Tuesday, October 14, 2014

City Dog: On Why Our Pups Don't Greet On Leash

One of the best parts of having a dog is that everyone (and their dog!) wants to meet you.
But one of the most conflicting things is trying to explain to people why you don't want your dog to meet their dog during your walk.
Most of the time, when we decline to meet other dogs during our walk, people will say things like "Oh, because your dogs aren't friendly". Which is not why we're not stopping to meet your dog.
Though in the 3 seconds I have to interact with people, I can't really explain all these reasons:

Walks are for Business
Living in the city, most people don't have a backyard and we all depend on walks for bathroom breaks and exercise.
And we're all out there. I typically see as many as 30 dogs on a single walk.
Which means, if I stopped and interacted with all of them we would never get anywhere.
And if I stopped and interacted with any of them, the pups would be accustomed to wanting to meet every dog we saw, we really wouldn't get anywhere. And they would probably stop listening on our walks as they anticipate meeting the next dog.
So our pups know our daily walks are for business and not interacting.

A Quick Greet is Not Socialization
I know a lot of people think that their dogs need to interact with the other dogs they see because this is a way to 'socialize' them. Though Our Pack does a really good job of explaining how these types of forced interactions are unnatural and can actually set up dogs to fail. (You can read their really great article here). We keep our walks to work on our training and we have other positive ways we socialize our pups.

Staying Safe
Even when dogs do greet on leash, it is very, very rare to just have the dogs walk up, sniff, and calmly walk away. Usually there is a walk up, one dog initiates play, then the pups play on leash. Besides the reasons above, playing on leash can become really dangerous. The pups can get tangled in the leashes. The people can get tangled in the leashes. Anyone tangled in the leashes can become scared and redirect. Leashes can be dropped. We just avoid this entire scenario by not having the greeting in the first place.

It's more important for us to advocate for our pups' comfort than to be forced into a greeting just so they don't think we're "not friendly".
Though does anyone have a 3 second quip you use to let people know the other side?

Ways to Socialize without Interacting
The Sidewalk Dance
How Dog Walks are like Dating
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.


Courtney said...

Maybe a quick "Sorry, but we're training."

You've explained (very briefly) your reason why, without being rude about it.

Kirsten said...

I second Courtney's suggestion. I usually say "We're in training." and then move in with cues and treats and act busy. :P It's awkward, because I live fairly rural, but can't stand the whole forced greeting pressure thing. I know it stresses my dogs out.

Anonymous said...

This makes total sense to me, and I don't understand why many dog owners just don't get it! We just got a foster pittie and she is very sweet with all humans, but has a high prey drive, so wants to chase any and all small animals (including small dogs). She also hasn't been around many dogs at all, and while I don't necessarily think she would snap, I don't want her to meet other dogs on leash. She is overeager, and pulls hard toward them, causing me to think that the other dog may see that as being aggressive and react negatively. I really want to look into trying to start something such as your Sociabulls group!

Two French Bulldogs said...

Excellent points
Lily & Edward

Anonymous said...

Sorry, not sure why my post came across as Anonymous above!

KS said...

We don't run into nearly as many dogs in our current neighborhood as in our old one, but for unfamiliar dogs, I used to just say, "we're in training" or "sorry, we're in a rush". For shelter dogs, I've told volunteer walkers they can tell people the dog is recovering from a rash, that usually gets people to back off!

My Dog Barry said...

Ahh, yes. Thank you!!! Barry is not mean at all but I don't like it when people will stand and wait for us to near them so our dogs can meet. The dogs just want to play! I've had the tangled leash scenario more than once. It's not fun for me and it interrupts the nice walk we were having.

Many times, if I see someone looking as if they want to greet I cross the street (if I have the chance) to avoid that without having to say anything.

@MrsMinor813 said...

Yes! Thank you!! At first I felt some unnatural sense of embarrassment that I would be disliked by the people in our neighborhood (who I don't even know). Now we just smile from a distance and keep walking (our very well-behaved pittie mix). Occasionally a really tenacious person will shout something like "he's friendly, really" about their obviously out-of-control, jumping around on the leash dog... I just say, 'so's mine, but we have to be somewhere'. I love the people who passive-aggressively say under their breath as you pass by "I guess that dog doesn't want to stop and say 'Hi'". Nope. (Also, I'm usually either pushing my toddler in a stroller or carrying him on me in addition to the dog, so no.. I have my hands full already. I don't need to stop and let our dogs go bonkers on each other ;) )

Jacquelin Cangro said...

Great post, A and E. It reminds me of another great post about this topic on Jessica Dolce's site (Notes From a Dog Walker).

In this post she talks about the balancing act many Pittie owners do when wanting to have their dogs be good "ambassadors" for the breed and not having dogs greet on leash. She talks mainly about Pitties, but I think her comments can apply to many dog breeds.


rebecae said...

People say, is she friendly, my husband's response, "Yes, but I'm not".

Deanna said...

I grew up in a rural area, so there was no meeting other dogs while out walking with our dog. without a leash (which is something you can do when you live in the boonies and your nearest neighbor is 5 miles away). So, when I got my puppies in Portland, I thought that dogs would greet each other on the sidewalk, only to find that most people cross the streets in order to avoid the meet'n'greet. I was slightly offended, until I realized that it was actually out of politeness that other dog owners do that! I am no longer offended, and I understand why these little meet'n'greets are not ideal! We do have some neighborhood friends that we greet on a regular basis, but if it's an unknown dog or owner, across the street we go, or if that's not a possibility, I step off the sidewalk into a driveway and keep my dogs on a short leash until the other dog goes by.

Jenna Brown Arner said...

I'm working with my 2 year old black lab rescue Murphy to overcome on leash aggression. I cross the street or turn around if I see another dog. I don't want to risk another encounter that will reinforce the behavior I'm working on getting rid of. He gets so worked up I can feel his pulse through the leash! I know his trigger distance so slowly but surely he's coming along.

I'm surprised on leash aggression wasn't mentioned in this article. Even with an on leash friendly dog I have no way of knowing if the other dog has behavioral issues until we've gotten too close. Great article. It's important for people to understand this so thanks for sharing!

Rebelwerewolf said...

We did a dog 5k last month, and when someone came up being dragged by her two dogs who "wanted to meet ours", we told her "no, they get too excited".

Anonymous said...

Meh, I sort of don't care if people think my dog's not friendly. Better that than put my dog in an uncomfortable situation.

Anonymous said...

With our trainer, we've learned the "count to 3" meet and greet, only if we're feeling confident about it and the other dog looks confident. I don't need to say hi to every person I meet on the street, neither does my dog. We've worked hard on his leash aggression (it's so minimal now!) so let's not set him up for failure.

"Sorry, training!" while treating your dog for focus is the best way to avoid unnecessary contact. We also walk around in an arc when possible, if an excitable dog is coming towards us. :)

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