If you have a friendly dog, you’re probably wondering why you shouldn’t let your dog go up to every dog you pass while walking on a leash. What’s the harm? Dogs are social creatures, right? There are actually a lot of things that can go wrong with these types of interactions. Here are 3 important reasons you shouldn’t let your dog meet new dogs while on leash.
#1 – Not all dogs are friendly
Just because your dog is friendly, it’s never safe to assume that other dogs are, even if their owner says they are. Many dogs who are otherwise friendly become nervous while walking on a leash. Some dogs are fine with small dogs but don’t like big dogs. Other dogs are fine if they’re allowed to approach other dogs on their own but become reactive when a dog comes into their space uninvited and they can’t escape because they’re on a leash. Aggressive dogs are allowed to go for walks too, as long as their owner is in control of them. You letting your dog approach theirs takes away their control.
#2 – It’s awkward
Dogs prefer to approach each other from the side with their head down to sniff the butt of the other dog, often while circling each other. When both dogs are on leashes, the leashes can become tangled. The sudden restriction of movement can freak out even a friendly dog, and suddenly you have a dog fight with no good way to separate the dogs because their leashes are entwined. The leash might also prevent dogs from using their preferred greeting, and approaching a dog head on from the front can cause an aggressive reaction from the other dog.
#3 – It reinforces bad habits
Even if both dogs are friendly, they may be so excited to see each other that they forget their leash manners. They may bark and pull and drag you over to the other dog. If you reward them by letting them greet every dog you see, you’re reinforcing that pulling behavior. They learn they can drag you wherever they want.
A pulling dog can be very dangerous – not only can they yank their leash right out of your hands and run into bad situations such as traffic, but they can also injure you, especially if you have a larger dog. You could fall, hurt your arm or shoulder, or receive any other number of injuries. Tight leashes can also contribute to tension between dogs that may cause an unexpected dog fight in otherwise friendly dogs.
How can your dog safely meet and enjoy other dogs?
Dog parks and doggy day cares may be great places for dogs to meet each other in a more natural way, but they aren’t without their risks. You can’t guarantee that every dog there will be friendly. You also can’t guarantee every dog there will be healthy – a dirty dog park can be a breeding ground for diseases.
One great way for dogs to interact is to have a few dogs play with each other in a fenced area, preferably while being supervised. Other options include parallel walking and trail hiking.