Leashed Dogs Shouldn't "Say Hello" to Each Other

Leashed interactions = bad mojo

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Diana's Bad Rule

"Why aren't dogs allowed to meet and greet on leash?" is a familiar question I get. I have a rule against dogs interacting on leash - even in my puppy classes. Some people are not pleased at all with my rule, but I know the dogs were very appreciative of it, and it is written uniquely for them!

First of all, why should they have to? Besides their humans getting misplaced warm fuzzies about how cute it is for their dogs to "make friends," meeting on leash doesn't offer a lot of positives from the dogs' perspective.

This is what typically happens when a dog meets and greets on-leash:

1) He gets very skilled at pulling. When is the last time you saw two dogs with slack leashes approach each other? Why not teach him to pay attention to you when there are other dogs present? You'll find getting to Point B a heck of a lot easier if you've conditioned your dog to focus on you and when he's leashed, there's simply no option for interacting with another dog.

2) A taut leash during a canine meeting is bad mojo at best. It greatly increases the likelihood of introductions going sour; these interactions are not conducive to a friendly first impression either in approach or in body language. An unrestrained greeting between friendly dogs is from the side and curvy in nature with no direct eye contact - leashed dogs often approach straight on and stiffly due to the tension of the leash. You cannot appropriately socialize dogs on-leash. You just can't. They express themselves with their entire bodies. Leashed dogs can't speak fluent canine and the risk of misunderstandings is great.

3) It can be unwieldy, if not dangerous, to dogs and people when the leashes get tangled - especially if a retractable is in the picture.

4) It increases likelihood of reactivity and aggression. If one of the dogs wants to get away, he is prevented from doing so and may resort to defensive tactics. Repeat this scene a few times for some dogs and they start to act preemptively – fully expecting their personal space to be invaded.

Imagine if every time you got on an elevator, a total stranger came up to you, face-to-face, and gave you a bear hug… or yelled at you. You wouldn't know what to expect because a stranger's behavior is unpredictable. It sure would give you second thoughts about getting on any elevator in the future. It's much more useful - and respectful of our dogs - to teach them that they will not get to meet every dog they see. We force them, time and time again, to share their personal space with strangers, both canine and human. Most people assume all dogs are friendly – should be friendly - and that their own friendly dog deserves the right to invade another dog's personal space.

We are very lucky in Maine to have so many places to take our dogs for quality off-leash excursions. These adventures offer excellent socialization opportunities and physical and mental exercise.

Save the leashes for leash walking your dog. He'll be so much happier. And learn how to read canine body language. The next time you see two dogs straining at their leashes to "make friends,” listen to what they are saying. They are learning something every moment of their waking lives and expressing themselves every instant, too. It's time we listened to them.

What is your dog learning right now?