Should You Allow On Leash Greetings for Dogs?
Should you allow your dog to interact with other dogs while walking on leash? Well, that depends on your dog, how familiar the area is to them and to you, and who is involved in the greeting.
In this post we will help you understand:
Why you should avoid an on-leash greeting between two dogs
The ground rules for when two leashed dogs can’t avoid an interaction?
On Leash Greetings: Not a Good Idea for Dogs
In most situations in which two dogs interact, the dogs are provided with an opportunity to exercise and a way for the dogs to play and work on canine social skills. Typically, this will be a supervised, off-leash situation in which the dogs and their owners (or trainers) are fairly familiar with one another and their surroundings.
On leash greetings, however, are a completely different situation -- one that is not always conducive to positive canine interaction.
The reason why most animal behaviorists and dog trainers do not like on-leash interactions has to do with canine psychology. If a dog feels trapped, it goes into stress mode, which results in either fighting or fleeing. If the dog feels scared and can't flee, it may go on the defensive. If the dog does get defensive, then she may try to dominate by taking a fighting stance. If leashes become tangled and the dogs feel trapped, there is a possibility for a terrible altercation between the two animals. This is not what any dog owner wants.
Of course, leash greetings are sometimes hard to avoid: You round the corner and there’s your neighbor (or a stranger) coming from around the bend in the opposite direction and the two dogs are snout-to-snout before you know it.
If possible, try to avert this scenario by moving into the street or up onto a lawn. The reason for this is that two unfamiliar dogs, or familiar dogs that are startled. might get their shackles raised -- and that’s not usually a good situation for dogs or humans. Sometimes though, the on-leash greeting can’t be avoided.
Guidelines for Stress-free On-Leash Dog Interactions
Make Sure On Leash Greetings are Consensual. It’s not up to the dogs to decide to allow an on-leash greeting; it’s up to the humans. Before you get close enough for dogs on leashes to interact, check-in with the other owner: Are they okay with the dogs meeting? Is the other dog showing signs of distress? Look for wide eyes, raised fur, rigid position and the obvious growl or teeth showing would end the idea of a leash greeting. Watch for wagging tails, eager but relaxed body position, and otherwise playful interest between the dogs.
Keep in mind: Even typically friendly dogs don’t want to be approached or sniffed at by other dogs. Maintain awareness of your dog and the other dog’s body language throughout an interaction on leash.
Don’t Get Offended if the Owner Declines a Dog Interaction. Trust that the owner knows their dog’s behavior. The other dog may have had previous bad experiences with leash greetings or have health issues. Respect another dog owners right to refuse an on-leash greeting.
Once You Allow One-leash Greeting, That’s What your Dog will Expect. Do you want your dog to be able to walk right past other dogs while staying engaged with you, or, at least, while moving in the same direction as you? TRAIN your dog to respond to your cues before you start introducing them to every dog in the neighborhood. Then, train your dog around familiar dogs using training techniques that will prompt your dog’s immediate attention on you when you give a command directing them away from other dogs. If you don’t do this, then you will create the expectation for your dog to interact with whatever dog is on the street. And that is a hard habit to break. If you don’t know how to go about this type of training, hire a reputable dog trainer.
No Leash Greetings with Retractable Leashes. If a dog on a retractable leash is making way for your dog, do your very best to avoid a greeting and move you and your dog in a different direction. Retractable leashes can get stuck, can snap, or fail to retract, leaving both dogs at risk for an altercation.
Maintain Constant Vigilance. Dogs don’t stand still and fist-bump to greet one another. Their entire interaction is constantly in motion: sniffing, circling, changing posture, etc. YOU the owner MUST be on alert for any change in your dog’s posturing. Don’t allow the leashes to get tangled or for your attention on the dogs to relax. Humans just don’t move fast enough if the dogs get assertive or worse with another. Be ready to act.
Monitor and Move with Your Dog. Keep the leashes slack and follow the dogs’ circular movements as they inspect one another. If the other person hasn’t got a clue, let them know what you are doing and why. If they think it’s not necessary because their dog Fluffy is so well behaved….move on, quickly. Some dog owners can be naive to the powerful instincts of canines, including their own beloved pet.
Keep the Interaction on Leash Short. This is not a social visit for you. It’s a quick “getting to know you” for the dogs. They are creating familiarity with one another, which is especially good for dogs in the same neighborhood. Limit the dog sniffing and circling to 15 seconds or less. Unless both of the dogs can sit or lay down while you and your neighbor chat, that 15 seconds is plenty of time for the dogs. The longer the dogs linger, the more likely it is one will irritate the other and a scuffle will ensue.
This is why it is so important for you and your dog to practice your dog’s ability to move away with you on command. Take the time to teach your dog that gentle leash pressure and a cue (like “Let’s go!”) means he should turn his attention toward you and move with you.
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