In this post I’m going to share a secret for reducing the chances of a fight when introducing your dog to other dogs. But first, a message from common sense.
You don’t need to meet every dog you encounter. It’s legal in all 50 states to say “good morning” to the other handler and just keep walking. Yes, if you choose to have a conversation with another dog owner, your own dog should be able to sit quietly at your side. Obedience instructors spend a lot of time on this, but don’t take that as a sign that you need to meet every dog you pass. As Nancy Reagan said, “just keep walking.” Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
If you are in a situation where you must meet another dog, remember that emotions flow right down the leash. If you show nervousness about the encounter, your dog will pick up on that. You’re the pack leader. If you signal through the leash that there’s a reason to be nervous then the whole pack goes on DefCon1.
Additionally, if you tighten up on the leash the dog might feel restrained and unable to maneuver, adding to its stress.
What I’m suggesting very hard and completely counter-intuitive: if you must meet a new dog (see paragraph 2) then do so with a slack lead, and ask the other dog handler to do the same.
Just let the leash go slack as the dogs greet noses and check each other’s business cards. Be prepared to lean over or step forward to keep the leash slack as they move about. You might have to deal with bit of tangle, but that’s better than dealing with a bit of fight.
And believe me, if the dogs do decide to fight, having a taut lead will make zero difference in your ability to get them apart before blood is drawn. It will all happen just too fast.
And another thing! Along the theory that emotions flow down the leash…if your dog is having a bad day and seems to have regressed to shoe-chewing, carpet-peeing puppyhood…look in the mirror. If you’re having a bad day then the dog that loves you is having a bad day, even if they don’t know why. Set a good example for them.
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