I used to have a rule that my dogs didn’t approach other dogs if they were on the lead. It’s a fairly common rule of thumb amongst dog walkers, though unfortunately, lots of people don’t seem to have heard about it!
You see lots of memes, infographics, social media posts, etc. stating that dogs may be on leads for a variety of reasons and it’s not fair to allow your dog to approach them.
This is absolutely true, but I ditched this rule.
Having lived with dogs who display aggression when faced with an unfamiliar dog, dogs who get very excited and over the top when they see other dogs, and with elderly dogs who simply don’t want dogs bouncing on them, I realised that the on-lead rule wasn’t enough.
One dog who displayed aggression, did so when the option to move away was taken away from him. This is only when there is a lead attached. Many dogs react far worse when they are on a lead than off. This dog felt safer off the lead and therefore didn’t react aggressively when off the lead. All the same, I didn’t want dogs approaching this dog because he clearly wasn’t comfortable with it, so I had to put him on a lead to indicate to other people that he should be left alone.
One of my current dogs is elderly, she is wobbly and although she does well for her age, she’s aware of her weaknesses and certainly wouldn’t be happy with being bounced on as it would be painful for her. Dogs do anticipate pain and what may cause them pain far more than we give them credit for. She is generally mild-mannered with other dogs, and will say hello to calm, quiet dogs but she is very uncomfortable around exuberant, bouncy dogs. She also walks at her own pace, sniffs a lot and meanders and it’s nice for her to have a trot at her own pace, off the lead. I don’t want to remove her freedom by putting her on a lead to indicate to other people not to let their dogs run up to her.
So my rule for my dogs nowadays is, you see a dog (any dog –
on or offlead – though good friends are an exception!), you check with me
first. I then have chance to ask the owner if they would like us to give them
space or if their dog is okay to be approached and can give feedback to my dog
depending on the other owner’s answer.
As a result of practicing this, my dogs actually don’t bother so much with a lot of dogs, they sometimes check to see if they can go but often, they see them and they just carry on their way.
(For anyone reading this who knows my dogs – my youngest stays on a long line, because he is not entirely there with this, and still gets very excited at the sight of another dog – but he’s on a long line so he can’t get it wrong, and he is now choosing to stay by me and whine rather than run up! Progress!)
Consider for a moment, being able to tell your dog whether it’s appropriate to approach another dog or not, how much more relaxed your walk could be, and how much nicer it would be for people like me and my elderly dog.
I would love to see more people choosing to keep their dog with them until they have checked with the other dog’s owner, whether that dog is on a lead or not.
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