benedict I guess I am saying “when in doubt leave it out”. *laugh* I love it! Thanks for taking the time to write Steve and thanks also for reading Behind the Behavior!
My dog, Max is overfriendly and ever eager to approach a dog – whether the other dog is hostile or otherwise. He will definitely be bitten by a dog who is startled by his gusto approach.
First timer to your blog and I am thrilled to have found it! I came to it because I want to understand why my wonderful dog who is totally socialized has such a visceral reaction to a certain dog in my building. Gordy is a Yorkie but a BIG Yorkie. He’s 25 lbs – if you put 2 standard yorkies side by side – thats how big Gordy is width wise – likewise if you put 2 stardard yorkies head to toe – that how long Gordy is. While his birth certificate says Yorkie – I suspect he’s probably an Australian Silky from the photos I ‘ve seen. Anyway.. there is one dog, BIG almost the size of a sheepdog but he’s totally black. Actually he looks like big black sheepdog. He’s so gentle and sweet but he brings out the beast in Gordy. The 2 Paragraphs I’ve quoted below seem to answer the question as to why Gordy who NEVER reacts like this to any other dog suddenly freaks out when he sees Matty. I mean HYSTERICAL barking, and mildly aggessive.
Is the other dog staring at your dog silently without looking away? YES!!
Matty just stares at Gordy dead on. He never turns away. The stare is intense – even I feel its intense so perhaps thats what triggers Gordy. You go on to say that “Some dogs won’t look away from your dog because they are anxious or fearful and there could be other reasons they can’t look away” YES! That describes Matty. Matty’s owner also steps in front of Matty when he sees Gordy because he knows Matty is fearful and he sees Gordy’s reaction which is to bark aggressively, and to want to get close to Matty. He would never hurt Matty, its not in his nature but I sense that Gordy was frustrated because he just can’t get close to Matty. It’s very strange for me because I never witness this behavior from Gordy under any other circumstances. My most Gordy/Matty encounter happened in our apt elevator. Matty’s owner came in with Matty who was on a leash and Gordy ( also on a leash) and I were already in the elevator… well Gordy got excited in a friendly way but this seemed to scare both Matty and Matty’s owner. So the owner stepped in front of Matty to put distance between Matty & GOrdy, but Matty’s face was clearly visible and my lord the dog would NOT stop staring but I could tell Matty was fearful also, especially since Gordy started barking I guess the Stare just scared Gordy. Out of instinct I pulled tighter on Gordy’s leash and eventually kneeled down and held Gordy’s collar and tried to calm him abit but he got more excited started jumping and pulling away from me so I grabbed his collar which as I know realize from what you wrote, this only added to the barrier frustration that Gordy was feeling. I have never heard of Barrier Frustration but when I read” “Dogs are sensitive to barrier frustration (seeing another dog but not being able to get to them) and that combined with their oxygen supply being choked off if they’re on neck collars can cause the initial contact between the dogs to be too heated” WELL DING DING DING! I knew what had happened. Between the staring and the barrier frustration Gordy went crazy! One Lesson Learned: Never let Gordy and Matty ride in an elevator together EVER. Matty’s owner will have to take the next elevator when I m on in with Gordy. But I have to wonder even if Gordy had not been on the leash, how much that might have minimized some of Gordy’s reaction?
Is your dog, the other dog, or both dogs dragging their humans toward one another?
GORDY always drags me to other dogs. He LOVES to sniff them and wants to play with them. But unless we are in an area that is enclosed like a real Off Leash park I can’t let Gordy off leash. He will simply chase after a leaf across a street if he sees another dog. That is partially his character and partially the lack of training he had when he was first bought by nephew –who lived in another city while attending university. When my nephew took the summer off to travel Gordy came to stay with my sister – and she invested in a dog trainer. But even she said he cannot be taken off leash during walks in the city.
Sorry for the LONG post but thank you for being accessible online. This has been most helpful. I will have to keep Gordy away from Matty because the dynamics won’t change between them –but at least I now understand whats caused Gordy’s behavior.
I think?? *smiles*
Christine Hibbard says
Thank you for taking time to leave your comment Tara. The highest compliment anyone can pay me is to say they learned something from what I’ve written. Gordy is lucky to have you!!
Thanks Christine, that’s very sweet of you.
I do have to admit I am abit confused about this statement ” Is your dog, the other dog, or both dogs dragging their humans toward one another? Some owners think this is a sign that their dogs will love meeting one another. This is a circumstance in which I always say “no.” Please help me to understand why.
As a background: Gordy loves being around other dogs but because he’s on a leash most times, he will try to drag me or perhaps its better to say he will tug me towards another dog and once he’s engaged in butt sniffing he moves on. If I say NO, and don’t move towards the other dog especially if its across the street or not organically crossing Gordy’s path — then Gordy will move on..he doesn’t put up a fight 9 out of 10 times, but sometimes he get stubborn & just SITS himself down and won’t budge until the other dog has crossed this path and then he gets up to butt sniff. He just loves being around other dogs and he walks once a day with a dogwalker in a fabulous park off leash with other dogs – so he’s socialized. I always figured If he was not on a leash he would just walk up to the dog and sniff and only tugs/drags because he’s on a leash.
Clearly.. my thinking seems a bit off in light of what you’ve said. 🙂
Thanks in advance for
Christine Hibbard says
“Please help me to understand why.” The reason why is that most dogs aren’t as polite as Gordy when they get to the other dog. Usually, once a dog has gotten so aroused/excited that it’s dragging the human towards the other dog, a scuffle ensues. Clearly, Gordy is a gentleman, despite being worked up on leash. Perhaps your Gordy is the exception to the rule?
I like to think Gordy’s exceptional but that’s just me!..LOL! But I must admit I am fascinated by the realization that a scuffle could ensue or that leash frustration exists. I never thought of it! I can manage his leash so it doesn’t restrict the free flowingness of a non leash encounter…esp if the other dog is off leash so maybe that mitigates some of the leash frustration he could otherwise feel… and even if both dogs are on leash I can still manage the leash so its not restrictive. If I don’t resist Gordy’s desire to greet the other dog and walk Gordy towards the other dog he approaches the dog in a calm and friendly dog like manner and sometimes even with a bit cautious trepidation – his frustration level is non existent if I m not resisting his desire to butt sniff 🙂 I do notice that at times he wants to play and if he’s on leash THAT becomes difficult. I am at the point now where if I m in my park and away from the street – I may try dropping his retractable leash and let him play freely with the other dog. But I have to admit I never would have thought twice about leash to leash encounter. They have all been so positive except for his fear of Matty which results in CRAZY Gordy.
I think it’s going to be hard to stop all leash to leash encounters, but I will minimize moving forward. But I always feel like I m a b*tch (excuse the pun ) if I deny him his butt sniffing pleasure. I’ll have to work on that.
Again thanks for your insight and your online presence!
I have a different problem with walking my year old english lab. She gets overly excited when meeting dogs, jumping and pulling, so I walk right on by with her. We used to try to greet them, but she gets too excited and disobedient. When we walk by, she then starts pulling and biting and jumping at the leash and at me. I continue to walk holding the leash firmly and not paying attention to her, and it takes her a little bit to settle down. She has even nipped at my jacket and hands trying to nip the leash. Her eyes are not focusing. I am not sure if she is playing or being aggressive. I would really like some help.
Christine Hibbard says
You have a leash reactive dog Kathryn. This article might help you understand your dog’s leash reactivity: . Many trainers hold classes. They are usually titled Growly Dog, Feisty Fido or Reactive Rover. You can always contact us privately via email: info at companionanimalsolutions.com (using the word “at” instead of the @ symbol to discourage spammers) with your location and we can try to refer you to someone in your area. Thanks for reading Behind the Behavior!
Our daughter has recently moved back home and she has a 1 yr old pit bull names Sayde. Sayde is a wonderful dog! She is sweet and loving and full of energy. The problem we are having (and our daughter has noticed) is that when she goes to meet dogs whether off leash or on she full on barrels over to them tail wagging and ready to play. She has never been aggressive towards another dog but has been growled at because she is overly excited and doesn’t know the proper etiquette for greeting another dog. She was rescued so we aren’t sure of her background other than there were 8 other dogs with her.
How do we teach her to greet properly? On leash we have made her sit or stand and let the other dog approach her and sniff etc. She will do this for about 1/2 a second and then will spin around to play.
Any help would be greatly appreciated, we have a Dane puppy coming soon and we don’t want her to pick up Sayde’s bad habits lol
Thanks in advance!
Christine Hibbard says
The bully breeds are called “bullies” for a reason. The most important thing to address now is the new puppy. Do not give the puppy and dog continuous access to one another. Their interactions should be supervised heavily so that the puppy doesn’t learn a bullying play style. Make sure that you find a good Puppy Kindergarten in your area that includes off leash play with other puppies his/her own age. Puppies that play continuously with adult dogs during their socialization window (the window is closing when their puppy teeth start falling out at 16 to 18 weeks) tend to learn to play too roughly.
Thank you Christine! We have let them have very little time together so far, sniffing and that’s about it. I hold Sayde (the pit) and tell her settle and let the puppy come to her but no play so far as Sayde is just too hyper lol NEVER unsupervised anything so we are safe there!
I will look for classes soon, once she has all her shots and get her in. Zarry (Dane puppy) is a smart, sweet girl and want to keep her that way 🙂
Again thanks for the info and advice 🙂
Christine Hibbard says
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recommends that puppies start Puppy Kindergarten beginning at eight weeks old: https://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/images/stories/Position_Statements/puppy%20socialization.pdf. If you wait until the dog has had ALL shots, the socialization window is closed and it’s too late. Here’s our article on finding a good Puppy Kindergarten, good luck! https://companionanimalsolutions.com/blogs/what-to-look-for-in-a-puppy-class/
Hi, my dog is new to me (she is a 2yr old Black Lab/Pointer) and has had no training on a leash, we seem to have mastered walking without pulling and we are both more relaxed when walking now, for awhile I was concerned I was going to end up with my arm pulled out of its socket! The only problem we still have and I have not managed yet to cure is she is leash reactive when she sees other dogs and cant get to them immediately.
She pulls on the lead and if I hold her back she lunges and shows aggressive behavior, hackles up and barking. She is socialized, friendly and loves other dogs and people. She is no longer distracted by other people or noises on the street, its only dogs that are still a problem.
I live in New Zealand so cannot attend one of your classes, any tips for me on how to help Gem (and myself) behave better when we see other dogs out walking on leashes around the city?
Thanks for any help you can offer.
Christine Hibbard says
Congratulations on all the progress you’ve made with your new rescue dog! She’s lucky to have been adopted by you. I recommend this short, easy to read book that includes a DVD of the trainer demonstrating exercises. It’s by Kim Moeller and is called Reactive Rover: https://astore.amazon.com/compaanimasol-20/detail/0578033798. Thanks for reading Behind the Behavior and keep us posted on your progress!
Hi there! My dog does some things you mention in the article, but I’m still not sure his behavior is addressed exactly, so I thought I’d ask. 🙂 He’s a rescue mutt (shepherd, pit, hound mix we think?) – we got him two years ago when he was one year old. He LOVES other dogs- so much that when he sees another dog (whether it be across the street, down the block) he stops, sits, and waits. He’s almost 80 pounds and super strong so I can’t just tug him along. I try to get his attention, but he just stares at the dog. He will sometimes lay down as the other dog approaches. I’ve heard this is friendly behavior – trying to look less intimidating/smaller than the other dog, but most owners find it worrisome and walk their dog around mine. When/if the dog comes close he’ll sometimes stand up in a natural way and sniff, but other times he’s do what I call the “happy lunge” at the dog – excitable and ready to play and sniff. Any ideas on how to get him to pay attention to me and follow my lead when he decides to get stubborn and try to meet his new dog friends? Thanks!
My Wheaten was attacked several years ago. As a result, on walks, he waits, lays down and as a strange dog approaches- lunges still the dog barking. I am now trying yo avoid leashed interactions either strange dogs. He is find at the dog park, class, or dog beach. Please advise.
Similar to Diana above. We picked up our rescue dog on weekend. He is a pugx staffy we think, paper wk says puggle x terrier, beautiful 2 yr old boy. He has basic obedience as in sit, stay for crossing roads and he walks on the lead, but is out in front the whole time. The issue I’m finding hard to find info on though, is that he is a “POUNCER”. that is he greets most other dogs nicely, sniffing over then a little pounce – like, lets play, come on. But, not all dogs or owners take to this nicely and then there is some barking from other dogs once he does this. Any advice would be greatly appreciated to help meet well and cut the pouncing!
Ulrika Muller says
Hi there, just found this page and thought I might ask…our very gentle and loving Mini Dachshund (bitch) is 3 and very hard to bring into a meeting w other dogs (except other Daxies:)) she will either stop and wait until they have passed or walk long route around meeting dog -this is if she is off the leash. If on the leash she will wag her tail but go to barking attack..? Very rare that she manages to pass any dog/breed without either one of these reactions. If I stop and talk with other dog owner she sits between my legs and is very shy towards the other human trying to greet her:( Although this behaviour is annoying she is absolutely amazingly loving and caring towards the family and friends to the family and guards the house well, lol, any advice on how to make her friendly towards other dogs would be much appreciated. Warm regards, Ulrika & little Belle.
judy keller says
Hi my problem has just recently happened my Doberman fe. 3 years old has always been good with people as well as dogs will sniff than walk away, here is my problem this week neighbor was walking KO-JO a small 15 lb dog who is very aggressive nobody can touch him mean mean, well my fe.doby ran out front door as I left it cracked and she saw this dog on road walking on leash and my dog ran up to it tried to sniff and ko-jo grabbed at her agressivly and you know can guess the rest my doby grabbed it bit it .I have been crying for days the dog is ok but the owner is very angery to the point where I may give up my dog she has made me feel that my dog is dangerous . Now my vet says that she knows my dogs well and will vogue that the ar nor aggressive dogs, Need so expert advise thank you.
I’m sorry to hear about your dog’s experience. If you are concerned about legal issues related to the situation, an attorney who specializes in animal law will be able to advise you on your rights and responsibilities in your municipality. Making sure your dog can’t get out and is under your control will be very important in keeping your dog safe from future incidents.
It’s been 3 years since we adopted our Australian Shepherd. On the whole, 97% of the time, she is a fabulous sweet girl. Loves people, kids and lives with a cat. We have her in agility, frisbee, bike riding, etc. So she gets lots of exercise.
Problem is that she shows signs of prey aggression. Three times this year, she has grabbed small dogs by the throat and shook them.
The first time was a little white dog – off leash that appeared out of no where. My dog was on leash and she reached out, grabbed the dog by the neck and shook it. Then released it. It just shook itself off and continued on it’s way.
The 2nd time was once again.. my sister’s dashund who my dog gets along with. I went to feed my dog and thought the dashund was in the other room. (We always manage our dogs feeding, making sure our cat or other animals are not around) When I came around the corner with my dog and the food dish… there was the little dog and my dog latched on and shook her. Partly my fault… I should have double checked where the other dog was. $100. in vet bill
Another time was outside and there were 4 dogs off leash. All was fine and then my dog grabbed the pomeranian by the neck and shook her. My husband pried our dog’s jaw open and the vet said that’s what tore the fur back. 18 stitches and $830. vet bill.
She does it so fast that we don’t even see it coming. She never chases and gives no warning sound, so it’s not that kind of prey aggression.
Sometimes while on a walk, my dog will meet another dog. The meet will go well, but when we go to walk away, my dog will try to grab the other dog. I don’t understand because the meet went well.
Any insight on this? I appreciate your comments and help
Elaine Hurford says
Hi – Great posts, and very interesting reading from other dog owners
I have a year-old rescue dog, mixed-breed, about Dalmatian size, called Grace.
According to my friend Claire who is a canine ethologist, Grace hasn’t learnt appropriate
social skills (including butt sniffing) because she spent the first 5,5 months of her life with her mother, and later her remaining two siblings. She and the others were taken to a lovely foster home every evening where there are lots of other animals, and returned to the shelter in the daytime. Grace is very nervy – small chattering groups of kids induce severe panic attacks – and I’m trying to combat her frights about all kinds of other things by taking her on leash into all kinds of different environments with me. She is an excellent car traveller and also stays quietly under the table if I’m at a restaurant – an outdoor one. She LOVES other dogs and barrels up to them full of joy and exuberance not, I now see, going through the appropriate rituals. I have never seen her butt-sniff, ever. Because she doesn’t Talk Dog, I think, she is now being beaten up on by more dominant dogs including her erstwhile best friend a GSD called Sophie. She adores Sophie and still greets her effusively with a load of chop-licking, but then Sophie simply dives in and bites her muzzle and neck. No blood, yet…..Claire (my behaviourist friend) has said no off-leash encounters for them until Sophie has learnt not to go from Zero to 100% in a millisecond, because the tumbling she gives Grace can easily tip over into real aggression. Yesterday Sophie, on leash, totally ignored Grace until she was given a turn to play off-leash once Grace had had her games with the other dogs. I leashed Grace so Sophie could go free and play – but instead, Sophie turned round and from a cold start, went for Grace in no uncertain terms. That long period of ignoring Grace was obviously very telling, I now gather from your post above! A little later Grace, now still on lead, met a bull terrier also very fortunately in a harness but on a terrifyingly worn and fragile lead! – and without further ado he made several lunges at her which the owner said meant play but I didn’t think so and Grace was clearly terrified.
I have to teach Grace to speak Dog properly or else other more dominant dogs will continually take advantage of her social ineptness and pile in!
What to do?
Hi there! I have a 1 year old wheaten terrier, Theodore. He sits and waits for other dogs to say hi to him and if not, continues on. I was wondering if this is bad behavior. I thought he was being polite but, someone yelled at me today. Can you advise? Thanks so much!
I would say it was the person who yelled at you who has bad behavior! Some people expect that all dogs need to greet each other in a specific way that meets their expectations. I’d much rather have a dog that sits back and waits to see if the other dog is interested than one that charges up to every dog expecting a polite greeting. Your dog sounds just fine.
My shelter dog showed no signs of leash reactivity to other dogs until 2 months after I adopted her. It could have been “age onset”, could have been the Jack Russell that slipped off her tie out cable to greet us while we were taking a walk. Or perhaps it was because at that time she was finally off antibiotics for bad neck wounds from an embedded prong choke collar and finally felt normal and perkier without that antibiotic . So greeting on leash is an issue I’ve given a great deal of thought over the past 15 months….along with how a leashed dog greets a loose dog that seems to pop over out of nowhere and how a leashed dog greets a dog friend who is sitting in his driveway hoping we’ll both stop to say “Hi”.
My dog has always stood very still on leash and let loose dogs run up and check her out. She will peer down at the little ones and do more of the normal dog arc stance with the larger ones her size. Always very polite. I do believe that little dogs, on leash or off, are at a bit if a disadvantage in being able to avert their glance as is polite in dog talk. They need to look up to see the other dog properly and to avert their glance they lose peripheral vision and since they are not on the same level the traditional butt sniff is difficult for them. There is a little black dog in our village we encountered one day while walking. He too was on leash and my dog was huffing & puffing nervously but basically saying “I WANT TO GREET HIM!” So his owner and I stopped (we’ve chatted casually before) and I said ” I’m going to chat with you like we are best friends because that helps diffuse the tension for the dogs since all 4 of us are greeting really.” It went well , we walked together for a few yards, the dogs were still eyeballing each other a bit warily but with an attitude of ” well…..maybe it’s okay, not sure…” Quite un -intended we encountered this lady and dog two more times on our walk up and down various streets. By the third encounter my dog essentially gave the body language of “oh …..yeah…..it’s him again….shrug” and as the lady and I chatted my dog let the little guy walk underneath her to smell what his nose could reach, her belly. And they turned together like buddies to look at a leashed Lhasa that walked by and they seemed sort of miffed that he kept walking without greeting them!
My dog on leash still gets pully and wiggly as we walk if she sees her geriatric golden retriever friend sitting in her yard. I get my dog collected, yes, we’ll greet, they do a very quick “yay! It’s you!!” greet then my dog investigates the smells in the shrubbery and the golden targets me because I carry a treat bag. This has also happened with a therapy dog we met on a walk. The lady walking her dog knew what I was doing as my dog and I stood off the road, mine all excited and worried, puffing, and the lady asked ” would it help if the met?” It sure did help. The therapy dog was ho hum, here’s the normal dog greet, my dog loved it and they immediately looked away from each other and both investigated leaf piles in a ditch while the lady and I chatted. Greeting is an important ritual for dogs, they are compelled to greet. Think how they greet you when you return home or how they greet friends when you go visit them. Greeting is an important ritual for humans too and if both dog walkers have a casual stance and friendly chat (add in some laughter) it can take stress off the dogs. I also will say to my dog ” Doesn’t this dog look like your friend Fido, hi, Fido Pup!” It might seem silly but it works, even if the new dog looks nothing like Fido, my dog knows the word and the happy tone in my voice…. jolly them into a familiar comfort zone. Don’t we as humans have expected greeting rituals with strangers, yet perhaps even some tension in our body language and doesn’t having a trusted friend introduce us ease some of the stress we may have?
The others thing I would like to add to my novel is that shortly after I realized my dog was leash reactive I started adding loops and turns and asking for her attention on walks when we encountered other dogs. She’s an active, alert dog—I think that’s a wonderful thing. But I knew we still needed help to lower her tension level, mine too, we were just managing. We went to a dog training center and showed them some of the turns and maneuvers we did on walks and the lady suggested we might do well in the Rally Obedience class. The first class my dog was hopping, lunging, tense, concerned and barking at the other dogs. I even fell down as she pulled and I tripped over my own feet. The next class the school owner sat with us as the other dogs & handlers walked the course and she clicked and treated my dog well before she reacted and my dog took to that like a duck to water. She loved being able to choose “look to her person and get treat” to cope with stress instead of choosing to huff & puff, bounce or bark. My dog has excellent focus on me, partly just her way but this has been enormously reinforced by the work we do in rally. If you want your dog to be more comfortable in situations give him the tools and give him the challenge to use those tools to be successful in various situations. Dogs love to figure things out, learn new skills and get it right! My dog and I have gained so much situational and behavioral awareness and competence from our rally work. We are a team. We are both working –it isn’t me forcing her to do an exercise and it certainly isn’t saying no don’t do that. She knows what maneuver or behavior is expected of her at each station on the course and she chooses to do it to because she enjoys it. And she needs to focus on what maneuvers I have to accomplish to complete the course. Yes, she can still get excited when seeing a new dog, will scent the air as they walk by desperate to smell that dog but she’s comfortable now, she can make choices she knows will calm her. She and I have a whole bag of tricks from 15 months of rally training to pull from now, maneuvers, behaviors, focus on each other, look to me, look at that other dog out there just doing his thing, etc. that are all applicable to real life situations. When dogs are greeting on leash it is not just two dogs greeting. It is two teams greeting.