Here's the latest column from Dodford dog whisperer Laura Wylie.
Laura runs Laura Wyllie Dog Training and is passionate about our four legged friends.
'It's ok, he's friendly!' These are four simple words that can strike fear into many people - and not just fellow dog walkers, but also adults and children with a fear of dogs. It is often accompanied by a very enthusiastic, young dog with poor social skills and an owner, frantically calling them from the other side of a field.
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There are many reasons why a dog may not appreciate being approached by another; a very young puppy that is only just starting to explore the big wide world. A newly rescued dog that is just bonding with their owner. A dog recovering from illness, injury or surgery. An elderly dog with arthritis. A blind, or deaf, dog. A dog that has previously had a bad experience and is in the process of going through a training programme to rebuild confidence. A dog that is being trained or is in training to be/is working as an assistance dog. A dog that is worried by other dogs. Or a dog that simply doesn’t like other dogs or is selective about who they play with: Just like people, there are some dogs that are socialites and love nothing more than interacting with fellow canines. Then there are other dogs that, like people, find social interactions stressful and would rather avoid them.
Not many dogs like every other dog they meet. Do you like every person you meet?
Preventing a dog from running over to every other dog they see applies equally whether the other dog is on lead or off lead. Allowing dogs to greet when at least one is still on lead can create tension, as it tends to alter the way dogs would naturally greet each other, from an angled approach, to head on. An uncomfortable greeting interaction can bring out the fight or flight instinct in a dog. When they are on lead and unable to move away from the advancing dog, they may feel the need to use 'fight' tactics of various levels.
Similarly, if a dog that hasn’t yet developed the social skills to listen when another dog asks them to go away runs over to a dog that doesn’t want to be approached it can also escalate to a disagreement. Let's have a think about this in human terms for a minute. Imagine you are enjoying an afternoon stroll with a friend, when a tall man rushes up to you with arms out wide and a big smile on his face.
That smile is not going to make you feel any more comfortable with this strangers' inappropriate approach. As he gets closer, you turn away and step to the side to avoid his advances, but he is lacking in social skills and doesn't retreat. You have to politely verbalise your wishes 'Can you go away please?' He doesn't seem to have heard, so you have to be more assertive 'GO AWAY'.
You are getting really uncomfortable with the situation, which is not being helped by the man's friend laughing in the distance and shouting: 'It's OK, he just wants to be your friend'.
The situation escalates. The man wraps his arms around you to give you a hug and you respond by hitting him. He looks shocked at your response. His friend says he will report you for lashing out. You know you shouldn't have done it, but what other choice did you have? You tried to avoid him, you asked him nicely, you shouted at him and he still didn't listen. Sadly this is regular occurrence in the dog world.
So when you are out walking with your dog, please be respectful of other dog walkers.
Don't be the 'It's OK, he's friendly' person that other walkers dread meeting. If you need help with your dogs recall, or their reaction to other dogs, please get in touch.
For more information, email [email protected] Laura's classes are held at Dodford Village Hall.