Something that I see way too often is the lack of respect that people show to dogs and dog owners. I literally see it and experience it on a daily basis when walking my packs throughout Hoboken. Most of the time it’s completely unintentional and is a result of a lack of education in dog psychology that is extremely common in today’s society.
For so many years the media and unqualified trainers have been spreading incorrect information about how we as humans should be interacting with other people’s dogs on a daily basis. I’ve seen everything from loud baby talk towards a dog, approaching a dog’s face with arm and hand extended, crouching down low, among other outrageous behavior. Because I am constantly working with dogs that have or had issues, I make it very clear to strangers who attempt to approach my pack to please not touch or talk to my dogs and you as a dog owner should do the same. I even do so when I have dogs with absolutely zero issues. A common response is usually, “don’t worry, I’m good with dogs” or “dogs love me.” As a dog behaviorist it is quite obvious that these people are in reality terrible with dogs or enjoy getting a dog into an excited state of mind both of which do a disservice to you and your dog.
“Can I pet your dog?” Like nails on a chalk board to me. Think about that. Imagine walking up to a stranger with a toddler and asking, “Can I pet your child?” Even worse is people who just walk up to a dog they don’t know and touch it. Look at it from the dog’s perspective. You’re relaxed walking down the street and all of a sudden a total stranger walks right up to you and starts putting their hands on you. It’s uncomfortable and disrespectful to the dog. With happy go lucky dogs, you can get away with this disrespectful behavior. Unfortunately, those types of dogs are few and far between. As a result I often see dogs developing leash issues,aggression, insecurity, nervousness and so on because of this disrespectful behavior.
The reason that I am able to walk 12 dogs all the way up and down Washington St. on a beautiful day is because I work hard to keep all the dogs focused on me and in a calm and submissive state. Whether it’s me with 12 dogs or an owner with 1 dog, we all want to be able to walk our dogs to be focused on us while walking calmly on a loose leash. Interrupting these states of mind because someone wants to touch or talk to your dog for selfish reasons is unacceptable.
As pack leader, you must tell people to please not pet your dog. You have to show your dog that you are in control of all situations. While on leash it is imperative to keep your dog in a calm and submissive state to keep them safe and you safe. I never ask people if I can touch or pet their dog. I never make noises to try and get them excited. I never talk to a dog or approach a dog I don’t know. I am totally respectful of the dog and their owner and know the effort it takes to achieve a balanced dog.
Lastly, I highly recommend not allowing to let your dog meet other dogs they don’t know on leash. The risks so strongly outweigh the rewards here. You don’t know the other dog or the other owner. In my experience most situations involve someone who is not in control or their dog and also have an unbalanced dog no matter what the owner may tell you. All it takes is one bad experience with the wrong dog or owner and you have the possibility of a fight, injuries and law suits. Not to mention that your dog has now had an extremely negative experience on leash that could potentially lead to leash aggression or all around dog aggression.
Keep your dog safe and respectfully ask people to not touch or approach your dog. When someone asks if their dog can meet yours, respectfully say no thank you, we’re working on leash skills. By doing so you will be promoting an enjoyable and relaxing walk for your dog while also educating people that touching a strangers dog or allowing their dog to rudely approach a dog they don’t know is something that is not acceptable. Remember, your commitment is to your dog, not a stranger in the street. Do what’s best for them and your relationship with them!