On leash greetings can be a nightmare for some people. Oddly enough even the most friendly of dogs can have bad initial greetings. Yesterday I had Luke out on his own, I am focusing on alone time and getting Elsa use to being left by herself at home. So while Luke and I were at the park I saw a woman coming our way with her two Cavaliers, cute dogs. I have yet to meet a Cavalier who was not friendly. But looking down at Luke I could see that he was already mustering up for a big bluster. I called him to me as we walked past but he snuck one in anyway. Nothing serious just a blustery type growl and continued to walk by. At that moment I thought "no, that's not going to do it for me."
I turned around and asked the woman if her dogs were indeed friendly. I told her that Luke was very friendly, he just liked to do this every now and then. She was apprehensive when I asked if he could say hi again, of course she was. Many people have no idea what their dog is actually like and will regularly say "oh yes he's friendly," when they truly are not. So she wasn't completely sold on my "friendly" dog being that he'd just given a pretty good, not friendly impression. So I loosened the leash and let Luke sniff them. They were as most Cavaliers are, neutral. With a nicer greeting under his belt we continued our walk after I thanked the woman.
Luke is one of the most social dogs that I know. He loves meet and greets, he is not gushy about out it; he likes to give a friendly hello and he's onto the next dog and owner. Let's face it, our lives with dogs revolve around on leash activities. There are not very many places where they interact off leash except in specifically designated areas. Or if you are lucky enough to be able to have play dates in your yard, that is great. Interacting with other dogs is an ongoing thing, so the more you meet the better.
I am very specific about who I actually greet, I'm not always correct but when in doubt, we don't. With Elsa being young I am trying to avoid any negative greeting. It happens in life but the more positive greetings she has the less impact a negative one will have on her. Dogs can become very aggressive on leash if they have enough negative greeting responses from other dogs. So if you are in doubt at all about a dog, walk past, keep going onto the next.
-Read the other dogs body language as you approach.
-Do not tighten your leash, you can rein it in but make sure that you do it so it is unnoticed by your dog.
-Keep your leash slack.
-Remain calm, your dogs can sense your emotions and the leash can be an emotion sensor.
-Ask well in advance if the dog is friendly.
-Even when told that the other dog is friendly, be cautious. I don't know how many times have lunged out at us after being told that they are friendly.
-Keep your distance and try to approach on an angle.
-Stay away from people with extension leashes. Most people have no control over them.
-Do NOT allow the dogs to pass each other making it likely for a tangle situation. A nice greeting can turn very bad if they get tangled.
-Do not greet all dogs, teach your dog how to walk by quietly. They need to learn that not all dogs should be greeted and that the decision to do so or not is yours, not theirs to make.
-Use lots of treats when you are working on walk by's. You want to create a positive association to other dogs. Pulling a dog in tight and yanking away while yelling will create a negative association to other dogs.
I am working on walk by's with Elsa a lot now. As a running partner for my husband she will need to be able run by without batting an eye. With enough rewards for simply walking past another dog without having a fit or bouncing around I have created a positive association. As soon as we are past she is looking for her treat for being a good girl. Greetings don't have to be scary, you need to take the control of the situation; know your dog and read the other. If you have even the smallest of doubt, give the other person and dog some space and do a walk by.