“Don’t worry, he’s friendly!”
This is the phrase most hated by dog owners the world over. I have seen many, many rants on social media over the years, with people furious that yet another dog has barged into their dog, causing a dust-up, resulting in injury, or worse, increasing the fear in their dog that the owner was working so hard to overcome.
Why is it not OK to let your dog rush up to other dogs? They just want to play, right? They don’t mean any harm, so it will be fine, won’t it? Your poor dog is desperate for some company and activity and dogs like each other, don’t they?
How would you feel?
Imagine walking along minding your own business. Enjoying the sunshine, listening to some music. Imagine a person running really fast towards you, then stopping two inches from your nose and saying “HELLO! Do you want to play with me?” How would you feel? Yes exactly. Well believe it or not, that’s how most dogs feel.
In fact in can be even worse for a dog. They might be old and infirm, well past their playing days. They might be recovering from an operation, or have an ongoing illness. Dogs can be quite shy and unsure, particularly if they don’t spend much time with other dogs. How would you know if a person felt like this? Would you still bounce into their face to say hello?
It’s also much worse for dogs on the lead. If someone runs towards you looking scary, the natural response might be to run away from them. But if you are attached to a stupid great person, this is not an option. Aargh!
The final reason why a dog approaching another dog is NOT OK is that people become scared. And dogs know that. It is their job to protect their human. So when a dog doesn’t initially want to talk to another dog, their human tries to stop that happening again. But then the dog learns that ALL approaching dogs are scary, so tries to stop that happening. Poor dog.
What should you do?
Teach your dog some manners! You might think this will be difficult but it really doesn’t need to be! It’s exactly the same as your parents teaching you to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. You might remember them saying to you ‘Say please!’ or ‘what do you say?’
You can do that with your dog. When you see another dog, get the attention of your dog. You do NOT need to put them on the lead, but you will need lots of treats and/or a toy (paid ads). It is also essential that you are EXCITING! Be more interesting to your dog than anything else. This might be quite difficult to do, but I promise you, it will pay off.
Get your dog to ‘watch’ you. Say ‘watch’, repeat a few times. Then ‘click’ and reward. The click can just be you saying ‘yes!’ and then stuff some sausage into your dog. Then break off and play with them. I’ve talked about ‘playing with your dog‘ on this post, with a video of a game of tuggy. Have a great toy, (paid ad) and engage with your dog. You can then control their interaction with other dogs more easily.
Can you ever say hello to another dog?
Yes of course. But only when you dog is polite about it! Once you have built up your relationship with your dog and it has learnt some manners, together with a rock solid recall, you should be able to manage their greeting of other dogs. The photos show two beautifully behaved dogs enjoying some calm interaction. It is possible and it is achievable.
A polite dog greeting another dog is absolutely fine. Hello, how are you? Would you like to play? No? That’s fine, I can have fun with mum or dad instead. Yes? Great! Let’s play! Hurray! It’s lovely to see, isn’t it?
It will go wrong. It’s bound to. Dogs, just like people have to learn and this takes time and practise. Please, please don’t think that because your dog has a ‘bad day’ or a bad experience, that they can’t be let off the lead again? That’s really unfair on your dog and lazy of you. Make the effort to continue practising and allow for some failure.
And if some horrible person starts shouting at you because your dog bounced up to their dog over-exuberantly, please don’t take it out on your dog. Please just apologise to the person and tell them that you are working on it with your dog, but if you don’t try, they’ll never learn?
Help is at hand
It is hard to teach these things and usually people need help. I recommend finding a reputable trainer. Here in Milton Keynes we are lucky to have Adam Delderfield, of Delders Dogs. Adam is now primarily an online trainer, but he gives lots of personal support.
I’m also very fortunate that my boy JB lives with Stella, who works alongside Adam. He’s such a polite dog!
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