It’s a widespread belief that having dogs interact on leash is the safest way to introduce dogs. However, on-leash greetings are not the best way to socialize your dog. There are many reasons to avoid on-leash greetings between dogs. The restrictions caused by the leash can cause an adverse reaction in dogs, especially if the owner does not have the proper control. We explore 8 reasons to avoid on-leash greetings between dogs.
Leashes Don’t Allow Dogs to Greet One Another Properly
When dogs are on leash walking with us, they are forced to greet head-on, not how dogs naturally greet each other. Dogs won’t usually choose a face-to-face greeting. In dog language, this can be rude and even downright threatening. Instead, they would prefer to approach at more of an angle coming in from the side. Engaging in what I call 1st name/last name, sniffing faces, then sniffing the rear end in a circular dance. Next, they’ll choose to go on their merry way, start to run and play, or fight. The leash prevents this natural introduction from occurring.
Tension On The Leash Can Lead To Reactivity
Leashes take away the dog’s right to choose. Suppose they want to get to the other dog. In that case, they can’t; more importantly, if they are uncomfortable and want to leave the situation, they cannot get away. In addition to this, being forced into close proximity on a leash can raise your dog’s anxieties and make them highly uncomfortable, creating a fight or flight situation. If leaving isn’t an option, your dog’s only choice is to react, potentially causing harm to your dog physically or mentally.
The Leash Is A Conduit That Transfers The Handlers Emotions Into The Dog
Suppose the dog owner becomes nervous or unsure of a situation. In that case, their anxious energy will travel down the leash, triggering the dog to react, especially if you have a sensitive, insecure or anxious dog already. In turn, this will lead the handler to try to pull their dog away, creating extra tension in the leash. The result is a reactive dog that feels it needs to step up to protect both of you. They may bark and lunge from an owner with limited control.
Leash Greeting Reinforce Poor Leash Manners
When a dog sees another dog, it may start pulling to get to the other dogs. We often allow our dogs to pull us to another dog, thus rewarding the pulling and excitable behavior. This reinforces pulling and poor leash manners and sets you behind on training goals with your dog.
You Don’t Know The Other Dog Or The Dog’s Owner
You don’t know if the approaching dog is well trained or what motives their owner may have for wanting them to greet other dogs. Many owners want their dogs to be social even if their dog has insecurities, overly excitable behavior, or reactive tendencies. If they don’t fully understand their dog’s cues, they may be unknowingly pushing their dog into a situation where they aren’t entirely comfortable. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially if you can’t be sure of those underlying factors.
Leash Greetings Can Undermine The Training Process
Training should continue outside the home- with what we call structured walks. Structured walks put the handler in control, help to continue training outside the home, and keep your dog focused. It nurtures the bond between dog/handler and teaches the dog to look to you for cues on what you want. It also helps encourage calm and confidence in the dog because the dog knows the handler is taking the lead and advocating on their behalf when need be.
If a dog is too busy looking for other dogs or people to greet, they won’t focus on you or walk properly. They won’t check in with you, making it harder for you to communicate with them when you need to.
It Can Weaken Your Leadership And Relationship With Your Dog
If you aren’t paying attention to your dog’s cues and putting them in situations they aren’t comfortable with, you can break the trust between you and your dog. They won’t look to you to guide them and keep them safe. Then they won’t respond to commands and may become anxious, insecure, and reactive. In turn, this can make training them more difficult without the trusting bond to know they’re in good hands. Remember, your primary concern is to keep your pup safe so they can feel secure.
Teaches Your Dog To Focus On Things Outside Of You
Being the center of your dog’s world is so important. If your dog is constantly greeting other dogs or even humans, they will continuously look for that reward. Then, these outside focuses become a higher value than you. Your dog, in time, will stop focusing on you or listening to the commands you give. You want to make your relationship with your dog the top priority; after all, you are a team!
These are some solid reasons to avoid on-leash greetings between dogs. They can keep both you and your dog safe as well as reinforce positive training practices. Check out our training services for help with on-leash dog walking or any other training needs you have!