“He doesn’t do anything, he just wants play, and wants to say hello”
Who hasn’t had this happen? You walk your dog(s), without any care in the world, enjoy the walk and another dog approaches on the horizon.
Phewww, fortunately with his owner. You sigh with relief, but perhaps you’ve relaxed too early…
Today, the other owner isn’t a “he-doesn’t-bite” type of owner, he is a “he-just-wants-to-play” and “they’ll-work-it-out-among-themselves!” type of owner.
If there’s still any way to dodge, or make yourself and your dog invisible…. Do it! Do not hesitate and save yourself nerves and upcoming problems.
But why? Shouldn’t dogs be able to communicate normally when they meet? They normally live in groups with their own kind, they need social contact, right?
Ummm, yes, but not quite.
The domestic dog is a product of centuries of selection by humans, for humans. His normal social environment is a group of people/family, but also his much touted ancestor, the wolf, lives in a family association, a fixed social group. This is not a constant coming and going of the group members. They do not meet with other groups for a game, or a ruffle, so that they have just practiced it. On the contrary, the proximity of other groups usually means one thing above all = competition!
Yes, of course, the domestic dog should also have the opportunity to have contact with fellow species. Just not necessarily with everyone who happens to be in the same place at the same time. Social contact is a fragile story with many variables, not all of which want to be experienced by dogs and owners.
What actually should be achieved by two or more unfamiliar dogs meeting? Who can run faster? Who barks louder? Who is stronger, who bleeds, or flies first? And what about the loser? Do the dog and owner have to move and never go for a walk ever again?
The idea and expectation of most dog owners is: “they are now having a little ruffle, but then they will become best friends and play really well together.”
If things don’t go as well, someone really bleeds in the end, and of course the badly socialized dog of the other person is to blame for everything.
What does the dog learn ?
He definitely learns that he should and must regulate this himself, and that he cannot rely on his group – us! (We are the social association of our dog, not any strangers that we happen to meet) no meaningful action is to be expected from there.
Now, you can be really lucky and your dog is just great in this regard and can master these contacts, although we humans are more obstacles than help.
But that is rather rare. The dog is frustrated much more often, has unpleasant experiences in these contacts, reacts more irritated, gets in trouble…
As a result he either “seeks salvation in flight”, or “attacks as the best defense”.
In short, the dog learns nothing good from this type of contact and from “they work it out themselves”
And how do you ideally design dog contacts? I always recommend to look in the circle of friends, in the neighborhood, at dog club etc to see how their dogs behave to make permanent contacts here.
Where you talk to each other and make contact with the dogs, meet the dogs more often, go for walks, train together. And only then can the dogs really get to know each other and spend relaxed time together, or sometimes solve a conflict independently.
Please don’t force your dogs into “they will work it out themselves”. There is no need for our dogs to be the sparring partner for “he just wants to say hello dogs”.