A Query

Silas’s reactions to other dogs are becoming . . . strained. As of yet, there is not a consistent pattern of bad reactions. He loves some dogs. Others he will give a polite bottom sniff, and then we go on about our business. Sometimes he’ll react quite badly, but almost always to dogs who “started it first.” As far as I can tell, he mostly works by mirroring whatever the other dog is doing, be that friendly or not.

I worry about the bad reactions becoming a pattern, because the last thing on earth I need is to add dog reactivity to our list of behavioral problems. I also am not wild about the fact that he will practically pull me off my feet to go see another dog. More importantly, I think he’s anxious about these meetings, and the best way to diffuse dog anxiety is with a job.

My question to you, oh bloggy hive mind, is how on earth do I teach this new behavior, and what should it look like? Our obedience classes didn’t make it to dog greeting behavior, and my own research has been mostly in a different direction.

The goal, presumably, is for Silas to check in with me and then walk toward (or not) the other dog in a rational way. This is a long behavior chain, though, and we have none of the links in place. I still consider “walking in a rational way” to be a pretty great accomplishment in and of itself.

Problems: I don’t know anyone with dogs well enough to manufacture a scenario (parallel walking, etc). Our local parks are either deserted (weekdays) or packed. The one place that I can count on well-behaved dogs (perhaps tellingly, this is the human running trail, NOT the dog park) any time of any day terrifies Silas because of the car traffic. So, any plan needs to be something that I can at least try to implement in the moment, whenever that arises. Silas is not big on eating outdoors, although he’s finally started to do it once in a while. He will play or tug outside, although I haven’t tested it in a high stress location.

Does your dog contain him/herself when you meet another dog? How did you teach that behavior?

6 thoughts on “A Query

  1. I’m not much help here…I generally use my all-purpose “leave it” command. If we’re on a sidewalk width walking trail I will lead Giz off the path and have him sit quietly with a leave it command till the other dog passes…I usually keep up some chatter with him to keep him engaged and focused on me


  2. Maybe find a class that focuses on dog-dog greetings? All 3 of mine have struggled with reactivity but are making huge progress. I keep on leash greetings brief for Hurley & Sadie (quick sniff & move on) and don’t allow them at all with Maggie. Greeting other dogs is highly unnatural for them & I respect their difficulties. It’s kinda like expecting people to hug everyone they meet. I think most people would find that awkward & unsettling and that’s quite frankly how most dogs feel about on leash greetings.

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  3. Typically, I will just avoid the people with other dogs if possible. If not, I will either go off to the side of the the trail with Blueberry and wait for the other dog to pass. She’s not really reactive but I’ve reached the point where I don’t trust other people’s invitations to a greeting because “their dog is friendly” – on most of the occasions I’ve been told that, the dog has snarled, growled or snapped at Blueberry. We mostly stick to greeting the dogs she is familiar with that she’s had successful encounters with in the past. I find it interesting that of those dogs – none of their humans have had to emphasize their dog “is friendly”. It’s just obvious.

    Sorry, I’m afraid I wasn’t much help. I did have a foster a couple of years ago that was 90 pounds and would sometimes nearly pull me off my feet to confront and/or meet another dog. I took to walking/hiking her where I knew there was little chance of running into other dogs. She was much stronger than I and I once had to hold on to a boulder to keep her in place while another dog passed us on the trail.

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  4. Geez, I hate to be on “not much help here” list, but I’m not much help either. I agree with comments made by married with dawgs above. For us, we’re not overly social and I think that in part, the pack isn’t because the human element really isn’t. Walks, hikes, backpacking and camping are things that (in our opinion) are much better without other people around.

    Our Callie is most reactive to other dogs while we’re out. She becomes a snarly, lunging lunatic even if the other dog calmly walks past. She has always been like this and since we don’t see many other dogs, it’s not something we’ve been able to work on. A few of the pack are super social and nicely meet and greet.

    If you can afford and can find a class for meeting and greeting, I think that would be your best avenue to explore. Otherwise, you could do what we do and avoid crowded trails/areas. Good luck.


  5. My first thought is to search for a local dog walking group. These seem awesome for helping dogs learn to get over dog-dog excitement and practice redirection around dogs who start it first. Though slightly different because her interactions were off leash, Kaya tends to be overly friendly and rush up to dogs, getting her into fetch was the only way that I became more interesting than them. Maybe using his tug toy will be the perfect way to make yourself more fun than the other dog.


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