“My Dog LOVES Other Dogs”

“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.

Photo by Karen Rodgers

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.

91 responses to ““My Dog LOVES Other Dogs”

  1. i absolutely never remark on articles but this is such a lame piece of writing. i would rather have happy and social dogs than dogs who can’t get along well with others. it’s a shame to see angry, anti social, rude people spread that energy to their dogs. we have dogs because they are social, affectionate and friendly. that’s unfortunate you apparently have a dislike for other dogs….kind of like parents who only like their own child. again, i am thankful my dogs want to be friendly and say hi to everyone….i’ve met some amazing people and other dogs based on that. ughhh, i’m disgusted by your elite attitude over your dog against “tarzan” (aka happy dogs). shame on you.

    • Hi LisaLoo,

      Thanks so much for commenting! I’m honored that you took the time to share your thoughts, and actually don’t think we disagree as much as you seem to believe. If you read the post again, you’ll see that it’s not friendly dogs that concern me, but rather so-called “friendly” dogs who are rude and out of control. My dogs enjoy appropriate dog-dog interaction, and my new puppy is learning how to interact with other dogs appropriately (more on this topic on Friday in the “canine Tarzans” post).

      I can assure you that rather than harboring a “dislike for other dogs” I actually genuinely enjoy all dogs (and their people as well). As far as being an “angry, anti social, rude” person, I certainly hope I’m not, but since I’m somewhat biased I suppose I can’t comment on that with any certainty.

      Kindest regards,
      – Sara Reusche, Paws Abilities

    • Janice DeMello

      LisaLoo, you totally misunderstood such a well written and common sense article written above! Sara, wonderful article and also great response to LisaLoo

    • Barbara Craig

      Lisaloo I would love to see your reaction to the man described in the post — NOT the dog, the MAN. You would be completely blown away, frightened, angered… You would not say *Hi* to such rudeness, you would like to call the cops !! Get over yourself — dogs ARE social, affectionate and friendly creatures but just like YOU, are not social, affectionate and friendly to every stranger they meet. Especially ones who throw themselves at them…

    • Wow, did you ever miss the point lol. Tempted as I am to lambast you for your ignorance, I will take a lesson from the charming response you got from the writer.

      In case it needs to be re-iterated, it is NOT OK for dogs to do this, my dog LOVES other dogs, she does not greet them by straining at the leash, but by wagging her tail and approaching for a cautious sniff. THAT is a social, happy, affectionate way to greet another member of your species, like if we were to meet in an elevator, I would perhaps smile, comment on the floor numbers and depending on your response, exchange smiles and perhaps names with you. We would both leave with a good feeling. If you were however trapped with no where to go and I came crawling all over you, I think perhaps you would not.

      To the writer, your dignity in response is commendable, your article, a breath of fresh air! I too am tired of being the “bad” guy when my little buddy is the epitome of happy, we get stopped by people to tell us how happy my dog looks for heavens sake, but if she is approached, as you say, she will snarl and throw a warning shot out.

      Ironically, if she were approached by the human doing that, she would probably have a field day lol.

    • I bet you use a retractable leash and chit chat at the park rather than supervise your dog. Just guessing.

    • I totally agree with you!

  2. Well said! I don’t even need a dollar, a penny a snark would do it:>) What’s even more frustrating is walking down the sidewalk, having another dog dragging its owner over to say “hi”, TELLING THE PERSON that my dog does not like other dogs in her face, and then just getting blown off as my pup rightfully defends her space. Reminds me of when my daughter was a baby and absolute strangers would swoop down upon us and try to touch her and get in her face. I view a key piece of my job as protecting my dogs from the witless public who seem to view animals as stuffed inanimate objects that are for some reason in the “public” sphere of ownership.

  3. Wow, LisaLoo. You can be happy that your dogs want to say hi to all other dogs, but if you force it on all dogs you come across without regard for what the other owner and dog actually want, that’s insanely rude.

  4. LisaLoo is apparently one of those people who cause other dogs to develop behavior problems and cause other owners to start stereotyping owners of ____ (whatever breed(s) she has) as insensitive, self-centered jerks. Rushing over to greet another dog is *NOT* normal dog behavior. It is abnormal and shown consistently by only a couple of breeds that are way over on one side of the bell curve in this respect — the other *SEVERAL HUNDRED* dog breeds do not tend to show this trait, and in fact are far more normal. It’s a shame that has become normalized in this society to the point where these insensitive dogs AND their insensitive owners often seem to hold everyone else hostage. I agree with Cheesar… insanely rude.

    And by the way, Sara is a very happy, friendly, social person. Your ability to read her written tone is apparently as poor as your ability to read and respect the body language of dogs.

    • If, for dogs, rushing to greet another dog wasn’t normal then we wouldn’t have to train them not to do it. plus, this happens commonly, so yes, it’s totally normal. dogs are not rational animals, they act instinctively. they can’t naturally control themselves and be calm if you don’t teach them first to do so. so, it’s not an abnormal dog, it’s a normal dog not properly trained.

      • No, Andy, it isn’t normal dog behavior. It is normal puppy-to-known-puppy behavior, which common puppy classes propagandize as normal adult dog behavior, and people buy into it. Normal dog behavior includes greater reticence and respect for older dogs until all of the ritualized sniffing and posturing and giving and receiving of cues about willingness to play, or NOT to play have been received.

  5. I am constantly having to tell people to keep their dogs away until they calm down. My girl who is friendly with 90 percent of dogland is slightly reactive on leash ONLY to dogs who rush her. I too find it quite interesting that Lisaloo is so adamant that OUR dogs are rude and that we are as well, just because we ask for a little personal space.
    Our dogs just don’t tolerate dogs that do not follow the normal canine social constraints. Overly Friendly does not mean MANNERED. Boorish behaviour is boorish behaviour, whether that is with humans or with canines.
    I was once at a dog park with my dog and a client dog, a 1 1/2 year old golden retriever. A woman arrived with two Labs, an older yellow female and a young chocolate male. The chocolate literally ran right into the young golden retrievers side in greeting, knocking her onto her side. His intent was not unfriendly, but it certainly was extremely aversive to the GR who promptly gave him appropriate and vocal hell. The woman had the nerve to say that the GR was AGGRESSIVE. I told her to wait thirty seconds and narrated it as thus: he will approach the GR slower, he will then play bow and she will reply and then they will play. That is exactly what happened. She was astonished. HER DOG WAS RUDE and deserved to be told off, my GR was NOT aggressive and was only putting him in his place.
    Anyone who thinks that THAT is aggression, has not one clue about dogs.

  6. MaryHeddaLittlelamb

    The original poster says that she would rather have “happy and social dogs than dogs who can’t get along with others.” Well, guess what? SO WOULD WE ALL! But some of us dont have that luxury, thanks to people that feel that their dog should be allowed to rush up in an overly-excited manner to any dog it wants to, thus creating in our dogs an unpleasant association with meeting new dogs. To assume that every dog you allow your dog to barge up to wants the interaction is thoughtless, and in fact, you very well may be adding to a dogs pre-existing fear, all in the name of satisfiying YOUR desire to let your dog do what it wants, even if to the detriment of another. Furthermore, it’s presumptuous of you to assume that every person in public with a dog is there for the same reason you are, or to assume that if a dog isn’t allowed to greet yours, it must not be “happy and social.” I would tell you not to “ASSume” things, because of how it makes one look, but I sense I’m too late…

  7. Yes! Indeed, yes, yes, YES! It’s perplexing how often people actually push dogs into these abnormal adult interactions. Thank you for this thoughtful post. You will ruffle a few feathers when you tell people this, but that doesn’t make it any less accurate. And if more people understood this, there would be far less dog to dog reactivity/aggression IMO. .

  8. As long as my “anti-social” dog gets along with her pack, that’s all that matters to me. Could care less that she has no interest in meeting or playing with other dogs. When out walking she is on a gentle leader. I have no problem telling someone to please reel in their lunging, barking social dog from the end of their 12 foot flexi. Even my “social” dogs don’t like rude dog behavior. Some people just don’t get.

  9. My dogs and I are a lot alike. I do not ill mannered children and my dogs do not like ill mannered dogs. My dogs and children have been taught and are expected to behave in public, sometimes that does not happen, so it is necessary for a correction. Thank you, Sara for writing this. I think most people do not have a clue, I did not either until I joined the world of canine sports, that most dogs are friendly with other dogs but only want to “play” with other well mannered dogs and not on leash. One of my dogs is great at showing all the signs of leave me alone and will tell another dog with a snark to do so if he is not left alone, but in the correct situation, he will be playing and chasing around with the other dogs. Many people do not understand he is not aggressive but I do end up managing him for his own safety. Thank you, I wish this article would go along with every dog or puppy as they went to their new homes to help educate their new owners in dog land edicate.

  10. What a mess we are in nowadays, in terms of dog training, and this is even before I get to my usual rant–the prevalence of the flawed dominance-theory BS spewed by people like Cesar Millan. Most dogs are living almost completely controlled lives–always or almost always on leash (or, even worse, behind a shock fence), unless they’re in a building working on one of the skills which have taken the place of running free on a farm, herding sheep, chasing rats, or doing one of the many other things dogs love to do. We are micromanaging our dogs the way we do our children, and they’ve started to lose some of their natural communication skills, just as are children are becoming obese from lack of what used to come naturally to them. A leashed dog has already had one big choice made for him/her, and the tone of the dog/dog conversation has already been changed. I can see both sides of this. Of course one doesn’t want a Tarzan dog charging one’s leashed pet, but who’s addressing WHY there are so many Tarzan dogs in the first place? Many of them are desperate for their own kind. Many of them never got the chance, when they were puppies, to learn to be with other dogs. Many of their owners, although they may not know the terms of, nor the theories behind, good dog training, can feel that their dogs need other dogs more than they need anything else, and they’re just trying to help their dogs be happy. It IS frustrating that there’s such a lack of knowledge out there, and I’m personally frustrated that the really excellent positive-reinforcement trainers I know don’t feel that they can openly say what’s wrong with Cesar Millan and his ilk, for fear of being seen as uncollegial (if that’s a word), or of being sued. Still, I think that anyone who’s got the skills that this writer does, should write from the perspective of education, not sermonizing. For me, there IS something a tiny bit elitist about this article, a lack of empathy, a, ‘de haut en bas’, stance, although the response to LisaLoo, who went very far, was kind. But it’s obvious, in some of these comments (Meg’s, for instance) that the dog is being blamed for what is solely the owner’s responsibility, and that is truly a shame. Although, in the original post, that viewpoint isn’t as obvious as it is in Meg’s, lines like this, ‘Furthermore, I consider my dogs to be more well-socialized than these canine Tarzans…’, which pit two dogs against one another, just aren’t helpful.

    • Thank you, you brought a bit of balance to this discussion. Dogs are naturally drawn to other dogs, and young dogs even more so. And healthy, well-socialized grown-up dogs are normally patient with puppies and young dogs and know how to calm an impolite dog. When dog owners say that their dog “has no interest in other dogs”, it usually means that their dog is not well-socialized or have had negative experiences so they are afraid of other dogs. Some owners do not consider this a problem, but the dog misses out on a lot of important stimulation if the owner does not address this. I’m at the other end here, I have a rambunctious, over-excited dog who is only allowed to play with big, stable grown-up dogs, and I often have to be clear on the border of impolite in order for other dog-owners to respect this, as they only see an extremely happy dog, whereas I know that he has to learn to be more polite before he can say hello to dogs who are not as overly outgoing as he is. Anyway, I’m sure we can agree on this: If you want your dog to say hello to another dog, you ask the owner if it is OK, and there is no need to start a discussion if the answer is no.

    • It’s interesting to believe that a single training method works across the board for all dogs. I’m a teacher and run a dog rescue, and with both humans and animals there is a pre-disposition to learn in different ways. I try one method for a while with a new foster, but if it fails to work, I move on to another. In terms of what is “best”, it depends entirely on the dog – they are, as we all know, individuals. So I strongly suggest not judging a style, unless it is abusive, of course, because ultimately, if the dogs get and stay out of hand, they may be considered unadoptable – and I don’t need to tell you how many dogs are euthanized in the states every day… do I?

  11. “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.”
    You are such an optimist, I wish many parents would teach their children to be calm and polite. These are the same people who let their dogs pull them willy-nilly and jump all over other dogs and people.

  12. P.S. And if you couldn’t tell already, I consider that Cesar Millan and his followers are directly or indirectly responsible for a lot of the Tarzans we are seeing in dogland. For many dogs, dominance-theory training is much worse than no training at all. Maybe it’s a pretty radical thing to say, but I’m sticking to it.

    • What does Cesar Millan has to do with this post? He has a great way to solve a lot of aggressive behavioral issues with dogs and actually saved many lives of dogs before they were put to sleep. His way may not the only way, and certainly yours is not the only way. Learning to R E S P E C T others’ methods is what you need. It is funny that you want to teach your dog manners when you yourself have none.

  13. What a wonderful article!!! I’ll be sharing this with everyone!!!!! Thank you for such a well written article!!! Love it!!!

  14. Great article. On a similar note I dislike the folks that think because you have a well behaved dog at your side they can walk right up and start “petting, talking, engaging in some way” without regard to asking permission or thinking that your canine has been given a comand.

  15. Great article and I totally agree with Sara!
    Personal boundaries–they are a GREAT thing and far to many people *and* animals DO NOT follow them! I can not tell you how irrate I get when people walk up to my 3 year old daughter in public *to touch her curly hair* and then act all offended when I tell them to back off. Saying a compliment is one thing–touching another without their permission is an invasion of personal space ALWAYS. It is no different with animals and stresses them out as much I’m sure.

  16. Very good article, and unfortunately the ones who need to read it, are the ones who never will as they do not see it as an issue. I live in a town where dogs rule the streets, they are off leash, let out in public to run on our yards to do their business, bark until the wee morning hours at a rate where I start to think there surely is no way they can breathe.

    Small children are let alone to walk large dogs, in pack pairs, that have broken away and attacked our dogs. People constantly saying “don’t worry – he’s friendly!” Unfortunately so are mine, but only after a proper introduction. My one boy was attacked as a puppy, since that day we have done our best to ensure every nose to nose meeting is done at a pace that is “normal dog behavior”. You can’t do this when dogs run amuck, or people ignore the unwritten rules. You don’t allow strangers to confront your kids, you don’t allow it with your dogs, especially when your dogs, can leave you, or the other party with a law suit or injury because of an improper meeting.

    If I had a dime for every dog that growled at mine, tried to eat, mount, attack, circle and charge at, I’d be a rich woman. Unfortunately during those times we aren’t offered the luxury of time to explain how it WOULD HAVE gone better.

    A prime example, dogs in packs, become different dogs. We were walking two of our dogs, in the ball diamond park. We run them offleash there (we pick up so no worries) but we bring our own locks and make sure the ball diamond is closed, so no unexpected meetings. To and from that, in the park, they are leashed and under control. We noticed three border collies running in the diamond. They spotted us, as their owner sat on a picnic table, and watch them run at us, charging us, tails up, hackles up, frothy mouths.. We screamed, raised our hands, shouted at the man to come get his dogs, who were resorting to pack behavior and at one point I was worried about my own safety with them being so close, the charges. It took my fiance actually running at the dogs, waving a jacket and his hands to make them give us even a little space. The owner watched, he didn’t care, we yelled at him to call the dogs, come get the dogs, and after about 15 minutes, we were backed up against the fence of another diamond, and the dogs began to separate and leave.

    We will never have a level of understanding between dogs and owners, and OTHER dogs and owners, when people in the article, or people like there are in this town exist and cease to take responsibility for their charges.

  17. Jeannette Cheeks

    For me, if you are obeying a leash law when walking your dog, and, another dog off leash or on leash comes up you have a great possibility of leash anxiety and aggression happening. If you are at a dog park where dogs can interact in a normal non stiffled manner then it would be fine. Most dogs are born into a pack of siblings and they learn in those first few formative months boundaries. So that butt sniffing and reading body language are a given. However, there is always the chance that the dog may have been a single birth pup and missed all those social skill building time with siblings. I think that when dogs are being walked on lead great
    skill and understanding needs to be with the owner. We are the ones who have placed our pets out into the big world on a leash. Word to those who allow their dogs to roam free off their property: SHAME SHAME SHAME!

  18. MaryHeddaLittlelamb

    There’s a reason one of the items on the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test is that the dog must be able to CALMLY greet another handler w/ dog, showing only casual interest in the other dog…..because that’s POLITE friendly behavior. I wonder how many of these owners of “friendly” dogs could successfully pass the test?

  19. Ingrid, in no way do I blame the dogs, I didn’t mean to set that tone. Regarding Cesar Millan, totally agree with you.

  20. having a service dog, and needing to be able to calmly and safely go about my biz is important. My dog is appropriate with other dogs, but I dont want my dog mugged by others when working. I have had to put my wheelchair between 2 dogs dragging an owner across a parking lot to attack my dog. Deal with off leash dogs, and idiot owners. My first resort is to throw food at a dog approaching to distract them. Try to move away. People dont understand.. your dog can still be a pet if it has been traumatized by other dogs.. If my dog becomes fearful and can no longer maintian in public around other dogs due to that, I have lost my freedom, my helper, my friend, not to mention thousands of dollars. I know you love FiFi or spot, but I truly dont want to be bothered, and pick my play dates for my dog carefully. I dont want your rude, untrained dog around.

  21. I must be the only person who read the article who has a ‘canine tarzan’. Come on people, I know there are more of you out there! Admit it!

    I have a jackrat. When it’s just her and me at home, she’s great! Calm, obedient, etc. But when I take her on a walk, I dread running into people with dogs. She just LOVES other dogs. She want to play and hop and run, blah blah. So yeah, she TRIES to charge (I won’t let her) and if she realizes I’m resisting her she starts growling and barking at the other dog. If the other dog owner shows interest in allowing her to approach, I’ll reluctantly allow it, she skips the growling/barking bit, but still is way over-eager and excited. If the other dog is more dominant than herself and has the fortitude to correct, she’ll then start behaving much better, but if not, she totally plows over them.

    It’s so embarrassing. I just want my dog to be able to walk by another dog on our walk without feeling like she has to greet every hair on its body. I favorited this blog so I can read next week! I’ve tried everything to correct this behavior, so maybe I’ll glean something useful next week!

    • Michelle, for the next week try this, measure out the dog’s food and carry it with you, HAND FEED. Every individual piece of kibble from your hand and only for DOING something. I have my clients use the kibble to reward brief hand following behaviors, allowing to be touched, walk around and mark and treat anytime the dog is by your side, Throughout the day, anytime your dog isn’t paying any attention to you, make a kissing noise and give several treats when the dog arrives. This process will begin to make you more important to the dog, so, when you approach another dog, when you make that kissing sound your dog should loose focus on the other dog and focus on you, why? because you payoff! There is the term “threshhold” which refers to a place where closer to the distraction will cause the dog to react. You want to work with your dog “under threshhold” so he can stay focused on you. Practice that and practice it long enough the the dog begins to think, “Wow, another dog, I love other dogs, every time I see one MOM gives me treats if i look at her. Bring ’em on.

    • Bless you for putting your hand up lol. As for what you can do, improvise. Many people will tell you that you CAN always, without fail, make your dog walk nicely on a lead. I do not agree. I have had dogs my whole life, nearly all of them walked beautifully, one of them? ungh, I tried everything! He was regularly exercised, with me about 90% of the time, always around people and dogs, still he was a puller and a bouncer. Don’t believe everything you hear and read. A good start for control is an easy walk harness, basically no matter the size of your dog, he isn’t going anywhere unless you, no matter YOUR size, is allowing. This wont stop people from raising their eyebrows and looking down their nose ;) but it will make you calmer and if the stories are to be believed, that will have a knock on effect to your dog. The food idea above is also very valid, my current dog will do anything, for her own kibble lol, it’s hilarious, put it in a bowl, it is to be scorned, but it in your hand, it is mana from the Gods!

    • I know it’s nearly two years later, but I’m just arriving to the thread and I’ll happily put my hand up. I have two dogs – one who is completely dog-appropriate and one who is a Tarzan. It’s been one of the hardest things to improve upon with her. She is completely relaxed and appropriate under most circumstances.. we can sit at sidewalk tables on dog-busy streets and she’ll barely look up at the dogs walking by, and will only occasionally perk up to exchange a sniff if an interesting dog sniffs her first. If she’s “working” (we have our own city agility games that involve jumping bike racks, hydrants, sandwich boards, and perching on objects) I can have her pose for me and she will let me drop the leash and walk away even if there are excited dogs around her. But if we’re just out walking, even just to go to the bathroom, she will stare down other dogs from as far away as she can spot them, and if we’re walking towards them she’s either at the end of her leash or doing the border collie stalk. When she does get to greet, she becomes appropriate again once they’re within sniffing distance, and after a few seconds is ready to be on her way, but everything leading up to the greeting is obnoxious, and once I’ve lost her focus I can’t get it back on me until the other dog is long gone. Reading blogs like this and watching demos like Zak George’s youtube videos has helped me a ton with improving our connection, and this (and mastering the loose-leash!) is one of the last hurdles we’ve got to clear.

    • Me too, me too! (But with an 85lb border collie/boxer/pit mix!)

      • Ha! Thank goodness my border collie mix is only 32 lbs! My last dog was 65 lb, and simultaneously a Tarzan when approaching and fear-aggressive when close. THAT was fun.


  22. Your analogy of the yelling, boisterous human was spot on. I wouldn’t want to meet that person either. Not all dogs are social butterflies, but it is a plus that they can remain calm when they encounter other dogs. My female Boston used to be very energetic when she met other dogs, but she was ‘corrected’ for her overzealous behavior by some older dogs. Now, she’s the calm one who has no problem dishing out corrections of her own.

  23. I hate being out in the park with my 3 dogs and having a rather hyper “unstable” dog approach, because it just riles my dogs up!! they get so defensive if the dog acts inappropriately and the other owner takes this a agression when really they are “correcting” this dog and teaching it how it should behave!!.

  24. Pingback: “My Dog LOVES Other Dogs” | Paws Abilities | Pet Lover News

  25. Pingback: Taming the Canine Tarzan | Paws Abilities

  26. I find it sad that people have a need to “control” something and so instead of controlling people, they tend to control dogs as though they were people. I think relating human behavior to dog behavior is egotistic of us to think that they are exactly the way human beings are. But the truth is that dogs are very different – capable of unconditional love and loyalty, which is something that is rarely ever found in humans. So to try and compare their hearts and minds to ours I think is ridiculous. Let them be dogs. Unless they are biting each others heads off why put our ego in the way of allowing them to act the way nature ended – like dogs and not humans. I just adopted a dog not to control something, but to help guide a living creature through life and let her be as happy as possible.

    • If that happiness includes encroaching on the happiness of other dogs, that’s not being a good citizen. Having a well-behaved dog is about teaching your dog, and yes, controlling its behaviours, but not everything about its life. I know a lot of people like you, who are worried that saying “no” to their dog will impact the ebb and flow of their relationship – I don’t want to tell you what happens to most of those dogs. OK – I’ll tell you one; he was a deer chaser, and nothing brought more joy to the dog than chasing deer, so his owner let him. Let him be a dog, right? This translated into it being ok to chase horses, and when they were out on a rural walk, the dog took off for hours, and ended up being shot by a farmer because it was distressing his animals.
      You sound like maybe you don’t correct any of your dog’s behaviours, is that true? It just may be an issue with semantics – you want to call it “guiding” and somebody else wants to call it “control” – what it is is making sure your dog can interact with the world around it to maximize everyone’s happiness, but especially its safety. I certainly hope your dog comes when you call, because I have plenty of stories for that one, too.

  27. Oh my god I am so glad I ran into this article. I live in a big city where my dog encounters canine tarzans like this every time we go out. My dog was a stray in Taiwan for the first year of her life and even had puppies then, so I would like to think she has a lot of common sense. She greets other dogs politely and ignores growling dogs on leash, but when they get in her face she does snarl and snap at them. My private trainer says its totally normal behavior and I shouldn’t discourage her growls. Yet she has been labeled as aggressive because of this and even some day cares tolerate canine tarzans but not her type of behavior. Thanks for voicing my sentiments exactly.

  28. It’s so refreshing to read this!!! Almost week, i have an owner bring their “well behaved” dog into the vet in which i work as an assistant and behaviorist. They come in, no leash & their dog is either wondering or running around the clinic making every other dog there super stressed. A few times, these “well behaved” dogs have gotten bitten and guess who gets blamed?? Yup, the dog who did the biting. I’ve had to comfort many clients, on the spot, trying to give them some peace by telling them “don’t be too upset… I saw your dog give that other dog 5 different warning signs that he was becoming stressed. His owner doesn’t realize his dogs behavior created it all”. A dog running around trying to play with a bunch or even just 1 strange dog who doesn’t want to play and who shows so much body language, even I can see, will probably get bit if they aren’t controlled by their owners.
    I see it ALL THE TIME! And with dogs who I’ve known for years and have had play dates with my own dogs. If my dog is acting like a lunatic, i take a short walk and try again, or point him towards a dog who wants to wrestle.
    I will never be an owner who blames another dog for communicating the only way it knows how and for me not paying attention. No matter how great my dog is, he is capable of driving another dog nuts:)
    Thank you!!

    • One question – why isn’t the office requiring that all animals be leashed or crated when entering? That’s been a requirement at every vet I have ever used. Not just for the sociability concerns, but to limit exposure to infectious disease. Personally, I’d be unwilling to use a clinic that didn’t have such a requirement.

    • I have one of those Tarzans…. And I’m not the oblivious owner often described …. I’m just flummoxed what to do next…. I’ve tried so many techniques over the past 3 years…. I’m very diligent about looking for ways to change the situation. (positive training methods , food based rewards, focus on me when out and about, desensitizing him to things that excite him etc). I think some of its Tarzan rude behavior, and some of its fear based …..
      He’s MUCH better than he was, but he still pulls toward other dogs in the distance,(he’s 85 lbs of border collie/ boxer/ and pit mix probably) I use the easy walk halter thank goodness.
      he’s fine when they are up close. He also jumps on people who greet him on the sidewalk if he’s had a distance to focus on them ahead before we are close (gets more and more excited as we approach). Once he greets that way, he calms down and is normal wagging tail gently etc.
      I know practicing those very situations with someone would help, but I truly don’t know anyone with or without a dog who I feel comfortable asking to help me .
      Would a Reative Rocer class help? I always think it would only surround him with aggressive dogs and I want him to learn from calm Buddha- like dogs not other Tarzans…

  29. i think its safe to say my dog is the genuine article of an antisocial dog,
    however its not that she hates all dogs she just likes her space,
    she has been attacked by random dogs at the dog park while quietly minding her own business.
    she is riddled with arthritis at age 15 and does not want to play however she will tolerate other dogs however so long as they give her space. get within 3feet and u will receive a warning growl get within 1foot and u will receive a warning bite (if u dont leave now look out)
    and i defend my dogs right to do so if she does not want to play she does not have to

  30. I love this article. I love it!
    Just last week maybe the week before… I was walking my dogs, one of which has a painful ear infection. It’s not contagious so to drain his energy we go for walks. A guy had a retractable leash that goes like 30 ft out. he was across the street from us (i crossed to avoid the dog). he hit release yelled “he’s friendly” Before the dog could get near i backed into a yard of someones and screamed “mines sick” the dog was still charging at us full speed i kept backing up almost against some strangers house. I then screamed “mines not friendly” though they usually are. This was a huge black dog running at me fur up, tense facial muscles. It was NOT looking friendly. the guy moved forward so the dog could reach mine and of course right off it bit my dog!
    I wont lie i kicked at his dog to get it to let go of mine because it didn’t just bite release it bit my dogs neck and started to shake it’s head. Friendly? That is friendly?
    he then chews me out for kicking his dog and tells me “my dog is friendly your dog is what caused this”
    My dog that was kept on a leash, that stayed at my side silent? My puppy i moved behind me for fear the puppy would be eaten by this huge dog. I couldn’t get both my dogs behind me, and if i had I really feel i would have been bitten.
    For me now when I hear “he’s friendly” i think yeah right.

    I would really love to see an article on how to handle these situations. At this point i’ve been advised by the police to get a permit to carry a gun and protect myself and my “property” meaning the dogs.
    Animal control told me to get mace or pepper spray and spray it in the dogs eyes, and nose. both suggestions seem cruel.

    • Unfortunately, in situations like that your only recourse in the moment involves correcting the dog rather than the owner. Clearly, the owner is at fault for not having his dog under his control, but in order to protect your own dogs, sometimes your only course of action is to target the dog. I wouldn’t get a gun for a variety of reasons, and mace/pepper spray have a pretty decent chance of affecting you and your dogs as well, but I might consider carrying an air horn or canned air, and I’ve known people to carry a tennis racquet that they can use as a barrier between their dog and an approaching dog. It has the added bonus of being useful for games of fetch, if your dogs like that sort of thing. Some dogs will respond to a loud “NO” or “STOP” with a couple forceful steps in their direction. Finally, don’t hesitate to get police and animal control involved right away. Most cities have leash laws that actually prohibit the use of those extendable leashes (or at least prohibit them from being used as intended, by giving a maximum length of 6 ft or so) or require that dogs be “under the owner’s control” at all times (which can be interpreted as on a leash or completely responsive to voice commands). There are even instances where the owner could be charged with an assault if you are injured by their dog.

  31. Thank you for an excellent common sense article.

  32. Whoa, I hope the thought of the gun or the mace was for the owner. Sorry to be extreme but it is the owners fault, not the dogs. I have a dog who is aggressive in her greetings and thus is controlled by me 100% on walks. If I were to let her greet your dog the way this guy did, the result would be all on me.

  33. My thought wasn’t a gun or mace, it’s what the police and animal control suggested when i asked them how to prevent these situations. :(
    Personally I’m starting to think people need to pass a test before they can own a dog. Seems more people think it’s okay to let their dog run up to everyone elses dogs..
    Even though one of my dogs is really friendly and mellow I still wont let him go say hi to everyones dogs. For me the walk isn’t the time/place for that. but rather a park, or in a petstore is the place for dogs to greet each other.

  34. I guess one of my dogs is a Tarzan, although the term makes me sad, because she is extremely leash-reactive. Accordingly, she is leashed and harnessed on walks, and we turn and walk the other way when we see any other dog, cross fields, etc. Other owners cooperate with this because she carries on like she’s insane when she sees another dog. I have no difficulty keeping her by me, and she’s on a 4 ft. fixed leash. She had a terrible babyhood, was left to die in a dumpster, and was brutally attacked by a Rott at a dog park (that’s not a slur; I love Rotts), so she does not go to dog parks and is never, ever unleashed outside.

    She is also sweet, calm and beautifully obedient in the house. She loves her sister (lab mix) and loves daycare, where she thrives and plays happily and gently with other dogs.

    Yesterday at the park she was attacked by an off-leash German Shepherd. He hurt her badly. She got ahold of his mouth and hung on (she’s a pit and has a powerful grip) but she never bit–after it was all over he didn’t have a mark on him, but her lip and face are torn up. She allowed me to open her jaws and obeyed “Leave it,” or we’d still be there. I am concerned that our gradual progress in ignoring other dogs, cars, etc. has been lost and we are back at Square One.

    My story is to demonstrate that calling another dog names is elitist and unfair. I have a dog with genuine and understandable issues who is completely under my control. If another dog comes rushing at her, no matter how friendly his intent, her reaction will likely not be good. Calling her names doesn’t help anyone. Respect the owner who controls his or her dogs and leave them their space. If they turn away at the approach of another dog, don’t follow them. Under control, their dogs have as much right to be there as yours.

    • I don’t think the term is derogatory, or that the post is aimed at responsible owners who are addressing their dogs’ socialization issues appropriately. After all, we can’t blame the dog for doing something that we haven’t taught them is inappropriate, and I don’t see the harm in categorizing their behavior. The term is applied to the dog as a way to quickly convey their current behaviors, but the humans are the ones who need to be in control of that behavior. I know that my dog can sometimes come on too strong, so I watch her interactions carefully, and I praise her for making good choices. If she does start to get too pushy, I reduce her freedom to interact inappropriately and am quick to reassure owners who think that their dog telling her to back off are being mean. She still pulls toward other dogs on walks, but her greetings, when she’s allowed to greet, have been getting much more consistently polite.

    • I wouldn’t have considered your dog a Tarzan dog. A Tarzan dog is like one of those dogs that pulls on the leash and is over eager to meet every dog in its path. They are the dogs when off leash run at the other dog full tilt, often crashing into them. They are the ones who get into the other dogs face and regardless of all the body language being put off by the other dog, they just don’t get it. They are usually unsocialized or under socialized, and are in need of more exercise than what they are getting, and lack basic obedience training. They are not dogs that no fault of their own, had been attacked by other dogs and is wary of dogs it does not know, You are a responsible dog owner who is trying to rehab this poor girl in a world that is not very easy on dogs who need space to work or train. I hope you are successful with her and that she can heal from this incident.

      • Thank you, Heather. She is feeling much better today and she and her sister and I walked two miles at the same park, with treats and encouragement at the spot of the attack. She passed a dog across the street with pulling but no insane carrying-on, and was rewarded.

  35. Great article. I sure wish every dog owner would read this and understand it. My 12 week old puppy was accosted by two adults dogs with the same human mom. They both snarled and went after my puppy. Human did absolutely nothing. Unacceptable.

  36. Stormborn Pitproud

    Hmmm whilst this article contains a good message it certainly got my hackles up as a Tarzan owner. It lacks sensitivity as demonstrated by all the self righteous responses. I too love that my Tarzan is a friendly sausage. Yes, I’d love to learn to teach her calm greetings so she’d get a better response but must we resort to the whole ” my dogs better and I’m better too” bullshit? As for Amy Mayers suggestion that we’re shit parents AND dog owners? Um really? What say we get on with the helpful non-judgey bit?

    • I don’t think it’s fair to judge the message of the article based on the responses. The author doesn’t necessarily endorse every interpretation of her words. Further, it’s great that you are happy with your dog. However, if your dogs behavior is causing discomfort to other people and dogs, perhaps you should evaluate what is really more important – your pleasure at your dogs enthusiasm, or the rights of others to have their personal space.

      Your dog can be both enthusiastic AND polite, and it’s on you to teach her how to do that. In my mind, it’s not fair to the other dogs, or to your own, to subject them to situations they don’t know how to handle properly. If your dog is getting bad reactions from other dogs because of her ‘friendly’ (but socially incompetent) behavior, think about what kind of lesson are you teaching your dog when you encourage her to be her Tarzan self which frequently leads to other dogs reacting badly to her. She’s going to learn that other dogs suck because you’ve taught her that invasion of personal space is fine and all the polite dogs of the world are telling her otherwise.

      If you had a toddler who was constantly running up to other kids, getting in their space, hugging them, touching them, kissing them, even when the other children were clearly uncomfortable, would you let that behavior continue because you like that he’s friendly? Or would you recognize that friendliness without boundaries isn’t socially acceptable and work on polite greetings, learning the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior, and the importance of asking for consent before entering another’s personal space? Dogs and humans alike need to be taught these behaviors to a certain extent. Some come by good social skills more easily and naturally than others, but these are learned behaviors that are important to their well-being and happiness.

      • Stormborn Pitproud

        Thankyou Laura for your lengthy reply. Could you please read the part where I said I love my friendly dog AND I’d like to teach her better social skills. That’d be great. I just think the article could have been written from a much kinder place, as could have the responses. We’re not all numpties, some of us just lack the knowledge to teach what we’d like our dogs to know.

      • I’m not of the mindset that you’re a bad owner or that your dog is a bad dog or even that you don’t want to change her behavior. And I certainly don’t expect most people to know what to do to improve their dog’s behavior without consulting professionals. I’m fairly good at reading my dogs and working with them, but I’m no expert. Perhaps the best way to improve your skills is to not come out swinging at the people who do have experience successfully avoiding or correcting the issues that you face. There’s a lot to be learned here if you don’t assume that everyone is looking down at you.

        Also, forgive me, but I definitely read your “that’d be great” in the voice of the boss from Office Space. So thanks for that.

  37. Love, love, love the article. However using the term “Canine Tarzan” as an analogy for rude dogs is somewhat inaccurate. Astrid and Tarzan :)

  38. I feel like this article thread is a good a place as any to ask my question. My dog, is definitely one of those tarzan dogs …. mostly when she’s off-leash (which is even more dangerous, IMO). On-leash she could go either way, sometimes she pays attention to a dog in the distance, sometimes she doesn’t. As such, we don’t go to the dog park anymore, and mostly engage in social activities with other dogs that are highly controlled (like a class or a walking group).

    Her “tarzan” behavior, has obviously, led her to get into scuffles with other dogs, as they rightfully correct her with a bark or a snarl. The problem has become that instead of reacting appropriately to this correction, she has retaliated by attacking the other dog. At first, it was a gradual escalation, so any altercation with another dog was either minimal or completely avoided. But at this point, she’s been bitten by other dogs 4x and has bitten other dogs as well … like I said, while it used it take a gradual escalation for her to reach a “danger zone” now it’s just a single interaction that sets her off to bite another dog. It’s really quite terrifying. It’s gotten to the point, where my roommate is concerned about the safety of her dog (and I am too), so I’m considering re-homing/surrendering my dog. As the work I’ve done with trainers up to this point has not significantly improved her dog-on-dog skills, and the further training that she will need is out of my grasp, financially speaking.

    So, I guess, I’m asking here … should I sacrifice financially anyways? Is there still a chance for her to improve, so we don’t have to worry about the other dog in the house? I’m less concerned for her reactions to stranger dogs, than I am about familiar dogs. My worry is that the current environment that she’s in, isn’t conducive to change, and that she’d do better working on this behavior problem with someone/a family that has more money, and living as an only dog.

    Any advice?

    • If your dog has been bitten four times she has fear aggression–she attacks before she can be attacked. I would consider focusing on behavior rather than “training” and spend your limited resources on a session with a qualified behaviorist before your dog kills another or is killed. She should never be off-leash outside of your home, and you are absolutely correct to keep her out of dog parks. She may even need a course of anti-anxiety medication to allow her to dial it down enough to focus on you and a program of positive reinforcement training. See the behaviorist first, and don’t pay attention to anyone who suggests that she needs shock or other aversive training. She already has too much going on emotionally to be able to withstand misguided tough love.

    • I would first consider management of your dogs behavior and interactions before worrying about anything else. If your dog has been in the position to be bitten (and bite) multiple times, this is a result of allowing your dog access to situations where you are not in control. In an ideal world, this would never happen. Obviously, we don’t live in an ideal world, but we can be diligent and work to minimize the chances for our dogs to engage in anti-social behaviors.

      First, never let her off leash outside unless you are in a completely confined location where you can be absolutely sure she can’t escape and no one else can enter. You’ve already nixed the dog park, which is great – dog parks can be wonderful for well-socialized, easy going dogs, but not every dog who goes there will be friendly or play nice, and just because your dog doesn’t have the best social skills doesn’t mean that the dogs correcting her are any better. Some of them may be telling her “back off” appropriately, but others may not, which can add to her confusion and defensiveness.

      Consider switching to a head halter or harness that gives you more control during walks and can help you redirect her (not by you jerking on the leash to get her attention, but by allowing the harness to do its work and reorient her when she pulls away).

      If there are any indications that she is reacting differently to your roommate’s dog, you can separate them within the apartment, especially when alone, either by kenneling them or putting them in different rooms. You can keep her tethered to you while you are home so that she is always under observation. However, if she is still acting fine with the other dog in the house, remember that behavior under one circumstance doesn’t always mean the same behavior in a different circumstance; just like a shy person may open up completely with close friends or family, a dog who reacts to new dogs may never develop the same behavior with dogs they have known for a long time. It’s hard to avoid, but added worry about her behavior will be apparent to her; she will know if you are concerned, so if you become more tense when she is around the roommate’s dog, that may be her cue to be on the alert for trouble, leading to problems that never would have otherwise appeared. If this is a concern, then control the situation before she has a chance to act.

      Finally, always remember to praise appropriate interactions! Whenever she ignores another dog at a distance, give her a really hearty GOOD GIRL! and a delicious treat. She knew that other dog was there, and she chose to ignore it. If she looks at another dog, then moves her attention elsewhere, PRAISE! and TREATS! I take one of my dogs to a nearby park and we sit off to the side and watch the other dogs go by. Whenever she looks at me instead of staring at the dog, she gets treats and love. You can vary your distance as needed, just be sure to find a safe space where you can avoid off-leash dogs, since they might be enticed by the exercise as well.

      These are things you can do without consulting any professionals. I’m certainly not saying you should try to rehabilitate her on your own, but I understand that money is totally an issue, so these tactics can help give you time to save up and research nearby behaviorists while keeping your dog and others safe. The more control you have, the more confident you will feel and the more secure your dog will feel. Good luck!

  39. Serena Kennedy

    Very well written article. A savvy social dog generally mirrors the dog it greets- if that means sniffing the ground and approaching slowly with manners, gently sniffing the jaw/neck and then gently moving to the hind quarters, or running joyfully and rambunctiously, to greet, either way, its all good. Some older dogs are not so much anti social as they are protective about getting hip checked or pulled over. There is no rule that says each dog is supposed to like every dog that greets them. Tolerance is key. Just like with people. Wow learn to read dogs, and respect the boundaries.Some of the older dogs prefer to have more gentle greets, just like I do not want some stranger to hug me…. that would be ….too close for comfort. So to lisaloo I would suggest take some courses regarding canine behaviour/body language and dog to dog interactions or read about proper manners and greets. Respect goes a long ways with other dogs and people.

  40. I have one of those “Tarzan” dogs and I eagerly await your next article! I need help because nothing I’ve tried has worked. Now, I hesitate to take him out to socialize because it’s embarrassing which only adds to his lack of socialization!! Help us please! :D He really does love other dogs, but I am the first to admit his behaviour is quite rude! Thankfully, he is very much treat motivated and I will never give up!

  41. What a well written article and couldn’t agree more! As a rescue we can walk packs of dogs which we keep under control. They all know about respectful manners to other dogs and will tolerate polite dogs who greet properly and then more than likely want to play after, but when someone out of control rude dogs come bounding over to them and on them trouble starts! I hate the line it’s ok my dog is friendly. So grimes we are trying to rehabilitate dog agressive dogs and this irrisponsable ownership sets us back loads. The rehab dogs aren’t allowed off lead as learning how to socialise properly. People now days don’t put effort in training dogs and a lot don’t even understand dog behaviour, there rules and body language! Ignorance comes to mind!

    Can I ask you you email me this and the follow up please as I lose track when on face book as so busy x

    RACR (rescue)

  42. FANTASTIC a sentiment held dear to our hearts at Space Dogs Campcharity, ALL dogs should have th eir personal space respected from both dogs and people x

  43. Labrador owner

    I have taught my two bouncy fun loving dog friendly dogs that when off lead they don’t approach a dog on lead. Often dogs are on lead for a very good reason. They are only allowed to approach and play withbotherdogs if te owner is happy to let the of a mix. I saw the other day traffic light dog leads green friendly, yellow and red don’t approach. This would help with this issue if all knew about the colours and abided by them x

    • My dog is off leash when we are in her off leash play areas. She doesn’t like poorly mannered dogs. If we see a dog off lead (or even on lead) I call her and have her sit and stay out of the way until the person and dog pass. You should not let your dogs run up to every dog it sees, whether leashed or unleashed. They are not all friendly. I have also found that even if I call ahead to see if their dogs are friendly, they do not always answer or tell the truth. Colors don’t help if a dog is running far ahead of its owner.

  44. Pingback: He Just Wants to Say Hi.... - My German Shepherd Forum

  45. A fantastic article, thanks for taking the time to put it together. I always feel so sorry for under socialized dogs when they have no idea how to make friends and for the poor dogs that simply do not want to be bounced all over.
    Ignore the first comment too. As a writer I know how much criticism hurts, Lisaloo obviously needs to do some proper research and gain experience before talking, in any way, about canine behaviour.
    Thanks again,

  46. Jumpy “happy” dogs who approach other dogs that way are consider rude in the dog world and it’s the perfect way to start a dog fight. I have a dog who doesn’t like men. The dogs usually understand this, the men… not so much.

  47. Great article! I think the “rude” dogs would be much better off if they encountered an experienced bitch who could give them a good correction without harming them…just like their mommas would do if left to their own devices. Too bad some folks think that their dog is supposed to be fired up when he sees another dog. Please take the time to teach your dogs how to properly approach other dogs. I think you’ll find that if he learns to be polite around other dogs he may learn self control and not to jump all over people as well. Dogs are not only supposed to be loving, friendly and loyal, but polite and safe to be around as well. Such dogs are a complete pleasure. If you’re not able to enjoy your dog without having your head knocked off – you and he need help. Lisa Loo please re-read this article….

  48. I did think this was a good article, however I think that it is a little judgmental. Dozer (our rottie rescue) gets “Tarzan” on the leash when he sees another dog. He pulls on the leash…whines…barks. The leash is NOT a retractable and I keep him very close. I also make him sit and practice getting him to settle down before we proceed. He DOES love other dogs (large and small)…but I would NEVER allow him to get close enough to jump all over someone’s dog or greet them without permission. The only way to work on this issue is to take him in public…so although I understand, I think this is a bit judgmental.

  49. Pingback: “My Dog LOVES Other Dogs” | Paws Abilities | Beloved Companion

  50. I agree completely with this article — in my case, my dog doesn’t like other dogs getting into her “personal space”, but will tolerate them walking past; she has always been like this, except with our other dog who she loves…. But the amount of times I have had a dog or pup charge at us both with owner saying “it’s ok, she’s not aggressive” and I’m like “but MINE could be” (they don’t know if they just assume) — why do they never ask me first?… I have nothing against people socialising their dog, but please ASK — mine is not suitable for this kind of interaction!…….. I have witnessed (shockingly) the same dismissive behaviour with parents & children — a completely strange child runs up to my dogs face and grabs her ears, pulls her fur, & pokes her in the eye; my dog is EXPECTED to be ok with this (thankfully she is), and parent seems deeply offended if I block the child from touching my dog or if I ask them to get hold of their child… They have not asked my permission or even acknowledged me! (It’s not as though she is even SMALL, she’s GSD)…. It’s pure common sense; I was taught in school “don’t approach strange dogs, always ask the owner”, why has this simple message seemingly stopped being communicated?! OK, Rant over! :-/ lol

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