Should dogs meet on leash?

There are many examples that illustrate how our nature is so different from our dogs. Both species are highly social beings, but how we go about being social really differs. I realize in talking to clients that they think it is a good idea to have their dog meet others on leash because they want their dog to have an opportunity to say “hi” – to be social to another dog. The other reason, I presume, has to do with not wanting to come across as anti-social with whomever is holding the leash of the other dog. So what begins with good intentions turns out to be not such good news for 99% of all dogs. Yep, 99 % or there about.

If we analyze on leash greetings from the dog’s perspective, we come to realize that we are messing up royally. When people have their dogs meet they come straight on and never on an arc – as dogs prefer to meet. Straight approaches are VERY THREATENING to dogs!

The first point of contact is always frontal again potentially too “intimate” for dogs that have not met before. The preferred salutation in general is anal investigation and then some face to face. See, I told you our world and their world is really backwards! Dogs get so much information about whom the other dog is and their world in general by olfaction that when they are not permitted to do so altercations often arise.

It is often the case that one dog is more comfortable than the other in this awkward salutation and it does not take long for that one to snap. As a result, the other dog might take “offense” and lash back. So much for making friends!

Adding to this madness is the other side of the leash. Because of lack of understanding as to how dogs truly prefer to interact with one another, they get admonished by their now embarrassed owner. No, Fido! That is not how we say hello! Bad dog, we are going home, blah, blah, blah- typical example of human making nice with their kind.

Ah, poor Fido! Once again the victim of good intentions and ignorance. Of course, Fido has no clue as to why he is being yelled at, yanked hard with the leash because after all Fido had to react back as a result of the other dog’s “poor etiquette”.

It does not take too many of these trials before the dog is now really not comfortable with the proximity of any dog when he is restrained by the leash or just the presence of dogs, period! Keep in mind that restrain is one of the scariest things we can do to an animal (or a person). Restrain removes opportunity for escape.

My suggestions then stands: Avoid, avoid at all costs having your dog meet dogs on leash. Instead arrange for walks where potential (dog) friends can explore together at a considerable distance and share some smells. Have one dog walking in front of the other and then allow the dog in the back to sniff where the first dog has walked. Then change directions and repeat. After having spent a few minutes with the dogs in the same environment- but at a distance either bring them closer together in an arc or better yet, find a neutral safe location for some off leash introductions.

When walking your pup, I suggest you carry with you a few tasty treats and dispense those every single time you and your dog see another.

In no time your dog will look at the other dog and look back at you because you have conditioned him that seeing dogs on walks means he gets some delicious this or that! In this manner, you are “protecting” how your dog feels about other dogs- they are so fabulous because their mere presences produces goodies. If your dog has been saying hello on leash, this technique will help transition to letting him know that when on a leash we walk and that other opportunities for making friends will be procured.