Dog Leash Training: On Leash Greetings

The big question: Should I let my dog greet other dogs while on leash?

Whether you want your dog to greet other dogs while on leash is your decision.  If you want to learn how to walk your dog without pulling, it may be good to avoid leash greetings. Similarly to human parenting, there are many ways to raise a dog and most decisions come down to personal preference. We choose not to allow our dogs to greet others on leash, ever. Our choice is strictly for training purposes but there are many reasons that a handler may not want on-leash greetings. If you like on-leash greetings, consider these reasons next time a handler brushes past you and your dog (don’t take it personally!). If you don’t allow on leash greetings, you can hopefully refer to these reasons when explaining why you prefer to keep your dog away from others on leash.

What is an “on-leash greeting”?

An on-leash greeting is when two dogs come up to each other to sniff and say hi while still attached to the leash. This will generally happen when the dogs are out for a walk. On the other hand, off-leash greetings are when dogs are running around off leash and say hi to each other. In off-leash environments, it’s *generally* expected that dogs will greet each other so the following reasons do not apply to off-leash situations.

Puppy Socialization: How can a dog socialize without on-leash greetings?

Socialization is very important for dogs, but greeting every dog on the street is not necessary for proper socializing and can actually backfire. See here for our  puppy socialization checklist. Socialization includes proper play etiquette and friendliness to other dogs but ALSO covers proper behavior in a various circumstances.  Ignoring dogs while on leash is part of proper socialization – this skill teaches dogs to remain calm when other pups walk by.  It teaches dogs that not every second of the day is for playtime. Dogs can socialize with others at the park, at the beach, at home, on hikes….the list goes on.  A well socialized dog remains calm around other dogs while on-leash.

How can you teach your dog to ignore other dogs while on leash? How can you prevent your dog from pulling? 

Solution 1: Never let your dog greet other dogs while on leash.
Solution 2: When you walk by another dog, say “leave it.” As soon as your dog looks back at you, praise them and treat them.  Continue saying “leave it” each time you walk by other dogs and treating as soon as your dog looks up to you.
Solution 3: Train your dog to only say hi to other dogs when they are given the “ok” to do so.

Dog Leash Training: Here are 7 reasons why someone may not want on-leash greetings….

1. Training: Dogs are bad at contextualizing. They won’t understand why they are allowed to say hi sometimes but not other times. Even when we are with friends, we don’t let the dogs play until they are off leash. If a dog is trained to never greet other dogs off leash, it will never want to greet other dogs. If the dog is allowed to sometimes greet dogs on leash, then it will need a constant reminder not to get distracted when walking by other dogs.  Dogs who are allowed to greet other dogs on leash will actually be conditioned to think that it is ok to pull towards random dogs. This is our primary reason for avoiding on-leash greetings.
2. Bad on leash experiences: Bad on-leash experiences are the secondary reason that we don’t let our dogs greet others while on leash – we have had too many close calls of our dogs being bit by other dogs on leash who turned out to not be so “friendly” after all. The dogs may be “friendly” sometimes, but if they have any chance of snapping while on leash they shouldn’t be greeting other dogs. There is no reason to trust someone you don’t know who tells you that their dog is friendly while on-leash. Keep your dogs safe!
3. Working dogs: This is self explanatory. Task trained service dogs need to entirely ignore other dogs and should not be distracted.
4. Gotta keep moving: Can you imagine how long it would take if your dog stopped to say hi to every dog on a busy city street?
5. Don’t want to talk: Some people don’t want to stop and talk, that’s totally fine and ought to be respected. Humans don’t stop to say hi to all the strangers they pass on the street – dogs don’t need to either.
6. Dog is leash aggressive: Some handlers avoid on leash greetings because they know that their dog is not good at on-leash greetings. These responsible handlers avoid on-leash greetings to keep their dog and other dogs safe.
7. Dog is unpredictable: Some handlers avoid on-leash greetings because their dog is unpredictable with new dogs. Chances are, their dog will be fine but they don’t want to risk their dog being triggered by the interaction. An unpredictable dog may bite out of fear or aggression. Avoiding an on-leash greeting is the only way for them to responsibly retain 100% control of the situation.

Dos and Donts of Dog Leash Greetings:

DO: Ignore a dog that is waiting patiently outside a store for its human.

DONT: Come up to a tied dog and rile him up with a leash greeting or kissy noises. If that dog snaps or breaks its stay, it’ll be your fault that the dog got in trouble.

DO: continue walking down the street with your dog as if the other dog isn’t there.

DONT: Do acrobatics to force your dog onto an incoming dog. This mainly happens with a Flexi leash – handlers will go out of their way to let their dogs walk across the entire sidewalk to say hi. This is a blatant disrespect of space – We just step over the leash and keep walking.

DONT: Stare down an approaching team as they walk towards you and your dog. We notice that a lot of dog handlers will stop in their tracks and stare us down as we walk towards them while their dog pulls towards our pups at the end of its leash.

DONT: Stop in your tracks waiting for the approaching dog to get closer and then let your dog rush it (see above).

DONT: Assume that just because you stop at the crosswalk at the same time as another dog that its ok for the dogs to greet.

DONT: Come up behind a dog you don’t know with your dog. What if the dog doesn’t like being taken by surprise? What if the human doesn’t want to talk? What if the dog is reactive? What if the dog doesn’t like having it’s butt sniffed while on leash?

DO: Respect people’s space while they are walking their dog. Understand that the dogs have other times to socialize when not on-leash.

DO: Allow dogs to meet off-leash in an appropriate setting.

DO: Teach your dog to stay calm while walking by other dogs.

DONT: Allow your dogs to invade another dog’s space uninvited while on leash.

DONT: Assume that a dog is leash-friendly just because it is a particular breed that is “generally” friendly.

DONT: Be afraid to tell another handler that you are uncomfortable with their actions. You can say something like “sorry, we are training” or “sorry, I do not let my dog greet others while on leash”

*If you must……*

DO: If you are stopped somewhere and a dog/handler walks up to you, politely ask if it ok for the dogs to greet (we don’t recommend this but if you really feel a need to, make sure to ask first).

Remember R-E-S-P-E-C-T,
-Your Pal Cal

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