How many times have you been on a walk with your dog around your neighborhood or at the local park/walking trail and another owner insists that their dog is fine and wants to meet to your dog? You know your dog, and your dog likes her personal space. It doesn’t matter the reason why your dog doesn’t want to meet another dog, or even how she will react, it matters that the other owner is not respectful of you and your dog’s personal space.
Personal space is an important element in human society. There are unwritten rules – not speaking to someone inches from their face, not jumping into someone’s car without asking first because you need a ride, or even entering a person’s home you don’t know to use their bathroom. A common-sense respect for personal space boundaries makes people feel more comfortable.
It is the same in the dog – dog world. Each dog and owner on a walk has their own personal space boundaries. When most people are walking their dog, it should be to walk their dog, not to visit every other dog in the neighborhood. If you are not in this category and you think your dog should meet all other dogs, then you are mistaken.
You do not know the history, training or control the owner has, of the other dog. You are not only putting your dog at risk, but the dog whose space you are invading at risk. Letting your dog approach another dog without asking the owner first, doesn’t give the other owner a chance to tell you “No”.
The owner of the other dog you want your dog to meet knows their dog. They know if their dog is ready to socialize with other dogs. The owner may be working with/training their dog, and your invasion of that personal space boundary is disruptive. Letting your dog run up to another dog whether on a long lead, retractable leash or off-leash is disrespectful of the other dog’s personal space. You are no longer in control of your dog in this instance. If your dog runs up to a reactive/fearful dog, then your dog could be injured. It is not the responsibility of the other owner to preemptively tell you their dog is not friendly, is fearful, and is not good with other dogs. Since you are the one that wants your dog to meet another dog, it is your responsibility to ask.
Respect the other owners answer. If you ask if your dog can meet the other dog, and that owner says NO, you need to respect that decision. Again, that owner knows their dog. It is not up to you because your dog is good with other dogs, or you want to socialize your dog. It is not up to you to ignore the other owners answer and have them meet anyway. It is not up to you to try to talk the other owner into meeting. However, if the other owner does not hesitate and says YES, then absolutely have your dogs meet.
Yes, socialization is important. But it is also important to do it correctly and respect the personal space of dogs and humans.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery County, northern Chester County and eastern Berks County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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