The Single Biggest Mistake You May Be Making
This may come as a surprise to many dog owners but, allowing your dog to meet other dogs or people while on leash may be the single biggest mistake you ever make. It can result in a multitude of negative outcomes and behaviors.
Repeated on leash greetings can take an otherwise relaxed, happy, social dog and turn it into a nervous insecure dog or an over stimulated excessively excited dog.
When dogs are in an uncomfortable situation they can get into flight or fight mode. In social interactions, where your dog is not on a leash they can move away (flight) if they feel stressed, nervous, fearful or anxious. That would be an excellent choice on the dog’s part. However, when they are leashed, they no longer have that option, and they know it. That leaves them looking for alternate ways to deal with the situation. One option may be to fight. This may not have happened yet, but with repeated exposure to stressful on leash interactions your dog may one day choose the fight option. In their mind, you are not advocating for them. In fact, YOU are placing them in the stressful situation in the first place.
At the very least you can end up with a leash reactive dog (one that barks, growls, lunges at other dogs or people while on leash). REACTIVITY is the way that that many dogs choose to deal with stressful situations. Reactivity can be mild or pretty scary. One thing for sure is, if you don’t address the behavior it will worsen.
Who and how do you let dogs interact with? Happy, social dogs that you know, off leash in an enclosed area (house/yard). Also, doggy daycare is a great choice. It is a social environment that is structured and supervised by trained professionals.
Next time you think it’s a good idea to let your dog meet another dog on leash, put yourself in their place. Would you like to be repeatedly placed situations where you couldn’t get away if you wanted/needed to?
Terie Hansen is Owner of Good Dog! Coaching & Pet Care. More information at www.gooddogcoaching.com