DOG GREETINGS 101

Imagine this, you’re walking your dog down the street and you see someone else approaching with their pooch. Without realizing you tighten up on the leash and reel your dog in. As you get closer you notice the other owner does the same thing, tightly wrapping the leash in a death grip with one hand as his extremely excited dog lunges forward to see yours. As the dogs meet you nervously instruct your pup in a high pitched voice to “be nice.” You stand there and ask the stranger what the dog’s name and breed is while the dogs greet face to face then wrap around getting tangled in each other’s leashes. Suddenly after a few moments there’s a nasty sound and you have to separate the otherwise “friendly” dogs. Embarrassed you abruptly leave, scolding your naughty dog. But what really happened?

Encounters like this aren’t unfamiliar to most dog owners. All too often we unintentionally set the dog up to fail in these situations. We allow our dogs to do the exact opposite of what they should do in proper greetings. We bring the dogs to meet face to face, usually in extremely excited states, with tension on the leash and linger for a long period of time. So let’s take a look at how greetings should be done.

1-dog-greeting

Dogs shake hands by sniffing each other all over and should start from the back and work their way to the front. Sniffing butts isn’t rude, it may not be how we say hello, but to dogs it is completely natural. Allow your dog to briefly smell that area of it’s new acquaintance so that he can gather the information he needs, like age, breed, health, sex, and so on.

Dogs should meet in a calm manner not overly excited or boisterous. When excited dogs meet, they tend to jump up on each other and it usually escalates very quickly to something unpleasant. Even the best of doggie friends can get carried away and clash with over the top greetings. Likewise a dog who is tentative and nervous about meeting another dog will not have a pleasant experience either. Wait until your dog relaxes and do not force him into a situation where he is not sure how to handle himself. Calm and confident is how you want your dog to approach.

dogs-meeting-for-the-first-time-by-aresauburnThere should never be tension on the leash when dogs are face to face. When the leash is pulled tight, the dog’s body leans forward communicating to the other dog he is staring directly in the face that he wants to challenge. This is when you will get a fight between the dogs. Always keep your dog beside you to keep him out of “protector” mode and so that you can pull sideways not back to remove him from a sticky situation. If there is tension on the leash this communicates to your dog that you are tense so his natural reaction will be to protect. Relax and your dog will too.

Don’t feel the need to stop and say hello to every dog. If for whatever reason you have a bad feeling, keep on walking. Especially if you are working on socializing your dog and greetings are difficult for him make sure you are comfortable with all introductions as it is very important that the dog has good encounters. Be up front with people walking their dogs and speak up on how the dogs should be introduced if you are going to allow them to say hello.

It’s important to not stop for too long and instead to keep moving, dog greetings don’t need to be lengthly. Dogs can smell from a fair distance away so they don’t need to stand around smelling each other for minutes on end. When this happens is when dogs tend to get nasty. It’s like that long awkward hand shake or close-talker at a party that makes you feel uncomfortable. No one likes that, so dogs will react in only one way; because they can’t run away as they are on leash the only other option is to fight. Introductions should be cut short so this doesn’t happen.

Remember that dogs communicate vocally at times so if there is a loud commotion but no one got hurt don’t just assume your dog is aggressive and stop allowing him to say hi. Reflect on the encounter and see what you could have done differently.

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Walk this way

dog on leashHave you ever noticed that the sign for “dogs must be on leash” is an illustration showing a dog in front of the owner with tension on the leash? A woman I met at the Cesar Millan training workshop pointed this out to me and then handed me a stack of stickers with the illustration of a dog with a loose leash walking BEHIND the owner. Brilliant I thought! The idea is to change people’s perspective on how we walk dogs by placing a sticker over each sign you see. This novel idea will take a huge movement and mean a lot of reeducation for owners.

Every day I see people on walks with their dog pulling on a tight leash ahead. When walking like this the dog sees himself as pack leader and this is when problems arise. Not only that, a dog greeting another dog on a tight leash is when you see the most dog fights happen. It is unnatural for dogs to meet face to face, and when a leash has tension and the dog pulls, their body language suggests a challenge to the other dog which then leads to aggression.

How you and your dog walk together says a lot about your relationship.

Each morning while training at the Dog Psychology Center, we started with a pack walk. Cesar Millan’s first rule for a balanced dog is exercise, then discipline and then affection – and he stresses that it must be done in that order. While walking each day I learned that the walk is just as much for you as it is for your dog. It allows you to clear your mind, exert pent up energy and balance yourself and your dog. I have always loved walking with Carmen and she does so well on leash, but I have found a whole new appreciation for it. At the end of our walks it feels as if I spent an hour in a yoga class or getting a massage, I am that relaxed. If only we could all experience this. Unfortunately not all dog lovers enjoy walks the way I do, even more unfortunate, some people don’t walk their dogs everyday or even at all.

TCW DAY 1-118

I believe that how you and your dog walk together says a lot about your relationship. If your dog charges ahead, then you are not in control enough to be the leader. If your dog drags behind or refuses to walk, again your energy is off in order to lead the pack. If you think about it our dogs are here to show us how simple life can truly be in this regard. We are too hung up on rushing things, doing everything quickly, multitasking, and not enjoying the little gifts this world has to offer. Next time your on a walk take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, and go slow. Make sure your dog is beside or behind you with no tension on the leash. You and your dog will enjoy the walk way more.