In this blog, I am going to change things up a little. I am going to write it from the dog’s perspective so that owners can get an idea of what a dog is thinking and feeling when meeting and greeting on leash occurs. Whilst dogs cannot actually talk to us, trainers and behaviourists like myself are taught to observe and recognise body language and subtle shifts in behaviour. This DOES help us understand what dogs are thinking and feeling because we observe the side effect or the consequence. We can see and hear happy, fear, hesitation, frustration, anger, overwhelmed and excited. Whilst many of your dogs are really pleased to meet other dogs, you will find just as many that are not and the examples we have set below highlight those that are not into dogs but also what happens when you overdo it early on. I also highlight how you, as the owner, can influence the behaviour through your own actions including through the use of aversive equipment such as choker chains.
Something else to take note of is how we do not encourage the ‘3 second rule’, where you let your dog meet another dog but only allow them to sniff for 3 seconds. Some of you might ask why we are so against it, and I guess the issue I find is that there are so many dogs out there, just like my examples below, that would not even cope with 3 seconds. Some dogs may snap at the one second mark and now we have not one but two dogs that are reactive on leash. Imagine the stress in that nervous dog even within half a second of the encounter. We cannot guarantee to our dog that the meet and greet will go smoothly every single time, so our recommendation is to just not do it and instead focus on calmness in the presence of other dogs whilst on leash.
So here are our examples of some very common issues we see and hear on a daily basis.
Hi there, my name is Fred and I have grown into a 45kg dog and I just love every dog on this planet; well I used to. I loved them so much that when I went for walks in my neighbourhood, I just had to go and say hello so I dragged my parents along the footpath until I reached the other dog. When I met the other dog, I didn’t even wait for it to say hello, instead I jumped all over it, licked its face, stepped on it and got all tangled, because I really, really wanted to play and sometimes the other dog got grumpy and tried to bite me. My parents got embarrassed and seemed to say sorry a lot and that I was only a puppy, but I didn’t see what the problem was. They wanted me to be a really well socialised dog so they let me say hello to every dog on our walks when I was little and cute. It seems that the bigger I got, the less they wanted me to play? All I wanted to do was play! It almost seems as if they are a bit scared now and don’t trust me because I am so big. It is hard being a big dog.
Now when I see other dogs I bounce and lunge but not because I am excited, but because I am so frustrated; I just want to say hello like they taught me to when I was younger. One day they let me play with everything and everyone and now they don’t let me near anybody. I don’t think my parents understand me. They recently even got a trainer out to see me who said they need to be my boss and be firmer so I would listen and that it would stop me getting angry; but I’m not angry, I’m frustrated. I now have a big chain on my neck to try to control me but when I start to jump up and down, my parents pull it so hard I start to choke and they yell at me, a lot. This scares me now because I cannot breath. Now when I see dogs I growl with my angry voice to make them go away as quickly as possible. The quicker they go, the quicker the chain stops choking me. I don’t like dogs much any more. Everyone is so angry, even I’m getting angry now and my neck hurts a lot. I don’t get out as much as I used to anymore either because my parents find it so hard.
I wish my parents had taught me to be calm when we passed other dogs on our street walks instead of letting me say hello to all of them, encouraging me to get all excited. They have really confused me and I don’t know how to behave anymore.
Hi there, my name is Ned and I am an adopted dog with my new family. I never got out much when I lived with my first parents, in fact I spent most of my my first year in a backyard and I was lucky to get fed. I never made dog friends; we never got visitors much, life in the backyard was pretty quiet and boring and all I saw was the occasional bird.
I have a new family now and they are great but I don’t think they realise how scared I am when we go for a walk. It is really noisy out there, there are cars and bikes and these small humans that scream. There are so many smells and they are so distracting and then there are all these other dogs walking in the street. All these people want their dogs to meet me because I am new but I am so scared. I don’t know what to do when dogs come up to me. They all want to sniff my butt and sometimes they stand over me. This makes me really nervous so I growl but every time I do that I notice my new parents tighten the leash and when they do this, I cannot move away. All I want to do is move away from these strange dogs but my new parents don’t get it. They mean well, they want me to make new friends because I missed out when I was young, but they don’t understand that I don’t know how to talk to these dogs.
Maybe if we take things real slow, I can make new friends but I prefer that to happen when I am off the leash so I have space to move away, in case I don’t feel comfortable. My new parents will not let me off the leash yet because I might run away, after all, I don’t really know them and they really don’t know me yet either.
Lately they have started taking me to a park with a fence and I can see a lot of dogs in there running around and having fun. I might like being in there but right now I am not sure. Why are my owners walking closer to it? Can’t they see I am slowing down? Can’t they see I am shaking? Oh no, the dogs in the park have spotted me. My parents are walking in and these dogs are running towards me. They are closing the gate, I cannot escape because the leash is still on. All these dogs are looking at me and sniffing me and standing over me. I am licking my lips to show them I am scared. Why can my parents not see this? I am trying hard not to stare, I am looking at the ground, my tail is now low but my parents still don’t move. I am stuck. All I can think of now is to growl and show my teeth, maybe that will make the dogs move away. One dog does not like me growling, it has made him angry and he is growling back; he is really scaring me and looks like he wants to hurt me. All I want to do is run away. Why don’t my parents see that?
I wish my parents could see that this new world is very scary and that making new friends is really hard. I don’t know how to talk to new friends and need lots of space and time. I wish we could focus on just getting to know each other first before trying to make new dog friends.
Hi there, my name is Harriette and I am only four months old and learning how to make friends. I went to a puppy school recently to learn how to make new friends and how to become more confident and that was great fun. I learned that friends take turns, friends don’t bully and friends don’t bite hard and I learned that if I am a bit unsure, I can come away and hide because I am not on leash.
My puppy school has finished now and my parents were told to keep up with the socialising so I that I got braver and braver and learned to speak my language better. My teacher told them to watch my body language because this is how I talk and she also said to make sure all my play dates are fun and safe. My parents are really excited to get me out now and are taking me everywhere to see the world and make more friends.
We go to the park, the shops, the bush, the beach and even to the cafe and I love this, I love being with my parents. One thing that bothers me though is when they meet people on the street with their dogs. I mean, I don’t know their dogs and sometimes I don’t like them. Some of them push me around and are a bit rude and this scares me. I am still learning and while I like meeting new dog friends, I like to be able to choose which ones I want to play with and I prefer to meet them when the leash is not attached to my collar. Sometimes I get tangled around my parent’s legs while I try to move away from the rude dog and this scares me more.
I wish my parents could see that they need to slow things down a bit and that I don’t have to be friends with every dog. I wish they could understand that I am still learning and sometimes I am excited to make new friends and other times I am a bit hesitant and that this is normal for a young growing dog.
Hi there, my name is Sophie and I am a bit like Fred, I love saying hello to every dog and still do. I have been saying hello to all the dogs I meet on the street since I was little. All I want to do is meet new friends so as soon as I get out the door, I just pull and pull and pull to make my parents walk faster. When I see a dog I get so excited and I bark and pull harder until my parents reach the dog. Sometimes the other dog does not like me and I don’t know why, I mean, I am so friendly! Sometimes the other dog parents start to yell at my parents and the other dog growls at me but I don’t listen to what that means because I just want to say hello. My parents have decided to keep moving so now I look for other new friends.
I drag them again, running as fast as I can with them behind me, searching for new friends and there she is, I can see one up the road. Run, hurry up folks, you are too slow. My parents love seeing me meet other dogs, it makes them happy that I have so many friends. Finally we catch up and I try to sniff this dog’s butt but it turns around and snaps at me also. I hear my parents tell the other parents I am friendly again and that all I want to do is say hello. Why don’t the other people like me? Why doesn’t the other dog like me? I thought I had to be friends with everyone.
Oh well, I will try the next one! Here comes another one. Come on folks, this one for sure wants to be my friend. I can hear my parents telling me to slow down but I don’t listen to them, they are not as important as meeting new friends, after all, that is what they taught me when I was younger; having lots of friends was most important.
I can hear my parents get a little angrier now because I never listen to them and I pull them all the time. My walks are getting shorter and sometimes they skip them. My parents never let me off the leash because I don’t listen to them. I just want to play with the other dogs and if I got off I would run after them. I have noticed that my parents don’t speak to me the same way they did when I was younger. They used to love letting me meet dogs but now they yell more, they don’t understand why I cannot hear them, they think I am deaf, they think I am out of control and I hear the word naughty a lot.
I wish my parents taught me that being friends with every dog in my neighbourhood was not as important as my parents were. I wish they taught me to listen to them, to come back to them when they called me, to walk nicely on the leash and to stay calm when I met other dogs on the leash instead of annoying everyone. Maybe if I did those things they would take me out again and have fun with me again.
Hi there, my name is Albert and I am a little dog that just loves humans. I have always preferred humans, they smell nice, they give me lots of love, they feed me, the let me sleep in their bed and they take me on adventures but sometimes I wonder if they really know me.
As much as they do lots of cool things with me, one thing that bothers me is that they keep taking me out to meet other dogs but the thing is, I don’t really like them. I was a bit shy when I was young and didn’t like when they ran up to me and pushed me around and as I got older I decided I did not trust other dogs or like them. I only like humans, in particular, my humans.
Recently my parents started going to cafes with me and they tie me up under the table. I don’t mind this as I get bits of bacon for being a good boy but the fun is ruined when another dog comes under the table to say hello. I mean I am just minding my own business, eating my bacon. Why do my parents take me out in public and tie me up where I cannot get away, especially when they know people are passing with their annoying dogs.
I don’t like going out much anymore and in fact, I prefer to stay home but my parents don’t understand that. They feel guilty for not taking me out but I like staying home.
I wish my parents could see that I don’t need to be around dogs to be happy and that hanging with my folks is all I want.
Listen to your dogs!
Well I hope everyone enjoyed this blog and maybe even noticed that your dog has been trying to tell you something. Dogs don’t have to say hello to every dog and human, they don’t have to have loads of dog friends, in fact, they are very much like people when it comes to social interactions. Humans are not friends with every single other person on this planet; we have those we hold closest to us and then the rest are acquaintances and randoms. Dogs are the same!
When we socialise dogs we are not teaching them to play, we are developing their coping skills in a social setting. Play comes naturally to some dogs whereas to others it is very foreign or just not as important, just like seeing some young children love playing with other kids in the playgrounds and then others that prefer to play on their own with their Lego or book. Being polite and well mannered is what we need to focus on here, not the actual play.
Give dogs a choice as to who their friends are, give them the room and time to make friends in the safest possible setting, create positive learning experiences in well controlled settings and remember, the relationship between you and your dog is by far the most important.