Let’s talk about the basics that you should be aware of when you have your dog greet another dog so the meet and greet goes as smoothly as possible.
We have all been in the situation where our leashed dog is asked to greet another leashed dog. Walking down the street, in the lobby at the veterinary hospital, or some friends come over with their dog for a visit... you are asked to meet and greet.
Most dogs are happy-joyful-social dogs, but they might not just “click” with every dog. This is normal. Just like with people…so let’s learn more to set up our dogs to succeed. We don’t expect everyone to get along, but we do expect us all to be respectful of each other. The same goes for Poochie.
First, let me shout it loud and clear. Just because someone wants to their dog to meet your dog does not mean you have to comply. You officially have my permission to say “Sorry, not today” Maybe you know your mind is on other things, maybe you think your dog has had to deal with a bit too many squirrels today, maybe you are concerned about the approaching dogs body language. No reason is needed. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to.
You know your dog better than anyone. You are your dog’s advocate. If your dog has a history of showing reactive behavior (lunging, barking or nipping at other dogs) STOP and consult a dog training professional to help your dog with his particular needs.
Before you have your dog meet another dog, all humans need to be mindful, agree to meet and be comfortable with the situation. Don't allow yourself to be talked into a meet and greet with another dog and certainly don’t be one of those people who try to convince someone else if they don't want to greet. No one is on their phone, no one has head phones in... we are all mindful. Rather than asking if the other persons dog is friendly, I prefer to hang back and watch the other dog for a bit. Is the other dog focused or bonkers? Four feet on the floor or jumping around? Is the other dog relaxed and looking away or stiff and starring? Not sure what those have to do with a dog’s state of mind? Come to one of our FREE Body language seminars, or email us for some free handouts to learn more. Now ask, “Does your dog enjoy meeting other dogs on leash? “ This is a very different question than “is your dog friendly” it might help the other person be more mindful too.
Your dogs outfit matters: I think it’s best for all dogs to meet with no pressure on their necks. Harness are simply better than collars when dogs are greeting another dog. When pressure is applied to the neck (even by the dog leaning forward on their own) it can restrict the breath, creating a bit of a panic response for the dog. Body harness’ even better, a harness that clips in the front, not only gives you more control but little to no neck pressure. (We won’t get into the discussion of choke chains or pinch collars here, other than to say get rid of them.... but if you have one...call us and we can gift you a harness if you surrender it to us)
Ok, you’ve got a relaxed dog on a harness, and the other dog is also comfortable... what’s next? Lets talk about a loose leash. Think of that leash as a direct link to your dog’s brain. Soft, flexible and relaxed? Or tight, stiff and taunt? Keep the leash relaxed, even if this means you have to move around a bit or not greet at all because your dog is pulling too hard. Don’t allow leashes to become tangled, just in case someone decides to do a crocodile impression and roll on the ground. Safety first.
READY? Here we go!
· Eye to eye greeting are almost always a disaster, approach the other dog at an angle and if either dog is starring, decide to greet another day.
· Wait until both dogs have an open mouth with exposed tongue. This is a “yes, please approach” signal. Closed mouth is your dogs way of saying “no thanks, please don’t approach”
· Encourage the greeting to be all about the butt sniffing, prepare to walk just past each other and around in a circle.
· Now it’s time to count... the 2 second rule
· One Mississippi, two Mississippi, turn and leave. Let’s try that again... one, two LEAVE. (It’s not one, two, three leave) Certainly if you see a dog tensing up, or begins to growl or snarl before your 2 seconds, turn and leave sooner.
· Gently turn and walk away encouraging your dog to come away with you, giving at least 6 feet for the other dog to relax. Don’t have 6 feet? Don’t greet. Don’t have a planned exit? Don’t greet. Not “feeling it” today? Don’t greet.
· As soon as your dog turns their head, begin to verbally reward them “Good Dog! What a good dog” When you are a few feet away, pet them and give a treat. Ideally something soft and stinky.
How did it go? Great, do it again. Another 2 seconds, then walk away. Some dogs like this 3 or 4 times before a longer greeting.
This greeting style not only teaches your dog how to be respectful of other dogs, but it also teaches your dog that you have their back, building trust between the two of you.
Angela Lenz, owner and lead trainer