So what should you do when you come across another dog while out walking?
If both dogs seem okay with it and you have the permission of the other handler, we are strong believers in the "3-second rule". All this means is allow a quick sniff and be on your way. This is a great rule when meeting new dogs as it avoids the dogs getting uncomfortable. If you are wanting to allow a longer greeting make sure to be watching the body language of both dogs. Often leash greeting can amplify behaviours and the atmosphere can change on a dime. This is often due to the fact that the dogs can not get away (flight behaviour) if they feel threatened in any way which can result in them being more assertive or reactive (fight behaviour). Keeping the greeting positive is key. Make sure to not allow the dogs to get too excited or else you may end up re-enacting the scene between Roger and Anita in Disney’s 100 Dalmatians!
Maybe it is your dog that is overexcited, nervous or reactive. When you see another dog approaching this is the perfect time to work on your focus and leave it cue. Ideally, you want to work on having your dog more focused on you than on the approaching dog. It is okay to stop and get this focus while letting the other dog pass. It is important to teach the dog how to properly act when in these situations. Barking and lunging is not acceptable and we want to clearly communicate this to our dogs. This behaviour is not needing and can be corrected and then redirected into teaching them they should just focus on us. This is where having a good bond with your dog comes in. Your dog should know you are a source of fun and being engaged with you should be more rewarding than reacting towards another dog.
It is your responsibility to look out for your dog’s well being. It is okay to ask someone to not bring their dog over for a greeting - maybe you are busy doing training, maybe your dog is too excited to politely meet or you might notice that one of the dogs do not want to greet either other. Vocalizing your wishes is the easiest way to help communicate that a greeting at this time is not wanted, sometimes others do not pick up the signals their dog, your dog or even you are giving off. We firmly believe in leash laws and think when out walking you should have your dog leashed unless in an APPROVED off leash area. Respect these laws, they are in place for EVERYONE’s safety. Never approach another dog if the owner says no, and only allow greetings when both dogs are showing proper manners and seem accepting of the other dog. We do not ever want to allow meetings when one dog is too excited or not feeling it as this can cause setbacks to both parties training.