While I can't always capture it in the photos, our SociaBulls walks are big. With 15+ mostly big dogs, we're hard to miss.
A lot of people are curious.
And a lot of people want to come up to meet us.
Though some of our dogs are shy, scared of people, and scared of people approaching with their dogs.
And since we live in a city and we're bound to meet people, here is how we counteract the curiosity to keep all the pups happy and comfortable.
Meeting Off-Leash Dogs (or dogs on really, really long leashes):
The biggest thing we had to consider when starting the group was how to handle off-leash dogs, or people walking dogs who want to approach us. Some dogs in the group are fearful of other dogs. And even just having that extra energy can impact the comfort level of all dogs in the group.
But, we are prepared.
We quickly figured out the concept of Dogless Walkers. Just like it sounds, these are people who attend the walks without dogs who are available to intervene if other dogs get too close to the group.
So far we haven't had a dog outside the pack approach....but there have been some close calls. So we have a system.
1) If we see a dog near the group, someone calls it out to the rest of the group.
2) The Dogless Walker is proactive and gives a friendly wave to the person, standing in such a way that their body blocks the direct path to the group.
3) We know sometimes people can be defensive, so we always make sure to give a compliment about their dog first (Because really, all dogs are cute!)
4) Then we ask if they could just hold onto their dog since our dogs are in training and they cannot meet any other dogs right now.
Usually people are just curious and end up asking more about the group.
Meeting Curious People:
It's important for us to be respectful of the people spending time in the parks as well as showing responsible dog ownership in a positive way.
The group will routinely wave and call out "Good Morning" to the people we pass, who are usually receptive and excited.
Some people treat it like a parade and it's funny to hear their comments about each of the dogs as they walk by (usually nice things and about which dog they "want").
Sometimes we meet people who want to approach the group, so we use the same proactive system where we go out to them before they can approach the group. In this case we don't always need the dog less walkers, but dogs that are comfortable with people can step out to answer any questions just standing in a way that we are using our bodies to block the path to the group.
We've noticed children can sometimes want to run out towards the dogs, so we are always proactive about stepping out first and blocking just in case.
Meeting Police Officers:
It has been nice to see our walking areas so well-served, as we routinely encounter Police Officers.
And they are among our biggest fans!
Usually they are curious about what we're doing, and if it's some kind of event. (During the winter we were even asked why the dogs were in costume). Then they almost always tell us how this is such a positive way to demonstrate responsible dog ownership. Many also have their own stories about pit bull-type dogs they often encounter, rescue, and even adopt.