If you’re a dog owner, you’ve probably been there countless times. You’re taking Sadie for a walk down the sidewalk and an oncoming dog, also on leash, is approaching you. What should you do? Should you let Sadie greet the other dog when it reaches you, or is it better to just keep walking?
I recommend you avoid greeting the other dog if:
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Now I am all for dogs interacting and playing, but the sidewalk just isn’t the place. First of all, the impolite (by doggie standards) face-to-face direct approach of an oncoming dog can cause your pup a great deal of stress as it creeps closer and closer. By the time that unfamiliar dog reaches you, your dog’s anxiety has been building for half a block, so the likelihood of an on-leash confrontation is much higher than if the same two dogs met naturally in an off-leash park, where they could approach more politely from a curved angle without being forced to make direct eye contact. Additionally, the leashes inhibit both dogs’ greeting body language, making the greeting awkward at best, and at worst, threatening to one or both dogs. If your leashes get tangled or you start to pull your dog back, it only exacerbates this botched greeting and increases the risk.
Many owners think that on-leash scuffles start without warning. I’m sure there is a warning, but unless you’re a dog, you’re unlikely to notice it in time to intervene. So if you can’t predict a confrontation, all you can do is avoid putting your dog in that situation. Leashed walks are a time for your dog to spend with you, not a time for him to be dragging you down the street in search of his next playmate. It’s not fair to expect him to walk politely with you on a loose leash if he is also allowed to drag you towards a dog that is approaching on the sidewalk. If your dog is the playful type, find places allow him to romp freely are are far more appropriate than the sidewalk: dog parks, doggie daycare facilities, playdates with a friend or neighbor, or supervised play groups at a training or boarding facility.
Once you’ve resolved to put your dog’s safety first and avoid on-leash greetings, how can you avoid other dogs walking down the street? Practice a technique I call “the New Yorker walk.” It has four components:
By channeling your inner New Yorker and making your dog’s safety a priority, you’re ensuring that your dog won’t have negative on-leash experiences that could have a long-term impact.
The original petguide.com article is here.
Kate is a certified dog behavior consultant and certified dog trainer in Brooklyn, NY with Doggie Academy and in Southbury, CT.