If only walking your dog were as simple as oh, say, walking your dog. Often an innocent stroll around the block is hijacked by another pup who seems to be operating from a different playbook, which can leave your dog stressed or hyped up. Beyond the leash and poop bags, it helps to equip yourself with some strategies for dealing with those potentially troublesome encounters along your way. Trainer Rachel Cohen-Maso, CPDT-KA, from Brooklyn Dog Time, helped us identify the usual suspects and make a game plan for taking a walk drama-free.
The Dog Who Comes On Too Strong
You know the type—super sniffy and wants to play smack in the middle of the sidewalk. This could go one of two ways, depending on your own dog. If she's calm and obedient, perhaps her awesome social skills will diffuse the situation and teach that eager pup some manners. As long as your dog seems interested, go for a greeting. Otherwise, look for signs that she might be uncomfortable: Licking her lips? Freezing up? Jumping on you? Do a quick sniff and jet.
The Dog Who's Fenced In and Freaking Out
Steer clear! This dog is already stressed out, so there's no reason to walk by and make things worse. Cross the street or take a different route. If you're still within 'barking distance', practice your dog's listening skills. Can you keep your pup’s attention with some simple commands like "heel" or can he respond to his name while you walk past the commotion? Awesome, treat time! If it’s too hard for your pup to focus, then use a treat to distract her. You might even change her association with that barking to a positive one in the process.
The Puppy Who Is Soooo Excited to See You
How are your leash skills? Navigating a walk-by with a puppy is tough! Tangling is inevitable, so if you're in a busy area, keep moving. If you're on a quiet street and approach, just remember that it’s common for puppies to get overwhelmed or bullied by older dogs. Stick around only as long the puppy really wants to engage. If you see the puppy's tail tuck, a lot of sneezing or hiding between its owner’s legs then it’s time to leave. And if your dog seems ready to leave, give that pup one last pet (under the chin only) and move on!
The Dog Whose Owner Is Always On the Phone
No matter how friendly this dog looks, avoid, avoid, avoid. People on the phone are distracted, they can’t properly manage their dogs and keep up there conversation. Not to mention, it’s kind of annoying to be on a personal or business call and have someone interrupt with, “Can my dog say hi?” or, “How old is your dog?” Just skip it, you’ll find another pup to socialize with soon enough.
The Dog Who's Wearing a Prong or Choke Collar
It’s a misconception that dogs on these collars are unfriendly or out of control. Some people use them simply to stop their dogs from pulling (though it's better to use a harness and some positive reinforcement training, according to Cohen-Maso). But you should still proceed with caution meeting these pups on the street. If your dogs start to play, that pup might get an unintentional pinch on his neck or choke himself if he pulls away too fast. There is also a risk of your dog’s flat collar getting stuck on a prong. Either way, it’s probably safer to give a quick sniff hello and then move along.
The Dog Who's Off Leash
There may be no avoiding this dog, but it's worth trying. Since you probably can’t have control in this situation, you have to hope the dog’s owner has some. Try to keep your pup's attention with leash-walking cues (like, "let's go!") reinforced with treats, and leave the scene quietly. Another reason you don't want to engage is that it can be super frustrating for a leashed dog to interact with a free pup. Seriously, who wouldn’t be a little jealous?
The Dog Who Lays Down Until You Greet Him Does the dog’s owner want you to come over? Signal to him. If it’s a go, then save that poor human! He probably runs into this situation multiple times a day. If it’s your pup who won’t budge, then it’s time to do some training. Practice saying your dog’s name at home and then immediately feeding her a treat. Once you’ve mastered that, try your skills out on the street: Before your dog has a chance to lay down say her name and give her a treat when she turns her head then start heading in the other direction.
Photo credit: Ava Lee Leather