While it is very true that not all dogs get along with each other, most actually do! After all, dogs are basically very social animals. But just like humans, there is always that possibility that there can be a conflict of personalities between dogs. It’s not necessarily a German Shepherd vs. Doberman thing, or even a Pit-bull vs. Pit-bull thing. It’s usually just a difference in energy levels, amount of socialization or a resource guarding issue.
Because of this it is the dog owner’s duty to make sure that their dog has proper leadership and is always under their complete control. It is also important that the owner doesn’t try to force a meeting if either of the dogs is not in a completely calm state of mind.
When less social dogs are in public they need to be given every possible chance to interact with other dogs and humans. This is a great way to desensitize them. But interaction should only be done in a controlled environment with the help of a trained professional. It’s not something that should be done in passing on a public sidewalk. This is how people and dogs get hurt!
As a responsible dog owner you must be able to read the signs and the body language of both, your dog and any approaching dog you cross paths with. If you see that your dog is getting over excited, distressed, or even aggressive you need to remove it from what ever is causing the problem. That means stop advancing, turn away, or make whatever correction it takes to calm the dog. You also need to let the other person know that something is wrong, and they need to stop too. It is NOT rude to do this. Most owners will actually appreciate it.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve heard, “Oh, It’s OK … My Dog is REALLY a Very Friendly Dog!” To which I usually think to myself, “Sure it is …that’s why it’s barking, growling and trying to bite through his leash!” Frankly, this person is either: A). an owner that is in denial, B). doesn’t know any better or C). just lacks proper leadership skills. Unfortunately, it’s up to you to figure out which of the three it is.
When I’m out in public with my dog, or with a dog I’m working, I am relaxed and in the moment. And we usually have a great time on our walks. But I’m also very aware of what’s happening around me. I’m always scanning the area to see if there are any possible issues that I may need to address. With my dog, we are currently working on her pray drive. When she sees something move, she gets very excited and wants to give chase! So you can imagine what she is like when we meet another dog! But she is learning that she has to remain calm or she doesn’t get to meet them.
Many loving families share their lives with dogs. Some choose (for a variety of reasons) not to socialize their dog with other dogs or humans. We should be very careful NOT to judge them for this. A lot of times, there are some good reasons for it. Here are a few for you to think about.
- The dog is going through service dog training
- The dog has injuries or a painful physical condition
- The dog is intolerant toward other animals
- The dog is recovering from surgery
- The dog suffers from uncontrollable fear or an anxiety disorder
- The dog is elderly and frail
- The dog is owned by someone that want to be left alone
- The dog is used as a personal protection animal
- The owner is in a hurry and doesn’t have time to stop and talk
These dogs have every right to be out in public without having to interact with humans or other canines. When you come in contact with someone walking his or her dog, be sure to ask if it’s OK to interact. I do it all of the time, and no one has ever had a problem with it.
I have a lady in my neighborhood with an American Pit Bull Terrier that has had a very tough past. It is very aggressive toward other dogs, but is very sweet with humans. On occasion I find myself walking down the same section of street with them. We spoke in passing several months ago and she told me the story of her dog. So, now when I cross paths with her, I move to the far side of the street and make my dog sit as quietly as possible until they pass. This serves two purposes. She and her dog don’t feel pressured to interact, and her dog learns that not all dogs are out to get her. Over the past few months I’ve seen a marked improvement in the dog’s reaction to my dog.
It is very important that we give other dogs and owners some space. We need to learn that imposing ourselves on other dogs and owners is not always good for the dogs. Well meaning dog owners need to ask if it’s OK for them to meet, NOT insist on meeting them. It’s all about showing respect and realizing that we don’t always know what’s best. After all, we don’t always know the full story behind the other person and their dog.