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Local Woof: On Leash Greetings

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Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.

Urban living can be tough on our dogs, and one of the toughest situations our dogs encounter is meeting other dogs on leash.

Dogs meeting on leash is a completely artificial situation for them. The leash and the resulting close quarters means that dogs can not greet each other in a natural way. Compare the way unleashed dogs greet each other at a dog park with how they meet when on leash.

At a dog park, friendly dogs will approach each other in an arc. After a brief sniff near the shoulders, they will lower their heads and arrange themselves in the nose-to-butt-to-nose-to-butt circle. This is how friendly dogs great each other. Head down, in a circle. It’s the dog world’s equivalent of a friendly handshake. A straight line, head up greeting is generally considered rude and confrontational.

When dogs greet on leash, they are forced into the straight line, head up position. The taut leash prevents them from being able to circle each other, and the pulling on the collar raises their heads into the air. Despite the inability to arrange themselves in a natural greeting posture, most friendly dogs learn to greet each other on leash without incident.

However, sometimes there are problems. Shy or cautious dogs are particularly put off by the straight line, close quarters greeting. Dogs who find urban living particularly arousing can also encounter problems. Here are some things you can do to help.

First, please ASK before you allow your friendly dog to rush up and greet another dog. Owners of friendly dogs have the greatest gift, an easy-going dog. For those of us with unfriendly or fearful dogs, every uncontrolled greeting is a potential disaster. Please remember that it does not matter that your dog is friendly if the other dog is not.

Second, if possible loosen up on the leash so that the dogs can lower their heads and assume the nose-butt circle. This may require a little bit of a dance while the owners untangle the leashes, but it is totally worth it to give your dogs the chance to communicate naturally.

Third, pay attention to your dog’s body language. If your dog does not look like they want to meet another dog, do not force them! Most humans do not want to stop and greet every person they pass on the street, and neither do our dogs. If either dog looks uncomfortable, simply keep moving.

Questions? Please ask! This is just a the basics about dog-dog greetings. For more information or to continue this conversation please visit us.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com. 

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