Teaching Your Dog to Say Hello Politely When On Leash – Or Speed Dating For Dogs!

You are walking peacefully in the park, when you spot a strange dog dragging his owner towards you in an apparent attempt to meet and greet your dog. Not wanting to seem rude, you let the scene play out. And it ends in lunging, snarling and snapping. What could you have done differently and why did this happen in this first place?

On – leash Frustration

It is an unfortunate fact that we have fewer and fewer wide open spaces to let our charges run and play freely off – leash. Leashes have become de rigueur. And while helpful in one aspect, they often limit our dog’s free exchange of information. In a typical off – leash greeting we see a dog’s body bend, often in a semi-circular way, as they sniff posteriors first and then faces. This is in stark contrast to what happens when dogs greet on – leash. Not only can they not circle freely because of the leashes, our tension and anxiety is readily transmitted to them through the tightening on the leash that inevitably occurs.

In many classes, trainers have ceased to allow greetings on leash. One argument is that if we allow greetings at some times and not others, our dogs become frustrated when we don’t allow them this privilege. While I agree with this approach on one level, I have found that parents are not likely to continue with this outside of class. So, I now teach a three second hello, the canine equivalent of speed dating. My cue for this is “Say hello – and now let’s go.” This seems to satisfy both the dogs and the parents.

The Nuts and Bolts of Speed Dating

I set this up so that the dogs are not approaching head on, which is often a formula for aggression. I prefer to have dogs and owners walking parallel to each other, and going in the same direction. I then allow them a brief interaction while they are moving, and only for as long as it takes for them to say “Say hello – and now let’s go.” Before aggression takes place, there is usually an exchange of information and certain posturing. With a three – second hello in place and practiced often, they come to know that the interaction will be brief. And because of its brevity, it rarely erupts into anything unpleasant.

Play Dates

Through speed dating, you and your dog may have met a trustworthy dog and owner. If so, take it to the next level and consider arranging a play date in an off leash park.

Related Posts:

How To Train Loose Leash Walking

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5 Responses to “Teaching Your Dog to Say Hello Politely When On Leash – Or Speed Dating For Dogs!”

  1. Michelle S 01. Feb, 2011 at 6:52 am #

    That is something that both Missy and Tank learned well from you! And while Missy would love to have a longer “date” she does move on when given the command. It has been a great way for them to “socialize” with others and knowing they will respond makes me less tense in unknown situations. Very good lesson in my opinion!!

  2. Sage 01. Feb, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    There is clearly a difference between on-leash and off-leash greetings even with my dogs who are generally mild-mannered. We try to practice the short “date” also, but often cross the street if meeting a dog head-on.

  3. Elizabeth Deitz 04. Feb, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    I would expect nothing less from Missy than to wish for a “longer date!”

  4. Amy@GoPetFriendly 04. Feb, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    This makes perfect sense – I wish more dog owners would do this!

  5. Elizabeth Deitz 05. Feb, 2011 at 7:52 am #

    It took me many years to realize that not all dogs need to be friends with all the dogs whose paths they cross. Some are socially confident extroverts with good social skills. And some are not. Those that have great body language and are good at neutral interactions may enjoy get-togethers frequently. Others are just happier at home being with their families.

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