Does your dog need friends?

I quite often get called for consults to homes where the owner has trouble whenever they walk their dog and encounter another dog. The scenario goes usually something like this: Whenever Brutus sees another dog, he does ballistic: jumping and barking and lunging.
The poor owner feels embarrassed about their dog’s behavior: “ Why can’t he just be friends with the other dogs?”
The answers may be one of the following: Some dogs have not been exposed to the world and other dogs in their formative period and therefore lack the experience on how to properly greet other dogs, usually resulting in a burst of over the top excitement. Some are fearful of other dogs and things and have learned that making lots of noise makes the dogs and their owners go away. Very, very few dogs are just outright aggressive and just cannot be in the presence of other animals.
The majority of dogs that “make a fuss” are somewhere between the guy that rushes up to you at a party, gives you a bear hug and smooches you on the face – and you don’t even know the guy so depending on your temperament, you might reciprocate or slap him – or the shy guy in the corner that starts scrolling on his smart phone as soon as you move in his direction therefore telling you to get lost ( and since dogs don’t have phones they are left with the other “get lost” signals: bark, bark, lunge, lunge, growl)
In most cases a lot can be accomplished with behavior modification – teaching the dog more appropriate ways to greet another dog or teaching him that the presence of other dogs does not have to be scary but can be fun.
Having said that, one always has to keep the desires of your dog in mind. Not all dogs enjoy meeting other dogs face to face. I often ask my clients if they went to the mall or for a walk by themselves how inclined they would be to stop and talk to a total stranger, and needless to say most of us would not. Then I ask them why they changed their behavior simply because the person coming towards them is also attached to a leash…?
A lot of dogs do not want to meet another dog just as much as you don’t stop to say hello to every person you run into.
So focus on the majors:
In human terms: Don’t kiss a stranger, don’t punch people, say hello nicely, and for the most part mind your own business – and then teach your dog to do the same.

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