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Is your dog friendly?

I hear this question among people out with their dogs all the time.  It’s a good question. It employs etiquette (unlike those who let their dogs approach others, ignoring warnings that their dog doesn’t really want to say hello) and who knows? A beautiful new relationship could be in the works.

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. This can happen for a lot of reasons:

  • One or both owners are anxious, which their dogs pick up on
  • One or both owners can’t read canine body language, perhaps mistaking  one type of tail wag for another
  • The dogs are really very often friendly but they just don’t like each other.

Did you ever meet someone, perhaps a waiter, who reminds you of your old math teacher in high school, the one you couldn’t stand? Or maybe you meet someone at a party who seems nice but the minute they start talking you start to think they are pretentious and priggish? Or maybe there’s a particular type of person that subconsciously you’ve formed an opinion about, say, people who wear a certain kind of clothing or eat a certain way. You just don’t like them. Even if you consider yourself friendly.

It can go the same way with dogs. They can just not “like” the vibe another dog is putting out. Often a frightened dog (Dog A) may show few discernible signs (to the human eye), but another dog (Dog B) sure gets it – often this “fear vibe” signals to Dog B that something’s wrong. Sometimes Dog B will react by trying to “do something” about it – and often, unfathomable as it may seem to us, Dog B may actually show aggression toward Dog A.

If this happens, shouting and punishing only inflame the situation. Assuming the dogs are on leash, owners should say nothing, and move their dogs apart as calmly as possible.  Resume your walk as if nothing has happened. (This also assumes no blood has been shed – in that case, both parties should check their dogs for injuries and seek help if needed.)

If your dog has trouble meeting others, seek the help of a professional trainer who can help your dog meet a non-reactive dog to start confidence building. Many recommend that dogs should meet only off leash, but that’s not always feasible.


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Posted in At home with dogs, Behavior, canine, common sense, home experiments, Nature, Science, spirituality, Training.

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