A while back, I was walking my dog with reactivity in my neighborhood during a time when I was less likely to encounter other dogs. Later in my walk, I saw a woman walking a half a block behind me with her two dogs. I sped up. She sped up. Before I knew it, she was right on my heels! I scooped up my dog, turned around and said, “I’m sorry, can I help you?” She sheepishly responded that she wanted to see if her dogs would like my dog. She said she was trying to socialize her dogs. I politely offered her my dog training services and explained that while her adorable dogs might like my dog, my dog was not going to like her dogs.
We also hear stories like this from our clients all of the time. Our clients have stepped off a trail or sidewalk to allow another dog to pass. And yet, the other dog owner lets her dog rush up yelling, “He’s friendly!” Our clients will have their dogs in a fenced-in backyard and a neighbor will allow his off-leash dog to run up to the fence yelling, “I’m trying to socialize her. I want to see if they’ll get along.”
Dogs and their owners don’t get a pass for bad behavior in the name of friendliness and socialization. This is rude and inconsiderate behavior. Not only that, this can lead to people and dogs being injured.
If you were walking in the woods and every stranger who walked by came up and hugged you without your consent, how would you feel? Would ‘being friendly’ and ‘wanting to say “hi”’ make you accept and forgive their behavior?
If you are the person encouraging your dog to greet unknown dogs, please stop. Your dog probably is friendly, but ours may not be. We know you mean well, but it’s not about you. It’s about me trying to keep my dog safe. There is a right way and a wrong way to socialize your dogs. Rushing strangers and their dogs is the wrong way. Instead, plan parallel walks and playdates with friends and their friendly dogs. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
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