"It's OK! He's friendly!"

When out walking our dogs there many people who absolutely dread hearing this!

It generally means that at that very moment there is a dog (or dogs) happily running, bouncing and leaping towards you and your dog!

Where is the problem in that? Well, if your dog is approaching an equally happy, bouncy off lead dog who is comfortable being approached then… there probably isn’t one.

But, if your dog is approaching an on lead dog then there are potentially a whole host of things wrong with it!

Your dog may be approaching a dog who is recovering from an injury or surgery. They may be on restricted exercise and under vet advice to stay calm. If your dog comes over bouncing and wagging and saying ‘hello’, this may cause the dog to reciprocate the greeting to the detriment of their health. If they’re in pain, they may not react as they normally would, and could bark, or snap, or lunge at your dog. Not a good experience for either dog.

Your dog may be approaching a dog who is, for any number of reasons, extremely fearful of other dogs. Their owner may have invested a lot of time and effort into helping to build their dog’s confidence and an over enthusiastic dog running towards them could undo months and months of hard work.

Your dog may be approaching a dog who just doesn’t like other dogs approaching and who may ‘ask’ them to go away. There are many different reasons for a dog to react in this manner. They may have been attacked by another dog and are now scared of dogs. They may be old and feeling vulnerable through fading sight, hearing loss or old age aches and pains. They may just not like other dogs.

By allowing your ‘friendly’ off lead dog to approach these dogs there is little chance of the outcome being great for any dog or owner involved.

The on lead dog may ‘ask’ your dog to go away by barking or growling. They may snarl. Possibly snap. They may even try and bite your dog. All of these are normal ways for our dogs to communicate with each other. But, if they feel the need to communicate in this manner, they are likely to be stressed; and who wants their dog to be put into a stressful situation?

Your dog may then be on the receiving end of a bark, snarl, snap or bite. Do you want to put your dog in that situation? I doubt it.

So rather than cheerily calling out “It’s OK, he’s friendly” what should we be doing?

1. Make sure your dog has a solid and reliable recall, so that you can call him back to you whenever needed.

2. When you see an onlead dog keep your dog away. Either by popping them on lead, having them walk close to you, or give the on lead dog space as they pass.

3. Often owners with dogs on lead for a specific purpose will find somewhere to stand to give their dog more space, in this case, pass by quickly.

And finally, when passing an on lead dog, smile and acknowledge the owner. Many of their walks are probably stressful trying to keep their dog calm in the sea of “it’s OK, he’s friendly” dogs!


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Lelant, Cornwall, TR26, UK

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