Dog Greeting Etiquette Explained
“Mabel here!” My client called, her dog turned and ran back to her as she reeled in her long line. I’d been working with them for a few weeks to teach Mable to come when called and I was happy with her progress.
From across the field, I saw a dog running full speed towards us. A few seconds later, a person emerged from the woods on to the field.
“Reel your long line in so Mabel can’t get too far from you, but keep the leash loose.” I instructed my client.
I turned towards the person, whose dog was getting closer to us, “call your dog!” I yelled.
“He’s friendly!” she yelled back.
“She’s not.” I said, pointing towards Mabel. Mabel was never a very confident dog, and was shy and nervous around new dogs.
The owner didn’t respond to this, and didn’t call her dog.
The off leash dog barreled right up to Mabel and started sniffing her all over, ignoring her signals telling him she was uncomfortable. I reminded my client to stay calm and keep her leash loose. After a few seconds of sniffing, Mabel couldn't take it any more and snapped at the loose the dog to tell him to go away. The dog yelped out of surprise and then trotted off to his owner. I was pleased with the interaction overall, the correction from Mabel was appropriate and the loose dog didn’t try to fight back.
The owner started to walk out of the park and yelled to me “If she’s not friendly, she shouldn’t be here!”
Boy, she really told me.
Weather on or off leash, if you have a friendly dog it can be extremely dangerous to let your dog rush up to other dogs without first checking with the other dog’s owner. Allowing your dog to rush up to another dog is like going up to a complete stranger and giving them a bear hug to introduce your self. It’s rude, awkward, and may result in a fight.
When on leash, dogs can’t figure each other out as easily as they can off leash because they are limited in their ability to move. Dogs communicate through body language, and having a leash (especially a tight leash) can lead to miscommunication and frustration. One place we all experience this is at the vets office. The waiting room at my veterinarian’s office is small and people often let there dog corner other dogs as they “greet”. Most dogs are scared at the vets office, and some are even in pain. It’s not fair to add stress to the equation by letting your dog give another dog an awkward bear hug.
By default, I want my dogs to ask for permission to say hello to other dogs. This way I get a chance to watch the other dog and ask the owner if it’s ok if they meet. It’s just good dog etiquette to keep your dog away from other dogs until you get the full story on those other dogs. And if you can control when your dog gets to greet other dogs, you will be much more relevant to your dog. That's a good thing, trust me!
About the Author: Jen Banks has been training dogs professionally since 2008. She started her own pet dog training company in 2014. Owner and trainer at Banks K9 Solutions in Fitchburg MA, she provides group classes and in home training for family dogs.