It cannot be said often enough, the dog encounters on the leash in our everyday life are something very unnatural for dogs.
When we meet a strange dog it’s usually fast, close, and in a straight line.
For dogs, this is a very impolite approach.
Therefore, they must first learn how to deal with such a situation without expecting a conflict or fight.
Some dogs have already learned as a puppy that they can/must go to any other dog. I even experienced once that a woman with her Pinscher girl waited for me in front of my front door to tell me how poor my dog is with me. He was not allowed to go to any other dog although he was so sweet… completely disregarding that my dog was already escalating more and more furiously during her monologue.
I experienced the same woman once in action. While I waited with my dog on the side, until other people/dogs pass, she walked with her girl right into the strangers.
The dog slid on the ground, her tail between her legs, with a scared face and humble gestures, crawling towards the other dog to be sniffed (which she tried to avoid as much as possible).
The owner was of course super proud and still animated her.
This dog had obviously learned that she has to look for contact with every dog, no matter how afraid she gets.
A display of misery… that was my thought about the situation.
Of course, the socialization of a puppy is important and it should also get to know as many different dogs as possible. But with such a tactic (having to go to everyone), every encounter becomes a horror show. But a bigger dog could also learn: if I “go at” the other dog as hard as possible, he won’t do anything to me. We have created a mobber…
The other extreme would be: the dog is not allowed to go to any other dog.
This is also not very good for social behavior.
So what is right?
For me, it is no close contact with strange dogs.
Because unfortunately, many owners cannot judge their dogs well. Especially big, rough dogs are described as totally friendly and for smaller dogs close contact quickly becomes horrifying.
But this does not mean that there should never be contact with other dogs (not the ones you live with). Normally, a few good friends that you meet more or less regularly are enough for dogs.
So if you’re looking for dog buddies you can look around at friends, family, neighbors, or even on social media.
Ask people exactly how the dog behaves during encounters and listen carefully. Most people like to talk about their pets anyway.
If the description sounds good, the handling would still be important to me. Because even rough handling of the other person with their dog can be intimidating to your own.
If everything fits well in theory, a first meeting is possible.
My favorite variant here is first a social walk without contact, to see if the dogs find each other interesting at all and how both react to each other (politeness?).
You can either walk towards an often empty dog park or let them off-leash.
Here a recall should work well with both dogs because a play interruption by the owners might be necessary.
Especially when young dogs meet for the first time, they often can not take breaks so easily. Then they need support.
If this works well, nothing stands in the way of regular meetings (as long as you also like the owner, of course).
But what about group walks?
For me, they are rather difficult to assess.
Here many dogs come together, which do not know each other at the beginning. There is a lot of management involved and the dogs need to be watched very closely to identify and prevent conflicts early on.
Apart from the fact that for many dogs a whole group of strangers is intimidating at first.
Unfortunately, there is often too little attention to the well-being and acted more according to the motto: “He will get used to it, they settle this among themselves”.
However, this is not a pleasant experience for anyone involved.
And contact on the leash?
There are always heated discussions about this and there is no right answer.
Except with Flexi leashes. There, close contact is not up for discussion, because that is extremely dangerous.
But if you can’t take your dog off the leash and you want to allow him to contact others on the leash, a skillful hand on your side and on the side of the other owner is necessary.
The leashes should not get tangled, otherwise, the dogs will quickly find themselves at a close distance with no way out…very conflictual.
If the other dog is free, of course, you don’t have the problem.
The contact should be rather short on the leash because if the dogs get the idea to play, frustration comes to it (because that’s not possible with the leash on).
If all this is ok for you, there is in my opinion no reason to refuse contact on the leash in principle.
But even here I would not allow contact with strange dogs, only ones you know.
If you are unsure how to avoid other people letting their dogs run up to your dog, you have several options.
Invent a disease that you attribute to your dog. Fleas or kennel cough, for example. Many people take their dogs away quite quickly.
Asking for a call or putting the leash on, on the other hand, rarely works. Often this leads to a discussion, why they have to have contact.
Another possibility is to teach your dog that you throw something towards others and then throw the other dog a handful of food or a ball.
The 3rd option is the name game, where the other dog is simply included. You can place your own dog behind you.
Many people collect their dogs quite quickly when food is handed out.
And please never let anyone tell you that you are doing something wrong because you avoid contact with such actions. You are mainly responsible for your dog and his well-being. If other people don’t fulfill their responsibility and want to pass it on to you, that’s their problem 😉