Just like people, not all dogs are social butterflies. Some dogs may prefer solitude or small groups of dogs, and some dogs get along well in large groups of dogs.
A human analogy: An ordinary resident is being surrounded by reporters with cameras and microphones. Perhaps this person just did a good deed, and the news channels want to share it with their viewers. The newscasters mean well, but the resident’s heart might be pounding, her eyes might be dilated and she might have sweaty palms. She might be glad to end the interview and get back to her home away from the pressing crowd.
Dogs react in similar ways. If a person is walking his or her dog on a leash when they’re confronted by someone’s loose dog, the on-leash dog, and the owner, might elicit some of the same fear behaviors: increased heart rate and sweaty palms or paws. Perhaps the on-leash dog is fearful of other dogs in close proximity and might bark and lunge to communicate to the off-leash dog that it is too close.
I’ve seen this too many times. That person is me and so many other dog owners who conscientiously are teaching their dogs what to do when confronted by loose dogs. (I call them loose dog emergency skills.) We want to enjoy a walk with our dogs, too. But we have more rules to follow, and we should take seriously the responsibility of keeping ours and other people’s dogs safe.
Well-meaning but misinformed dog owners who let their dogs run loose may call out, “Oh, don’t worry. He’s friendly!” We hear it every day. This is the other side of that scenario.
My dog’s friendly, too. He’s just not a social butterfly.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training with more than 25 years of experience.