No, not at a bar, you’re on your own there. I’m talking about people, ones with leash-straining, eye-bugging dogs, walking up into your and your dog’s face. I thought it would be interesting for us to have a discussion about how to handle it when others begin a face-to-face interaction that you or your dog don’t want to have.
I have been thinking about this ever since last week, when a couple with a large dog came walking toward us on a trail. Their dog, and ours, were on leash. Jim, who had Skip, and I, with Maggie, moved well to the side to follow good Covid protocol. That’s when I noticed that their dog was laser focused on Skip, eyes as hard as flint, tail up and rigid. Rather than continuing on, the man attached to the leash let his dog pull him closer and closer to Skip.
(This is NOT the dog! (Nor the breed) It’s just a stock photo for illustration purposes. I’d also add that this dog looks pretty darned friendly.)
Skip is good with other dogs. He greets them politely, loves to play and wags his tail loosely when he sees unfamiliar ones at a distance. He has given off a low growl on occasion to dogs whose greeting behavior was equivalent to a stranger at a bar grabbing your face. (Hang in with the bar analogy. I have my reasons.) He is also an intact male dog, and I suspect if another male got truly rude, Skip would call him out on it. But I don’t know, and I didn’t know the other dog at all. I did know that the look on the dog’s face was a red flag, as was his stiff-bodied approach.
Okay. Now what? Maggie and I were ten feet behind the two other dogs; there was no time for me to get in between them. The dog only needed two more strides to get into Skip’s face. Never good at split-second decisions, I blurted out “No! NO! NOPE.” Ah, the eloquence. But it worked. The man stopped his dog’s advance and moved on. As they walked away he said something about how wonderful his dog was, but, forgive me, I wasn’t listening. In hindsight, I wondered why I didn’t tell Jim to back away. I’m glad I didn’t, actually, there wasn’t time for that to work. The dog pivoted toward Skip just as they were passing us, and everything happened very fast. But my NoNONOPE was enough to convince the couple to move on.
This minor incident brought to mind all the times I’ve helped clients deal with people walking up to their dogs when it wasn’t in anyone’s best interest. Most often with clients it’s been with dogs who were afraid of strangers. I’ve had lots of experience with this, lots and lots and lots. Dogs are like magnets to people, including the ones who seem to believe, along with petting the bellies of pregnant woman they’ve never met, that they are welcome to loom over every dog they encounter, grabbing their face in their hands and kissing them above their terrified eyes.
I must have done counter conditioning exercises (CC) with hundreds if not thousands of dogs, often going out and about in public to help dogs learn that strangers aren’t monsters. Of course, safety was always first–the dog might have been muzzled, I was always there to run interference, and the client was well coached and had practiced how to do effective counter conditioning.
Running interference taught me a lot. First, as mentioned, keeping dog-loving strangers away from dogs isn’t for the feint of heart. But you can do it, and at the same time use their attraction to dogs to help your work. You have to stride assertively forward to get between the person and the dog, but soften it all with social graces. “Oh, hi!” I’d say, having observed their attention toward the dog and their obvious intention movements toward it. “You look like a dog lover! Would you help us teach Bunky here that people aren’t anything to be afraid of?” If they nodded, usually enthusiastically, my next job was to keep them from approaching within the dog’s trigger zone.
The most common response when I asked them not to approach any closer–I swear I’ve heard this hundreds of times–was “I’d love to! I have a special way with dogs.” This was said as the person, usually a woman, tried to barge toward Bunky. Or, usually from a man, “Oh, I’m not afraid of dogs,” as the speaker tried to approach.
“Ah,” I’d say, as I body blocked the person from getting closer to the dog and owner standing behind me. I’m so grateful that you clearly are a dog lover and know that getting too close to Bunky will just scare him! People who don’t know dogs often just barge right up and make things worse. I’m so grateful that you know dog well enough to stay where you are and help us out!”
Manipulative? Totally. I make no apologies; I can’t tell you how many dogs learned to love being approached by strangers because they stopped outside of their comfort zone and then, as asked, tossed treats. Or balls. I probably worked with 50 Labradors who loved to play fetch and learned to love unfamiliar people because it turned out they threw balls for them to catch. (As I said in one now infamous seminar segment, while explaining the protocol that I used with my own shy, adolescent Border Collie, “Soon every man walking toward Pippy was preceded by balls.)
But this method requires two people, one with the dog on a leash, the other running interference and able to body block approaching strangers with a smile on their face. What about when you are by yourself? One of the most useful exercises I’ve used is the Emergency U Turn. Beginning with no distractions, teach your dog to whip around 180 degrees with you as you pivot away from something you want to avoid. Make it like a circus trick, with lots and lots of reinforcement. Lure your dog around at first; avoid a leash jerk on your dog at all costs.
When I was seeing clients I also got good at saying “Stop!” to people approaching, even holding my hand out as if telling a dog to stay in place. Usually they were startled enough to stop for a second, giving me time to say “Oh, thank you SO much! Bunky here is frightened of people he doesn’t know (or dogs he doesn’t know) and I’m so grateful to you for helping him out! I also learned to carry a tennis ball in my pocket, because almost no one can resist catching one if you toss it toward them. Once you do, their hands are too busy to pet the dog, and if the dog loves to play fetch, even better. The stranger can toss him the ball and you’ve got a great CC session going. (Just be very careful not to let the person try to get the ball back from the dog. Again, body blocks are your friend here.)
What else? What have you done? I’ve known people who yelled “My dog has rabies/kennel cough/mange.” I’ve heard numerous requests for sensitive dogs to be identified by red bandanas, but I fear the general public is not aware enough of what it means. What about you? We’re all ears.
And, that bar analogy I’ve made? That’s my excuse to show you one of my favorite ads, related to unwelcome approaches. I’ve played it often in seminars, including Lost in Translation, as an example of the power of visual visual signals, even tiny ones, if they are salient. You absolutely want to watch it to the very end, trust me.
You might want to watch it again, because the woman in the ad was clearly communicating availability. (Glance with a small smile, touching her hair.) Just not up to the level of “I’d like to come to your room now.” It’s a great primer on visual signals (not to mention good music).
MEANWHILE, back at the farm: Lots going on here today, and for the next two weeks. Ever since I moved here in 1982 (is it possible I’ve been here 38 years?), I’ve been trying to save the barn. It’s a standard Wisconsin dairy barn, built into the side of a hill. The downstairs, where the milking parlor was, is cool all year long, insulated as it is by two sides built into the earth. This also, however, puts it in danger of collapse, which it did in part, just a month after my ex-husband and I bought it. Ever since then I’ve put more money than I am willing to tell you to save it, and this year Jim and I are going all out to have an entirely new foundation poured for three of the walls.
I have heard “It’d be a lot cheaper to take it down, lady, and put up a pole shed” more times than I care to, and I am grateful that Jim spent almost a year trying to find someone who knew what they were doing to fix it. He finally did, and they arrived this morning to begin work. Wooden barns are a threatened species in Wisconsin, and one of the things I’m grateful for is that we can afford to save ours. It’s going to be noisy, disruptive and expensive, and I can’t wait to see our healthy, happy barn after they are done.
Here’s one of the worst corners. You can see the huge crack in the foundation wall. There is dirt on the other side, and if water isn’t managed correctly (which is wasn’t before I moved here), the soil freezes and thaws and causes the cement to crack.
This is what’s left of the door that led into the bottom of the silo, which is long gone. I had to have it taken down after it began showing signs of collapse.
This is right outside the photo above. The silo used to be where the dirt pile is. (Nice looking soil, hey, say the gardener . . . ?) It’s going to be an interesting two weeks, cross your paws the weather cooperates and things go well.
I took these next shots two evenings ago on our after dinner dog walk. The sheep were up in the main pasture, and I asked Skip to move them down toward their hay outside the barn. What you see in the photo is truly and actually what the sky looked like. It was awe inspiring. I must have said Wow ten times, just to myself. I don’t remember the skies being as beautiful lately as they have been in the last few weeks. Not just the sunsets, which have been other worldly, but the cloud formations during the day.
Skip. Mr. Handsome.
I will love hearing about your experiences avoiding unwelcome advances. Choose your species, context or outcome, why not? (Should I include the guy, my first day in college away from home, who said “You sure sweat a lot for a skinny girl” while we were dancing?) May all the advances you encounter this week be welcome.
Oh… this one is always fun. Sarcasm alert! It’s especially difficult because when other dogs and their owners approach, I can only hear them. I know my dogs will usually be cool with it, because they’re very well socialized, but at the same time they’re working, and trying to “clear” me from the human/dog combo in our way. Usually, I can put my dog in a sit beside me, and just say, “he’s working,” as the dog/human pass us, but I also ask them if they can be a distraction for my dog. I’ll then have us walk by the human and their dog. This works great, as usually people are more than happy to help in the re-enforced training of a guide dog. Also, with my first dog it was necessary because he was very dog distracted, and we needed to work on it. Sometimes though, people just want to engage me and the dog. They’ll come right up and stand in our way, and I can feel my dog getting… annoyed? I can’t think of another word for it, but I’m sure annoyed. I’ve had to resort to being firm with people then, because I’m just trying to get somewhere and I can’t have them stepping in my dog’s path when he’s trying to guide me around this person. No really does mean no. To end on a cute note however, ever seen two guide dogs greet each other in an airport? It’s adorable. They just seem to say, sup? It’s so sweet. Can’t wait to hear everyone else’s tips and tricks.
“S’up?”from one service dog to another in an airport. Gonna be one of my favorite lines, thanks Laura!
This is more of trying-too-hard-to-stay-out-of-your-face story. When we first got Olive, I would take her to different places to walk that were quiet-ish but had some cars and people and the occasional dog being walked. Industrial/office parks turned out to be a favorite spot. (In our part of the world, these are basically places off a main road with great sidewalks and office buildings and people out walking on their lunch hour.) Not too overwhelming but somewhat stimulating. Most people would say hello as they walked by (lunch hours tend to discouraged too much dawdling).
One day, a couple approached us, and they stopped a respectful distance away and were asking general questions about Olive. Upon hearing that Olive was new to us and was anxious and fearful of new things, the man immediately dropped down to the ground and curled into a fetal position and did a tummy tuck somersault roll thingy! Olive backed far away not knowing what was going on. I was stunned for a minute and collected myself and asked him what was he doing? He had read somewhere that making oneself smaller is less threatening to fearful dogs. The woman and I exchanged looks and smirks, and Olive and I kept going. I give him an A for effort but his execution needed some work 😉
Don’t get me started on the people who think my dog needs a leash but theirs doesn’t. However, I will say avoidance of that behavior has led us into some amazingly beautiful walking places that we might not have necessarily discovered (and no one else had either at that time).
These days I’m the one with the dog making unwanted advances, well sort of. D’Artagnan believes that he should be allowed to play with every dog he meets even when he’s on leash. I disagree. On leash is a no playing situation. However, we’re still working on him learning this. So what happens is he sees another dog sketches a play bow and leaps toward them barking. Most of the dogs we meet respond by moving toward him to play. Most of the people freak out since this is a giant white monster leaping in their direction. What they’re not noticing is that despite this exuberant display he’s actually still under my control. We use a traffic grip leash that has one loop down right next to the collar and the other at the end of the six foot leash. When I see another dog I shift to the short loop. I’m holding him with one hand and not being dragged off my feet because he’s staying where the leash says but he is exhibiting all his excitement at meeting another dog. I usually try to reassure the people by loudly reminding D’Artagnan that he’s on leash and he isn’t allowed to play on leash while moving him away. It’s very much a work in progress.
What I’d like is for D’Artagnan to stand quietly and other dogs can approach him for a quick meet and greet if they want. When another dog comes close enough for a quick meet and greet D’Art immediately settles down. And he can work with the other Therapy Dogs in our chapter without doing his idiot dog act. One of these days he’s going to figure out that being calm gets him a lot more of what he wants than leaping about. That day just hasn’t come yet.
That photo of Skip with the sunset should be framed and hung on a wall. It’s stunning.
I like teaching the dog a cue to get behind me. As you say, you become the physical barrier.
I have also been know to tell students to tell the person that they are working on human greetings with their trainer and that the trainer has made them promise not to do greetings unless the trainer is there. Then it becomes the “I’d love to but I’ve promised” and “It’s not my fault but someone who isn’t here that’s keeping this from happening.”. Then you say something about you are certain you will meet again and maybe next time (not likely). Or, go into the broken record of “I promised, sorry.” and then suddenly remember you need to get out of there because you have to get back (feed the dog maybe?).
Carolyn M Henry says
With an absolutely gorgeous (she says humbly) little guy I run into this often. When it’s a dog I tend to get the “oh, it’s okay, my dog loves other dogs,” while I’m trying to get my guy behind and thinking that hard start might mean he loves other dogs…but for breakfast. I’ve found telling a person that their dog is not looking at my dog appropriately just bring defensiveness so I tell them that that’s great but that my dog doesn’t like other dogs – this being a therapy dog who acts as a breed ambassador at events and is sweet as honey. Let them think I have Cujo at the end of the leash, as long as my dog is okay I truly couldn’t care less. With people who seem to have some sort of magnetic draw to dogs often without even giving the handler eye contact let alone asking for permisson to pet I use an interrupter cue (who knew they’d come in so handy?) with an eh-eh and, when have their attention, let them know he is in training and it would be so helpful if they would just stand there for a second while we go past and thank you for doing so.
Sarah Patzer says
The “watch me” command has saved me and my GSD a lot of times while out walking in the city. She is leash reactive and dog aggressive and I don’t let any stranger pet her. I give a polite “no” and keep walking. The key is to keep walking.
Elizabeth Hendricks says
That leather ad was priceless! Thank you for a good laugh. 😉
That commercial is hilarious! 🙂 (and gross…but the ending is awesome)
I hate being in that situation you described on the trail. I will never, ever understand why there is a certain contingent of dog owners who think their dog is always friendly and always welcome to visit under all circumstances. I LOVE your noNONOPE! Brilliant!
I hike with my dog on a well-trafficked pet trail and most owners are really polite and keep their distance, and sometimes we visit with other dogs IF I see friendly body language from the other dog…but I clock the dogs at a distance and if I see that hard body, laser eyes and raised tail, we move way off the trail and I reinforce copiously for sits while I body block so the OTHER dog can’t look at mine, or sometimes we do attention heeling with lots and lots of food. I think we’ve just gotten lucky that we haven’t had a situation like yours, where the other person was NOT taking the hint that we do not want to communicate.
Last week we had to do attention heeling past two women on the trail together who each had a dog: one with a 70 lb. dog in a strung up chokehold while the dogs eyes bulged, and the other with a dog between her legs. The second woman was holding her dog up off its front legs, around its chest, while it thrashed, barked and growled trying to get at us, and she kept yelling NO! NO!! NO!! over and over. It was horrible; I could feel my heart rate go up just listening to her. I just can’t help but wonder why people subject themselves and their dogs to trails when they have this kind of reaction to other dogs.
Minnesota Mary says
I’ve been there soooo many times. My go-to is the loud NO, NO, NOPE. Most dogs respond to it, even if they’re obviously a bit confused because I’m not their usual person. One neighbor’s goofy Golden completely ignored my NO! NO! and was circling and darting at me and the three dogs I had on leash. I tried SIT! GIT! GO AWAY! DOWN! all to no response from the dog. Finally I tried “BAD DOG”! Wow, did I get a response! The golden stopped immediately and looked at me, wondering what he should do now. The owner happened to hear this and came running (FINALLY) only to berate me for calling his dog a bad dog. He actually threatened me if I ever called his dog bad again! Now we know why the dog is badly behaved… Great video, by the way. I laughed out loud at it!
Christine Johnson says
I used to walk my corgis at a local park. It’s a big place with a lot of wild-ish areas, great trails and a big pond with a stream. Lovely place, unfortunately also a disc golf course. It seems the young men who disc golf usually have at least one big dog (usually a pit mix) who is never leashed. As their big dog is rushing up to my (leashed) small dogs they invariably call out “don’t worry! He’s friendly!” My reply? Mine aren’t! You better get your dog!
I don’t walk there anymore.
Paula Sunday says
Congratulations on working on the barn, I can only imagine how hard it was to find someone with any skill to put it right! I grew up playing in a giant retired milking barn chasing wildish kittens in the loft that was forbidden to us! It was a magical place. When it was burned down, it broke my heart. (On purpose by the neighbor who bought it). Barn tours are not uncommon in Iowa. Maybe restored it could be part of that.
One of the most surprised looks I get from owners that I work with is when I say, “Please be the advocate for your dog in public, if that means being assertive to keep everyone safe and calm, so be it.” Most owners get it right away then we practice so they have a comfort level.
London also has been taught that when he is onleash he is not to engage strange dogs. I’ve taught him ‘other side’, which is a cue to move to the other side of my body so we can pass the oncoming dog with my body between them. Usually seeing this cue and his response is enough to induce the other people to rein their dog in (idiots with dogs on 20 foot retractable leads excluded). I’ve even used an open umbrella on occasion on a narrow trail to block a dog with questionable body language.
Deborah Mason says
Our boys, both “pound puppies”, are still working on their manners. My pet peeve is people who enjoy dogs jumping up on them. We’ll be working to keep them polite, then the greeter makes some kind of triggering move & up they go (one usually, but either one). As we’re getting them back to the floor … “Oh, I don’t mind!”. We tell them “they’re in training”. It often helps. If we have their harnesses (vest style) people assume it’s more than manners work can’t help that.
Tails Around the Ranch says
Having a reactive puppy mill survivor female Standard Poodle who gets very wound up whenever dogs approach, I am constantly scanning for clueless people (who are almost always more laser focused on their social media on their cell phones than their dog or mine) so I can either cross the street or easily turn down an alley to avoid a confrontation. You can often spot those dogs that will escalate an encounter from half a block away. When Elsa gets all amped up, it tends to get Norman (all 85 lbs of him) into protection mode (though he’s a big sweetheart and probably wouldn’t hurt a flea), but trying to hold back a charging 150+ lbs. of a pair of overly excited dogs is not easy for this old broad with my gimpy shoulders. I find avoidance is the best option. These days it’s probably good thing I wear a mask so they don’t hear me mumble, “what the bloody blue blazes is wrong with you,” under my breath. 🙂
I had just adopted my retired racing greyhound and we were out for our very first walk around the neighborhood, we barely knew each other. This man from down the street was walking the smallest dog in the world, it couldn’t have been more than 3 pounds and they are headed straight for us. My dog had likely never seen anything that looked like that in her life and I had no idea how she would react. I started out nicely saying that my dog didn’t want to meet his, he kept coming. I got more and more forceful to not approach us and even saying that my dog might eat his. Even that didn’t stop him. I stepped in front of my girl but the little one was on a flexi-leash and darted around me. My sweet girl gave her a little sniff and kept going.
I had to say good bye to her last week. She was the best girl ever.
Janet Noble says
I full time RV with a Rottweiler and a Scottish Terrier. They have been attacked by off leash dogs at these parks TWELVE times, usually prefaced with “my dog is friendly”! Fortunately, for these clueless owners, I have tons of control on my Rottie, a little less on my Scottie but can manage him so it has never ended as badly as it could.
The people always tell me, “They just want to be friends!”. My reply is that they are not going to be e mailing each other or messaging on Facebook after we all leave the park, they do NOT need to be friends! I educate by telling them that my guys are my service dogs, performance dog and show dogs and they need to pay attention to me, not every dog they see in the hopes they can play.
I also have people decide they can pet my dogs without asking. After being in law enforcement/security for 40 years, I can see it coming so I completely body block them and do not allow it. If someone actually ASKS first, depending on the circumstances, I will allow it. This can sometimes be a bit of a struggle as my Scottie is the most social guy you ever met which is a bit unusual for the breed.
And I really do not care if they are offended. Not interested in being “friends” with someone who is SO rude!
Mona Lindau says
So familiar. As a trainer of mainly guard breeds I have spent decades teaching Defensive Walking. Most guard breeds and many other dogs are opinionated about other dogs. They like some and hate others. I am not going to find out which it is with a meeting. I walk with my head going 360 degrees. When I see another dog, I use a drive way or someone’s front lawn or other side of the street, have my dog sit in front of me, tail to the other dog, lookin gat me, and get a treat. If a meeting cannot be avoided, I arc around the other dog, one hand up in a blocking gestures and I use “please my dog is sick, I am training” or something like that. Always I tell the dog “look at me, have a treat”. This works great. Until a surprise dog comes up from nowhere and my dog gets hold of the neck of that dog. That is where I have a great “out!” and my dog immediately lets go and sits. THAT takes several months to train, but worth it.
I think it was Trish King who told a story at APDT about a client who, upon hearing the dreaded line “it’s okay, my dog is friendly,” blurted out, “I’m not!” The approaching dog owner was so taken aback, she just turned around and walked the other way. It’s not the kindest answer, but it got the job done and the story always makes me smile.
I’m a fan of “the vet says he’s contagious” if I’m dealing with strangers and need to increase distance rapidly, but I’ve also done pretty well with, “he’s in training and can’t say hi.” Granted, I live in the Bay Area where folks are relatively sensitive to people with disabilities and dogs with jobs. For neighbors/family members/situations where I can’t burn social capital and the dog will be around them for longer periods, it often works to play up the sob story of the traumatized rescue dog. I’ve also had okay luck comparing cautious dogs to cats: “you know how a cat only wants attention from the person in the room who is paying them the least attention? This dog is a little like that.”
For working with the dog, I love the “look at that” game with a clicker. It takes work to establish, but if the dog learns that a person/dog/skateboard is the cue for a check-in, things go okay even if the dog sees something before I do. U-turns are also really helpful. No solution works all the time, but it always helps to have multiple strategies available.
I have stopped taking my dog to a nearby wonderful park because unleashed dogs have run at her more than once (park supposed to be leashed dogs only). Final straw was owner I repeatedly asked to please keep his dog away from us (he recalled it several times and it would turn and come charging back at us – after the second time I started to head to leave but the dog kept wanting to come along as we did so). The owner’s response 1) she’s friendly! And 2) if you keep telling me to control my dog I’m not going to – somehow he made himself the wronged party in all of this.
I hate to say it – this is the same attitude we see from people who refuse to wear masks or refuse to wear them over their noses. Complete lack of respect for others.
Anne Johnson says
Growing up with shelties, usually one at a time, we never took our dogs out in public. As an adult, I did start walking with my sheltie. Always the gentleman and trained as a show dog, he would respond to most encounters by laying down and head bowed. It gave me time to tell the oncoming dog’s owner that my sheltie was shy and would not defend himself if there was a scrap. I would appreciate they keep their dog at bay. If needed, I would scoop up my sheltie and move on. I’ve not had another dog since then that responded in this gracious manner!
Jiri[year-she, that’s Czech for George], my late, great, geriatric[age 14], rescued Dutch Shepherd took everything in stride since he’d spent most of his life as a well-trained kennel dog involved in s&r, agility, and drug work. He had a remarkable presence which attracted people while keeping most dogs at bay. Shortly after I got him we were standing in the parking lot of a small strip mall with the owner of an independent pet store when a car parked and a man got out to go to the store. On seeing Jiri he detoured, immediately dropped to his knees to embrace the neck, saying nothing. Astonished, Jackie and I looked at each other for the longest time. Finally, she said “you really like that dog, don’t you?” “Oh yes, yes, yes, oh yes” he replied. This happened several times more. Same ending. Jiri believed he was due every smidgen of human adoration yet he had a formidable presence which deterred most people and dogs. He made over 100 TDI visits where preschoolers always asked why he was such a nice dog. When needing air, he gave just one woof, since he was trained not to bark, and did only twice on one occasion during our three years less one day together. Through the animal communicator after his death at 17, he said he acted nice because he needed to train kids to be respectful of “big” dogs, not to be afraid of them. Dog of a lifetime.
As for humans and their dogs who approach too closely or are interested in a “play date,” I always say that my dog is not looking for a bridge foursome. Not now. Not tomorrow. Not ever.
Diana D'Agati says
I just want to say that I LOVE that you are fixing the barn. The childhood memories I have of my grandparents farm are something I will never forget. And the barn. The hay mow. The secret doors that led to the hay mow. Now, gone. Best of luck with it all.
I walk 2 of my dogs every day. The smaller (40 lbs) boy was born feral and is – still, despite my working with him for the past three years – terrified of strangers. He has come a long way from when I adopted him, but he will never be a friendly dog, and that’s okay. He has always been great with other dogs, but since he was attacked twice on our walks by uncontrolled dogs, he is much more wary now. My other boy is a 156 lb Saint/Rott mix. We rescued him from a bad situation when he was nine weeks old. He was completely unsocialized and been attacked by another dog several times. He is great with the dogs he lives with, those I foster, and my kids’ dogs when they come to visit… BUT he has always been reactive out of the house, and is even worse since his “little brother” was attacked. I must say he behaved admirably when these two (both Amstaffs, unfortunately) attacked. He roared, rolled the other dog, and just hovered until the dog looked, and then slunk, away. I’ve lost count of the number of times small dogs have come racing up to us, barking, snarling, and bouncing around us. I put my boys in a sit, chanting “Leave it, leave it.” Meanwhile the owner of the little loose terror is calling, “He’s friendly!” I used to reply that mine were not. Now I just call out, “He will kill your dog!” This results in hysterical screams for their dog to come, which he doesn’t. After a lengthy loud dance, this often ends with the owner giving me the finger or shouting obscenities at me.
Mary R says
We have two Cardigan Corgis, one is 12 years old and somewhat shy, she waits to see our reaction to the situation. She would never go up to people or dogs. Our second dog is 2 years old, her tail goes 90 mph when we meet another dog and then she flops on her back. Needless to say it is embarrassing and worrisome. We took them for a walk at the park a few weeks ago, they always have their leashes on and if we see someone else coming with a dog we stand to the side to let them pass so we can determine what their dog’s attitude is. EVERYONE says, my dog is friendly, but I think it depends on the situation. A dog was approaching us, unleashed but the owner quickly put the leash on the dog. We chatted for a moment and then went on our opposite directions. She did let us know that the dog never got into a fight. When she left she unleashed her dog and after she had turned the trail corner, we heard two dogs fighting and a lot of screaming. This ended after a minute or two. All we could determine is one or both dogs were not friendly and having a dog off-leash while the other one is leashed is a disaster waiting to happen.
LOVE the ad. We live in the country and do not walk much where we meet other dogs. But recently we traveled and were at a historic site that allowed dogs. Husband and I each had a dog on a flexi. Off leash dog came up from the beach and headed for us. Human a ways behind. I handed leash to husband. I stepped in front of my dogs, faced the approaching dog with hand extended, palm forward, and said “NO” firmly but not yelling. Walking slowly toward dog. He backed up and his human finally took control. I was very happy with this solution. Dog was probably not really a threat, but I do have a “bitch”.
Miriam Marcus says
I tell people who try to approach with their dogs “She’s not always friendly…” – that gets them to back off pretty quick!
Generally, people walking dogs here are very careful not to have their dogs too near, but I learned in puppy obedience class, where parents are being taught as well 🙂 I learned to tell the person on the other end of the leash, in a firm loud voice, “Make your dog heal, and stand back!” I have had 2 dogs run up, unleashed, into my surprised dog’s face, and I did what I was taught in class: “Get your Dog Under Control! Get your Dog Under Control!” LOUDLY! FIRMLY! We practiced in class so that we would be ready. Of course, you get, “He’s just having fun.” ETC. However, you must remain firm. The worst was when a dog loose in his yard a couple of blocks up the street (a golden lab) ran up into the face of my small dog and growled loudly. I said, get your dog under control! She called the lab over and said, “Good Dog!” and patted him. I said, You must see what you just did. You awarded him for pushing into my dog’s face and growling. And a woman sitting on this person’s porch said, “Well, if you hadn’t said hello to us when you were walking by, he wouldn’t have done that!” I would have liked to have been able to see the look I gave her as I reacted, as I walked off. My dog was traumatized from this, and was wary about every dog he saw, and balked, for about a month. He was always fine with all dogs he saw, but. not after that. He was well socialized, so this was a hard thing to happen to him.
I’ve found that being apologetic works for me and my beautiful and really shy dog. “I’m really sorry but she doesn’t like strangers touching her.”
Rebekah Hudson says
With on leash dog’s, I tell their owner “Don’t let your dog greet, it won’t go well”. This is of course after I have already gotten to the side of the trail or completely off the trail. But I also haven’t had to use that line that much since getting a bright pink muzzle that is way more obvious than the black muzzle my dog wore before.
With people that want to interact I have them stop about 6 feet away and cue “Go say Hi”, if my dog chooses to not greet them, I explain that she doesn’t feel like greeting today.
I love the “oh, my dog’s friendly” assurance as I see signals that reading your work has taught me to recognize. Most commonly I see a really strong, direct stare. Not icy cold in that really scary way, but definitely a likely intense interaction coming. Even if for play, won’t work for my dog. My strategy is to say “Awe, sweet! Mine is a rescue and is super nervous, sorry.” And then KEEP MOVING with a loose leash. Mine at the moment IS a rescue, and she had very limited early socialization and IS nervous in the world. Fortunately she follows my lead, and looks to me to “deal with it”. It is critical to keep the leash slack, also to talk TO HER calmly and reassuringly, “Good girl, good doggos, let’s go Nala, with me,” and KEEP MOVING. I also talk calmly to the other dog. Hate to say it but I often ignore the other person, especially if they seem clueless! I find if I tell people there is “something wrong with my dog” (nervous) they tend to slow or stop approach, make any comment on theirs, no help. What do I care about what they think of my pup or me!? And trying to educate people is hopeless. If they don’t recognize their dog’s signals it is highly unlikely I will make an impact. My focus is keeping my pup safe. Had an unfortunately harsh lesson this recently when we came around a corner and surprised a reactive off leash dog. It was a public parking lot near a state beach and LOTS of people come thru with dogs. The dog should have been on a leash. The dog attacked Nala as soon as she saw her. I called the woman to get her dog, and spoke calmly to Nala “ It’s ok Nala, let’s go”. The dog was on top of her, biting her, but she stayed calm and as soon as the woman pulled her dog off, Nala ran to me. I got her safely in car and went back to talk to the other dog’s owner. She was rude and clueless. To wit, not worth more than “Your dog should not be off leash.” Really the key to me is to always, always remain alert to approaching dogs/people and move away from anything concerning while actively keeping Nala focused on me. She has come sooooooo far in the year and a half I have had her. That attack was a couple weeks ago. I immediately called a friend to get pup near some reliable safe doggie friends and am thrilled it does not appear to have set her back!
Perhaps it is less of an issue in the UK, especially round here, where dogs are mostly off leash away from roads. I can only remember two or three instances of people being rudely gushing to the dogs, including one woman who picked Sophy up without asking me or, more importantly, Sophy herself. “But she’s fine!” she said when I remonstrated, unable to see the expression of complete shock and horror on my papillon’s face! But for the most part I rely on Sophy – she reads dogs and humans very well, and chooses who to greet, who to ignore and who to give a wide berth to.
We avoid bouncy adolescents with a cheery greeting – “What a gorgeous pup, but a bit big and bouncy for my littlies!”; steer round reactive dogs – “With me! Don’t tease the big dogs!”; encourage polite behaviour from children “The dogs prefer it if you crouch down and let them come to you – say hello nicely, Sophy”; and I keep an eye out for bicycles and other potential hazards (like the two snarly terriers both my dogs really dislike), but for the most part our walks these days are a relaxed amble. We are very lucky!
Never saw that ad before. LMAO! Thanks for a much-needed chuckle.
HE WILL BITE!!!! …has worked for me more than once. (He probably won’t.) But he plays rough at the best of times, and even though we’ve never had a real problem (although gosh I am so aware that could happen at any time), his play style freaks out a lot of humans, and a number of dogs too. We’re working on our U Turns – definitely a game changer for us.
I’m wary of leashed dog encounters anyway, simply because it seems to be that the people most interested in those are the least knowledgeable about dog-dog interactions. I have no qualms about using my voice to tell people to give space. It’s my job to keep my dog safe and I’m not worried about offending people who might not understand that!
I have a leash reactive ( some dogs, not people) Aussie. I use the 180 degree turn, getting off the trail as far as I can or just moving quickly passed. I always call out to the owner who is letting their dog pull toward us “please don’t let our dogs meet. “. To the owner who is letting their dog run unleashed I yell “CALL YOUR DOG NOW”. When I get the “it’s ok. He is friendly” , I say “we aren’t!” I have never had any owners able to recall their friendly dogs so usually we end up close and I remind them we are not in an off lease area and they are not protecting their dog or mine.
Yup, how can a wide trail or road not be quite wide enough to keep the distance from some folks and their pooches? But it happens. Thanks so much for all the great wisdom and ideas here. One strategy I was given was the “hurry” strategy. As I see a dog coming towards us, I let Mr. Max know that I have a handful of amazing treats (hand to nose) and then do a “hurry” as we jog past other pooches and get past in a “hurry”. It’s good for me to get a little extra exercise in (chuckle) and the other dog doesn’t get a chance to head over to us as we scurry past. Once sufficiently past there is a jackpot of treats! It has also kept Max focused on the “hurry” so that he doesn’t try to head over the over pooch. I should probably get in a little more hurries these days! Chuckle. Thanks again.
I tell people that they really shouldn’t make assumptions about other people’s dogs. They don’t know my dog, and have no idea whether or not he’s friendly, or healthy, or anything. I also point out that if my onleash dog gets into a fight with their off leash dog and I am hurt (as happened to a friend of mine, who ended up with a broken kneecap and tibia), I will sue them for the medical bills, and I will win.
We trained an about face. Our cue is “hustle” and the pups do a quick paced full turn around towards me as I quickly back up, turn and move away. Usually works well but is often interrupted as rude by those approaching. I find visual cues often work best, crossing the street, body blocks and the hand up “stop”. Sadly nothing works all the time. I find myself hyper vigilant when out an about knowing all to well many people are not paying attention to thier dogs at all when out it public. Cell phones ….sigh!
I also have 2 B&W Cardigan corgis (here’s looking at you, Mary R) & they attract a lot of attention. One is cautiously friendly and the other one is flat-out shy. I live near a huge beautiful park, but will not take them there because there are so many unleashed/uncontrolled dogs & rude owners. Amazingly we have many dogs in our neighborhood and 95% of the owners are are good with their dogs. And their kids – they always ask if it’s ok to pet the one & remember the other one is shy. Terrific kids!
My previous Cardi was Blue Merle, with blue eyes. Talk about an attention-getter! She got so much attention that by the time she was 8 or 9 she was sick of it. She became leash-reactive with strange dogs. And people. Off-leash, she was much better. I did my fair share of blocking and yelling at owners with her. The sad part was she was the best dog ever, on her own terms.
I haven’t had too much problem with people, generally saying “She doesn’t like people” is enough to keep them from petting my one dog who does not like people.
There was one small child though, who was an absolute terror. He was about three, and his dad was right there doing nothing about it, but this kid was trying to throw sticks at my dog (this was a different, not reactive dog, but still, nobody like having sticks thrown at them). My impulse was not very nice, but I managed to contain myself to just bringing out my mom voice and telling him “NO, you do not throw sticks!” and then I moved us well out of range.
The same dog had a large, intact loose male dog run up to him as we walked in the road. The owners were up at the house like 500 feet away saying “Bailey! Bailey” (he was deaf to this). My dog Ben was also an intact male and they did the whole male dog posturing thing, but as I called Ben along with me this other dog was following him and was about to start more trouble, maybe humping him, which might have been a fight. So I put Ben behind me and I told the other dog “NO. Go home!” and after a couple times of that he did.
Anja Poole says
When I first adopted a “leash-reactive” Border Collie from a local shelter 12 years ago, I had never heard of the term nor was I aware how blissfully ignorant lots of dog owners are when they take their pooch for a hike in public.
Disclaimer: I used to be one of those blissfully ignorant dog owners!
At first, I attempted to rattle off a well-meant but far too wordy explanation that while my dog was acting like a raving lunatic, there was nothing to worry about because “She was newly adopted and I was in the process of training her”. In hindsight, I’m really just shaking my head and sighing….. in disbelief that I could possibly ever have been “one of those dog owners”. But here we are, I am living proof that ignorance can be overcome!!
It did take me a few years to catch up on my lack of education and then some serious courage (spurred on by pure frustration) to find ways to get people and their dogs to stay out of our bubble. (“The other end of the leash” became pretty much my Bible!) It also took me a few years to find the level of confidence to demand this personal space, not caring if other dog owners may label me as …… whatever they may label me as.
It took me years to step up and defend my dogs personal space and the sad part is that “we” shouldn’t have to do this in the first place. Dogs deserve to have their personal space respected as much as we do at a party, just because we’re all there to have fun doesn’t mean we signed up for finding ourselves in the middle of a mosh-pit.
So, what do I do now when walking a dog at a park? I first train a solid “emergency u-turn”. While this may not get us out of every potential crisis, it appears to be much more recognizable to the other dog owner that “we” do not care to meet up with “them”. Walking away also diffuses the confrontational canine body language of marching in a straight line towards each other and I’d much rather have a strange dog approach us from behind than heading straight for us.
I also carry a can of “Pet Corrector”. It’s only compressed air that makes a sharp hissing noise. I became familiar with it when I worked at a doggie-daycare where we used it when the group of dogs got too hyped up in a chase (usually one of the dogs who loved to be chased) and body-blocking or redirecting with toys was not working. Rather than risking a game of chase tipping over into a predatory chase, we would use the Pet-Corrector to keep things from getting out of control.
I had spent years trying to find ways to get other dog owners to retrieve their off-leash dogs quickly, but the most effective way I have found so far is to point a fire-engine-red spray at their dog! It appears that approaching a snarling dog is nowhere near as scary to them, as a red spray bottle.
Attempts to communicate with an ignorant dog owner probably just waste time.
Understanding how we can diffuse encounters which could result in injuries is probably the most effective tool I can think of. No matter how under-socialized a dog may be, chances are they respond to certain physical cues better than their owners to requests to call and leash their dog.
Maggie Moss says
How about we both have ringworm and are contagious! Like Amanda says it is my job to keep my dog safe,and don’t care what I say.
What a laugh loved the leather advert.not seen it in NZ
Helen Parker says
That classic line…everyman walking towards Pippy was preceded by balls!
I was snorting with laughter.
I’m the one others avoid with horror as I have a young still-work-in-progress 32kg standard poodle who thinks the appropriate response to everything is to bark and jump around at the end of the lead so I never have to fend off dogs, although I usually warn approaching people: there will be barking! And quickly put as much distance between us as possible…sometimes just doing a u turn and walking easy until we find enough space.
I love Carole’s response: he will kill your dog! Bet that gets results! 🙂
I have a dog-savvy friend who tells people to control their dogs. When the response is “but my dog is friendly” she just shrugs and says, “Well, I guess there’s going to be a fight, then”. That often works with the owners. I, on the other hand, respond with “Well, WE ARE NOT FRIENDLY”. And I include myself in the “we” because when people are breaking the city leash ordinance and being cavalier about it, I certainly do not intend to be friendly to them 😉
P Crandell says
Why is it so hard to say “no”? And why do they always want to pet the little dog? My response, laser focus, eyes as hard as flint, tail up and rigid…. Oh wait. I do step in front of my 10 pounder, though, stiff-bodied. And I have learned to explain, ” she’s afraid,” instead of “she doesn’t like kids/people”, to avoid a defensive response on their part. I will even lie,” kids/people have hurt her”. Maybe they did in her early life. Whatever. It’s my job to protect my little monster.
My favourite unwelcome advance of all time was when I and my boyfriend were waiting at a bar to get served. We were both young and slim and we both had very long hair, worn loose. We stood side by side facing the bar. A man came up behind us, stood between us and slid one hand across my shoulders and the other across my boyfriend’s as he said “Well hello laydeeez…”.
His face, as my boyfriend turned around to face him, was an absolute picture.
Karen DeBraal says
I used to have two very reactive, poorly socialized rescues (they did improve over the years but never liked dogs or people outside their home pack). I employed so many of the above — avoidance (walking in quiet places at quiet times, crossing the street, avoiding tight trails, always on alert). I also had two littles at that time who were friendly. I found telling some dogs and owners No! or Stand back! or Mine are Mean! all with the palm out in a stop pose could work. But loose dogs used to be a terrible problem in my neighborhood. And some were aggressive on top of it. Some had people in the background and some did not. I took to carrying pepper spray out of desperation. Sometimes just whipping it out and holding it at arms length, if the person was near and saying, “Contain your dog or I will use this!” might work. I did have to use it, about 10 times over those years. Ugh. Thank heavens it worked. It didn’t earn me any friends but I was super desperate. Many of us were. We would joke about having animal control’s number tattooed on our arms.
I also once lived (with the same reactive pack which came from this area) in a miserable part of rural NM where there were packs of feral pits roaming the streets and alleys. We took a lesson from local teens and never left the yard without a big walking stick and a pocket of rocks. It was so awful I quit walking, other than remote wild places. And then I moved.
Trisha, as always another great topic!
After being attacked by 2 playmates as an adolescent, my dog isn’t interested in having an interaction with any dog. I did a Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) class – thank you Grisha Stewart! – with my dog, and practice the techniques we learned every chance we get. Whenever new dogs move into the neighborhood, I do a lot of “look at that” and “engage/disengage” to acknowledge my dog’s concerns and show him that looking to me and following my lead (moving off the trail, emergency U turn, whatever) will keep him safe.
If I’m on a trail in an area where dogs are supposed to be leashed and see an off-leash dog, I yell “CALL YOUR DOG!” That lets everyone in the vicinity know there is a loose dog, it’s a cue for my dog to get behind me, and hopefully will get the owner to leash the dog. I can’t do what I need to do to support my dog and help him make the right choices while body-blocking a determined dog.
As a dog trainer, I tell my clients:
– they are their dog’s advocates, it’s their job to protect their dog at all times;
– when they are out & about with their dogs their focus needs to be on their dogs, not their cellphones;
– no on-leash greetings; leashes interfere with canine body language and add an element of tension that can make a greeting go sideways
– have 360 vision and body-block anyone who tries to pet your dog without your permission
– at least half of one of my one-hour sessions is dedicated to canine body language (with photos) – what looks healthy & friendly and what looks risky
After reading about The Yellow Dog Project, am considering getting or making a yellow safety vest with “dog in training, please give us space” stenciled front & back.
@Abby, I love the “my trainer made me promise not to…” method! I’m going to incorporate that into my classes!
Love the sunset photos.
Karen L. says
Thank you so much for this post! We have a new dog who is timid when meeting new people and dogs. Unfortunately, with COVID-19, trying to give her positive social encounters has been really difficult if not impossible. These tips are GREAT. This is just what we needed! Thank you again, Patricia!
It was hard to read people’s comments- kind of PTSD. It is so sad that so many people have so much trouble just taking their dog for a walk. My dog has been attacked frequently, once very badly injured. We have encountered off leash dogs even in on-leash-only places, and then there are the clueless with flexi-leads. I have used my body, my voice, tried to be nice and explain, said nasty things, said my dog bites, said I bite, tried throwing food, used an umbrella, used a stick, used up three cans of pepper spray and counting, and finally- we mostly just walk on local roads with no shoulders and too much traffic, because no one else is out there and cars are dangerous but not actively trying to kill us. But we don’t walk much anymore. We’ve both learned to hate it.
On that intact male thing, over many dogs I’ve never seen a difference. The only exception is that some dogs with poor socialization may become scared when confronting the scent of an intact male, but that’s their problem. They can easily be taught.
I was surprised when you described your dog as being good with other dogs, but yet didn’t know how he would behave with this strange one, unless perhaps he’s very new?
All of my dogs would have handled that situation in an appropriate manner. Only if the other dog is really wild do I say anything, telling them to not do this on leash, but to let them meet at the dog park. Much easier once I get the other human out of the way, and my dogs have trained hundreds in social skills. But they cannot manage a scared dog while a person is dragging them by the leash.
There was one time in a pet food store when this guy let his dog run into my senior dog’s face. The resulting clamor momentarily stopped all the people around, but the staff knew my dog and just walked on. The other dog rapidly deferred and stuck near his owner. If he had been a very scared or aggressive dog, mine would have just acted differently, as needed.
All of my fosters learned how to meet people, and to avoid others. And learned social skills that are not dependent on food treats or balls thrown, but are instead self-reinforced. Many were adopted as second dogs, and often handled their own meet-and-greets, as they already knew how to meet dozens of strange dogs. Many years ago I used to use treats, but it was much slower than simply teaching.
You described that other dog as “laser focused on Skip, eyes as hard as flint, tail up and rigid.” That matches a good number of the problem foster dogs I brought in, or fear-aggressive dogs I’ve worked with who are very interested in meeting others. I’ll suggest it is very possible to teach suitable dogs how to deal with that, in a more effective and efficient manner than any person could do so.
With many loose dogs in this area, many people keep complaining about being attacked, because both they and their dogs may panic, although the local dog park regulars just don’t seem to have that problem. In the past year, only two of those people with scared dogs asked for help, and their issues are now gone. The others just keep complaining.
And what if I do NOT want to allow the strange or loose dog to come over and interact with mine? That mine are well trained it’s only the loose dog that I need to control. And since mine stay calm, the other dog becomes less excited. All things that people could do to improve the situation.
Alice Clayton says
Talking about getting in a dogs face. We were at Pets at Home the other day a UK chain petshop. The poster photo on the front of the shop had changed and was a man with his face inches from a Labrador’s face. My eleven year old daughter looked at it and said isn’t that a bit silly, I don’t think the dog will like that. I was proud of her! But really, what an example to set to the public, not good at all!!
My own current worry is about my dog’s bad body language when he approaches other dogs. He loves meeting and greeting most other dogs and is not aggressive. He avoids aggression from other dogs by backing off, or even running away (he’s a fast runner, but is getting older now). However, if off lead, he will run really fast up to another dog, generally stopping and/or slowing down for the final 4 – 5 metres. He holds himself very upright as he stands facing the other dog, with his tail held high and wagging fast. This is generally followed by a more relaxed posture for mutual bum sniffing and peeing, followed either by the two dogs running around together or by them separately and peaceably carrying on with whatever they each want to sniff or explore. Once he did make the mistake of running up to a large, unfriendly, mastiff-type dog that way, but fortunately his body language changed to appeasing just in time and he slowly retreated before there was any trouble. Echo is friendly towards small dogs, including chihuahuas, Yorkies etc. He doesn’t like yappy little dogs and generally just ignores them.
Echo has never got into a fight since I adopted him and has only twice aggressively snapped at another dog, on both of those occasions, the other dog was a gun dog type (sad, because I love setters and pointers) and both Echo and the other dog were on a lead and it was a single snap. I did have a warning as he got tense when he saw the other dog and its owner approaching; the first time I failed to anticipate that Echo would snap at the other dog (he didn’t hurt it), the second time the warning was briefer, but I reacted in time to ensure he didn’t make contact.
Echo is a neutered male, 20 kg, lightly built, scent hound mix with goodness knows what and possibly a bit of Labrador. When I adopted him as, (probably) a 5-year-old, nearly 6 years ago, Echo was extremely fearful of people, most other dogs, lots of noises etc. I believe this was down to a lack of early socialisation combined with mistreatment. His terror at even distant gunfire makes me think he might have been punished for being a “failure” as a hunting dog. He is now relatively confident in most situations and no longer attracts aggression from other dogs. He is very fit for his age and plays actively with much younger, larger dogs. He does sometimes growl and occasionally bares his teeth during play if another dog gets too rough or puts a paw on his back. I shout a warning (“Echo: stop that!”) if that happens and it has never turned nasty and I’ve never had to intervene to separate them.
Nonetheless, I am still worried every time Echo greets a new dog using his stiff, upright posture and tail wag that the other dog might take that for aggression and retaliate and a fight might ensue. Have you any advice?
I know you hate e-collars, but I should mention that I use one to back up recall and stop him chasing and killing the hens or chasing sheep. So, he is usually wearing it when off lead and I use it only on sound and vibration settings (in that order) and only after he’s failed to respond properly to a recall command. I’ve kept a mild shock setting available just in case he were to chase any livestock again, but I wouldn’t use the shock setting to stop a fight for fear that could be counter-productive.
Thank you so much for sharing all of this information. I am currently working with a small terrier that is deathly afraid of people and we don’t know why. He’s only 5 months old and we’ve been trying to socialize him for a couple months now. He has come a long way but I still fear him snapping at people who just barge up to him and even a small dog can do some damage to fingers and hands. Your tips on how to handle these situations are very helpful.
Donna in VA says
I try to keep a lot of physical distance regardless. I am always ready to step between my dog and another dog. I am always ready to yell loudly “NO, GO HOME” at an unfamiliar approaching dog that is moving fast. I am willing to kick at another dog that is attacking my dog. I tell the owner “My dog is old and fragile and I am going to protect him”. I really did this one time with a big Lab puppy that was loose. The owner totally understood and apologized. Once that dog was trained he was delightful. I am strong enough to lift my dog onto a trash can or parked car or whatever is needed to elevate him away from another dog’s reach. Sounds extreme but the indecision costs you the seconds you need to protect your dog. I just made up my mind years ago I would be as rude and physical as merited to protect my dog.
Charles G. Couturier says
This well thought proposition unfortunately reminds me of the hundreds of dogs now, that Sana and I have crossed path with, and which were systematically held back from being able to greet with us. We’ve experienced this yesterday, the day before, and will experience this today, and based on the status of this case, it will likely be so forever.
When I adopted my dog, 4 years ago, there was not a single doubt in my mind that allowing her to feel good, and even desire to be in presence of other dogs and humans, was my main goal. Some it’s agility, for some it’s jogging, for us it would be enjoying time with our “fellows”. I was suffering my worst nervous depression at the time, which through this simplistic cristal clear goal, went away with no medication. My rational was easy: She will learn by example. So at our dog park, or anywhere we’d go when there are dogs and people, I would be seen having fun with my fellows (which remains the best weapon to cure a depression).
So although I understand the situation, to some extent, it makes me very sad that in 2020, more than 25000 years after we presumably first me, many of the dog training tricks seem to be aimed at counter conditioning the subconscious desire to learn about fellowship, to learn what are these other dogs. And I’ll explain precisely why. Given that I’ve achieved my goal with Sana, every single opportunity to great, is in and of itself, a strong “reward” to her. It is a natural reward, because it compensates a negative feedback coming from her own homeostatis. What this implies in short, is that every time we go through such experience, she gets a social fix. She’s a dog, a social carnivore, feeling rewarded when she socializes. She never really play with dogs, they barely touch usually. Same for me, I don’t play much with these strangers I appreciate greeting. I don’t touch them neither. But all in all, I always feel a bit of a rewarding effect, greeting them.
Should we ever walk in Trisha’s area, by a cold winter night, with virtually no one in sight. And should Trisha suddenly pop out of the blue, dressed in black, wearing an old head lamp, she would look like an alien at first. Sana would pause, and process the scene. She’d progressively infer, based on speed and trajectory, based on a few indices provided by smell, that it is likely a human. She’d then set off to great with her, because being a social animal, she just digs this.
Ascribing specific content to non human’s intentional / emotional state, is not something which can instantaneously be learned in a 100 pages book. Of course, being who we are, Sana and I have many times, demonstrated to humans (with whom we crossed path with), that their dog was indeed much more social than they thought. This breaks my heart. A lady has shared life for 7 years with a Bichon, only to find out almost accidentally (and often, not without a lot of hesitation), that in fact, they she had not understood her dog’s behavior up until now. Breaks my heart, because there are many others like her, which we won’t great, so much so they do all they possibly can to avoid it.
Ascribing specific intentional and representational content to a dog’s emotional state, is very tricky. It is not something which one can learn within a weekend of reading a 100 page book. I suspect that “uncertainty” is often confused for straight fear. I so much wish people could better read, and deal with “uncertainty”, because I see “consent” there, while many see an insurmountable roadblock.
Now I propose this comment not as a criticism. I’m merely an uneducated spectator to other people’s life. I won’t even set “being well socialized” as a minimal goal. I just wanted to express, that some dogs, enjoy your attention, your pets, etc.
Jenny Haskins says
I will NEVER suggest to people that my dog is dangerous or likely to attack – Good advice years ago from Ian Dunbar
My favourite dog walking t-shirt has on its front, “Dog is friendly. Beware of owner”, (with NO picture of a slavering dog on it).
It works a treat! Before I found this shirt I had far too many incidences of people coming into my dog’s face.
Have not only been a school teacher as well as, for a few years ,visiting infants schools to give presentations about dog (and other domestic animals) safety I have no qualms against giving kids that come rushing up a lesson – as well as the mothers if I feel they need it. Though mostly I’ve had the parents or child minder thank me 🙂
Sherry in MT says
Montana PBS just aired a MT made program called “Saving The Barn”, if you can find it definitely give it a watch. You’ll relate I am sure. As for the “approach” of dogs and humans, you are so much nicer than I am but I have totally used the NO NO NOPE (loudly) to get people’s attention. I am always amazed at how little attention people pay to their dogs in general and even more when they are out walking with them. Of course most of those people aren’t paying attention to ANYthing around them most of the time. I do what is necessary to protect MY dogs and yup, usually that is loud and body blocking.
Heather Staas says
I usually hold up my hand in a STOP sign and say “No thank you!” Then pivot and move away at 90 degrees while feeding my dog treats. On the rare times it’s incoming children at a run a firm “NO TOUCHING” with the STOP hand works faster, and alarms their parents into quickly calling them away. Even with my friendly dogs that like children. Better they learn this might be an answer with a SAFE dog than to find out later with a less forward dog owner and a sketchier dog.
Vi Harra says
I have learned so much from my current two- 10 yo Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Gunner, and a 5 yo Chocolate Lab. The Chessie has always been fearful and reactive related to that fear. Lots of reading, lots of great training, and still reactive. I learned to be the advocate for him always (even with the extremely persistent neighbor that walked her two very “friendly” Goldens and said “my dogs love other dogs” as her male bristled and puffed out his chest every. single. time he saw my boy). 🙄 I have become a student of canine body language to help gauge moods of mine and other’s dogs.
That Chessie is beauty in motion doing what he loves best- water and land retrieving. He has slowed down but he has been a great teacher. I have loved being his student even when the lessons were hard for both of us.
My daughter is starting on the path to being a dog trainer and says that Gunner is one reason why she wants to help people really understand their dogs and not treat them like dolls.
I had a BC who didn;t like other dogs much. He wasn’t afraid of them and he did have friends but he was choosy. I was lucky he didn;t want to drop his ball so he learned to show all his teeth around it but if a dog was rude enough, he would go. I had to learn to say, “My dog is going to beat the crap out of yours,” and not be embarrassed by it. Anything else and people just wouldn;t listen.