“My dog just LOVES other dogs!”
If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this phrase! Often uttered as a lunging, whining, adolescent dog drags her owner towards my dog, or worse yet as an off-leash dog makes a bee-line towards us, it usually spells trouble. Here’s the thing: my dogs do not want to meet rude, over-the-top dogs, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Furthermore, I consider my dogs to be more well-socialized than these canine Tarzans, even though they’re quite likely to snark at the “friendly” dog who jumps on their heads.
Our society seems to have lost sight of what appropriate dog-dog interactions look like. The idea that every dog should want to play with every other dog they meet is ludicrous. Dogs who don’t fit into this narrow view of dog sociability are viewed as disturbed, aggressive, or in need of “rehabilitation.” A mature dog who snarls and barks at an adolescent puppy who plows into her is corrected by her owner and told to “play nice,” when really all she wants is to be left alone.
No other species is held to these standards, not even our own. Imagine if you were walking down the street and a strange man started running towards you. As he raced towards you he started shouting, “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey you! Hey!” at the top of his lungs. Now imagine that when he reached you, he grabbed you up in a huge bear hug and spun you around, lifting your feet off the ground, while shouting “Hi! Hey, hi! Hello!” as loudly as he could. How would you react? Would you feel justified in responding defensively? Would you feel better about the interaction if his wife ran up behind him and told you, “He just LOVES new people!”?
This creepy interaction is no different from what many dogs are forced to tolerate every day. Look at it from your dog’s perspective. She’s walking along, enjoying the sights and smells of her neighborhood, when another dog appears in the distance. The dog is straining at the end of his leash, and as soon as he sees your dog he starts yipping and whining.The second he gets close enough, he starts jumping all over your dog while still whining. His owner proudly tells you how much he LOVES other dogs, and when your dog snarls at him, the other dog’s owner pulls him away with a hurt, “He just wanted to say hi.”
Over-excitement like this is not a hallmark of a well-socialized dog. We understand that we must teach human children to behave calmly and politely around others, but sometimes forget that the same basic principles apply to raising our dogs. Social behavior includes the ability to just hang out calmly with members of one’s own species.
We’ll talk later this week about what to do if you have a “canine Tarzan” who doesn’t understand how to greet other dogs politely. In the meantime, let’s drop the idea that every dog should love every other dog they meet, and stop holding them to such impossible standards. I expect my dogs to tolerate other dogs who aren’t getting in their faces, just as I tolerate the close proximity of strangers in an elevator. But if they don’t want to make friends with every dog they meet, that’s okay. In fact, it’s downright normal.
I feel like making a comparison to humans isn’t accurate here. We are two very different species, just like I wouldn’t approach a stranger to sniff his butt. Different breeds and ages are going to react differently to socialization and as long as the dog doesn’t get violent, I think he has the right to react however he wants. It doesn’t mean that one dog is being rude over the other. My dog does happen to love dogs and when we go to the dog park, he tends to get extremely excited and sniff their face and/or butt. Then he might try to play with them by jumping around. If the dog isn’t interested, he typically walks off to find another dog that is. I think this is a good resource when it comes to dog socialization: http://www.animalhumanesociety.org/training/socializing-adult-dog
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It is completely illogical to equate dog behavior to human behavior. While it is understandable that you will not like any stranger hugging you on the road, you are not always on a leash. You have full control over your life and you can socialize at your own will. Dogs cannot! Some of them like to play and some don’t. If yours do not like it, there is no reason for you to define a rule about how other dogs should behave – as long as they are not threatening!
My dog is a little bugger on the lead, small and full of himself… yes he has been trained and is ok off lead but on the lead hes a marlin on a line lol so wen I see another dog coming towards us I stand well to the side with him well under control so the other dog can go past unmolested .. I also apologise for his daft behaviour as he is a teen and all parties pass along happily .. so I’m looking forward to the next instalment of Tarzan dogs…
My dog is so like this! Can be the most chilled out dog but some times he just goes other dogs! He will run up to them and go nuts he hasn’t actually bitten another dog! But I don’t want to take the chance!!! Is this normal what should we do?
I LOVE this blog! Thank you! I work primarily with shelter dogs, who sometimes need to be taken to an outside veterinarian. I have had people corner me, insisting that their dog is friendly. I may have NO idea how this dog is going to react! I even yelled at a lady, and she laughed me off and kept coming on until the dog and I were backed up into the counter with nowhere to go.
My girl Ada does like to greet every dog she sees. But she has this uncanny way of matching every dogs energy. If the dog is wary, she’ll test the waters with a gentle sniff and respect the boundaries and back off if the dog doesn’t like it. If my dog wasn’t like this and kept being pushy despite your dog setting boundaries, I’d pull my pup away and apologize to you. That’s just courtesy.