In response to our recent post about ways to help other dog owners out, the resounding difficulty people reported was the behaviour of off leash, out of control dogs. We agree, this cultural oddity is a scourge, for sure.
While you might think or like to think that your dog is being ‘friendly’, nobody else needs to interpret that behaviour that way. Indeed, that’s because it’s not “friendly”. Imagine unfamiliar people running up to you, unsolicited, trying to touch you or engage you in an interaction. Would that be considered friendly? Nope…and possibly unlawful.
It’s not even friendly dog-dog behaviour. But because it’s become normalised, the wider dog owning public might think it’s ok or acceptable, and not recognise the need to provide their dog with help, support & guidance.
Recently, Decker, who is 11, was jumped on, from behind and unexpectedly, by a large adolescent dog whose owner was several hundreds of metres away. This young dog landing on my older boy’s lower back has resulted in some stiffness and tightness, particularly to his TTA knee which is fully recovered and in great shape other than some minimal arthritic change, as to be expected. He’s been on pain relief and appropriate rest so it isn’t exacerbated.
While there will be no behavioural fallout for Decker from this, if this had happened to the dog I was working with just after this incident, it would have sent us backward at least six months in our program.
Allowing this to happen, is not “socialisation”, it’s not benefitting your dog, and it’s most certainly damaging to other dogs and their humans. If your dog can’t manage the distance or situations at which you expose them to other dogs without lunging, pulling, staring, running up to, getting excited or anything other than some glances, some sniffing and information gathering and moving on, your dog needs help.
You might not be aware and that’s ok. But, you need to understand that there are physical and behaviour implications to your dog’s behaviour…and for your dog.
If your dog approaches another dog, and that dog snarks, that’s on you and that tells you that your dog’s approach was inappropriate. The other dog is allowed to say NO!.
Even if your dog is a ‘puppy’, even if the other dog is off-leash, even if you own a “friendly” breed (that’s not a thing!), if you are allowing your dog to approach other dogs when that other dog did not solicit that interaction, your dog’s behaviour is the problem. And may put them at risk too. It’s up to you to step up, and you can, of course, do this to help your dog.
Another dog just being present isn’t license for you to allow your dog to approach. If your dog can’t just go on with their lives in the presence of other dogs, it’s up to you to put measures in place to control your dog, prevent them being a nuisance, to keep them safe…at a minimum.
Here’s the bottom line. We have disrupted dog-dog relationship development to suit us which means we have to take on extra responsibility in ensuring they have appropriate social guidance. It’s part of your meeting their needs.
Help your dog out!
- Recognise there’s an issue and that your dog’s behaviour is telling you they need extra support & guidance.
- Learn to use a long line and think carefully about where you bring your dog to better meet their needs.
- Meet your dog’s needs and that shouldn’t include high octane and random interactions.
- Get engaged with your dog, get off your phone and have fun together. Be the fun, make the fun happen, nurture your relationship.
- Teach your dog that other dogs exist…and that’s no big deal!
For puppies, teach them that other dogs are “look, no touch” and teach adolescent & adult dogs that other dogs are none of their business.
- Support your dog developing stable friendships with appropriate buddies, rather than random, high-octane and casual interactions.
- Go Adventuring! Facilitate lots of sniffing and lots of dog-led fun.
- Set up regular and appropriate neutral-dog-meet-ups and/or playdates with well-matched individuals. Provide guidance to nurture their developing social skills.
We can help you help your dog in developing more appropriate social skills and in you meeting your dog’s needs, social and otherwise.