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Why You Should Avoid On-Leash Greetings with Other Dogs & How to Greet Safely

A lot of pet parents think they have a friendly, loving dog until another dog comes up to greet them while leashed… and then those pet parents are in for a nasty surprise! Or, picture this: your pup is super friendly and curious when in reality not every dog out there on your walk is on the same page.

Either way, there are good reasons why many pet professionals (including Pet Waggin’ Pet Care) think that on-leash greetings are better off avoided. We spoke with our good friend Jill Guin, dog trainer and founder of Underdogs Long Beach about on-leash greetings, why we should avoid them, and how to find safer alternatives.

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Here’s what we learned:

On-Leash Greetings are Unnatural

Dogs like to greet each other in specific ways. For instance, off-leash, they often approach each other from the side with their heads slightly lowered. They also like to have the ability to sniff each other’s rear ends. Let’s say two dogs start greeting each other in the proper way, even if they’re both on leashes.

Typically, pet parents will find themselves untangling leashes, trying to keep up with a dog, and before you know it, dogs can get tangled in each other too, resulting in frustrations, excitement, and tempers rising. This can also create chaos when dogs are trying to actually get away from each other.

Proper dog greetings should not be face-to-face. Dogs interpret this as aggressive, so letting your dog charge headfirst at another dog is not advised.

Reinforces Bad Leash Manners

Your pups have likely come a long way in learning how to be polite on their walks! Even if your dog (and the other dog) are super friendly, they’re likely to become over-excited when seeing each other and forget their good leash habits.

It might seem harmless, but leash tugging and pulling can become more concerning when pups get stronger and better at pulling. You could fall and hurt yourself… or the tension of tight leashes can aggravate dogs further and result in a fight that no one wants.

What to Do in an On-Leash Greeting Situation

If you find yourself in a potential on-leash greeting situation, step in closer to your dog, creating slack in the lead and distract them with a treat, getting them to follow you away from the trigger.

When dogs hold a stare with each other for longer than 3 seconds, it’s interpreted as aggressive by the other dog. It’s important to try and distract your dog before that 3-second threshold.

Because those 3 seconds are so important, you may not have enough time to explain to the other owner about your dog’s temperament before all heck breaks loose. But you still need to let an approaching person with a dog know that your pup is threatened by being approached in such a way. Simply saying, “We need space please,” is the only explanation you should be obliged to offer.

Better Ways to Greet Other Dogs

For introductions, consider a safe space without leashes first. A safe space is important. You can also keep your dog on a leash but let them drag the leash behind them so you can grab it if need be. Try to keep meetings in open spaces so that dogs have room to move and feel they can get away if they need to.

Always end new introductions on a positive note, praising your pup and maybe even rewarding them. Stay calm and speak in happy tones, especially when leading your pup away from another dog. But keep these early and new interactions brief so that your dog can get used to them, and work up to longer playdates.

If you have a good friend with a dog, consider taking walks with them so that your pups can walk side by side. Parallel walking will keep the dogs busy (distracted), but they’ll feel able to socialize as well.

Dogs are amazing, complex creatures. So amazing, in fact, that even something as simple and friendly as saying hello can get so complicated! But there is so much information passed between pups in what seems like a brief meeting, and tensions can rise fairly quickly!

We are so grateful to Jill for helping us be even better dog-walkers than ever before! We learned so much from her that we continue to bring forward within our own dog walking services here in Long Beach. Pet Waggin’ is all about making sure that walks are enjoyable, safe, and engaging for your pup. Book now with us and make sure your pup is getting the well-rounded, healthy lifestyle he or she deserves!


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