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Encountering Other Dogs: How to Avoid Trouble on the Walking Path

 by petbucket on 16 Dec 2015 |
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Taking your dog for a walk can be a productive, enjoyable activity until you meet another dog on the walking path. Even if the other dog is accompanied by a handler, you often won't know a nice dog from a mean one until it's too late. Your own dog can be unpredictable, too, when confronted with another canine. So how can you safely and smoothly handle encounters with other dogs on the pathways? Here are eight tips that'll help:
.   Train your dog for walking in public. Before you make a routine of walking your dog on public sidewalks and walking paths, make sure he is adequately leash trained. A dog that's comfortable walking on a leash, knows how to heel, and obeys your commands will be much easier to handle than a dog that's loose, weaving back and forth, or pulling you on the walk--especially when an unfamiliar dog pops onto the scene. 
.   Be prepared when you leave the house. Certain supplies can help you avert trouble should you encounter another dog while out walking. Small treats and a whistle or other attention diverter are two items worth carrying in a pocket or waist pouch; either will allow you to redirect your dog's attention to you. If your dog is an aggressive puller, make sure he is fitted with a collar that gives you better control, like a martingale, harness, or pinch collar. 
.   Walk in areas with options for diverting. Sometimes it's easier to avoid encounters with other dogs than to face uncertainty. If possible, choose walking paths or sidewalks that allow you to change your route should you need to. Walking paths that veer in several directions or sidewalks that have a quiet street to cross between them are good options. When stuck, you can always turn around and head back in the direction you came.
.   Assess encounters with dogs in advance. During your walk, always stay alert and on the lookout for approaching dogs. Once you see an impending encounter, try to assess the situation. Is the approaching dog heeling obediently next to his handler, indicating a well-trained dog? Or is he pulling the handler--or worse, unleashed or alone? Assessing a situation before it happens will help you determine whether you need to change directions. 
.   Put space between two unfamiliar dogs. If you choose to pass another dog and handler, be sure to put space between your dog and the approaching dog. Keep your dog on a short leash, and have him walk on the side of you that's farthest from the other dog. By putting space between two unfamiliar dogs, you will help keep them both from feeling crowded or threatened, which can lead to aggressive behavior. 
.   Don't let a dog's breed fool you. While certain breeds can cause more fear and anxiety than others, how well behaved a dog is has a lot to do with training. A typically docile breed can be uncharacteristically aggressive upon meeting strangers, just as a normally aggressive breed can be docile. In other words, don't judge how an encounter will play out based on breed alone; look for other signs, like body language and control by the handler.  
.   Reprimand and offer praise when called for. You and your dog are just as responsible as the approaching walkers for making an encounter with another dog trouble-free. When your dog listens and behaves while out walking with you, be sure to offer praise or treats. Likewise, when he acts aggressively or doesn't mind your commands, correct him. Teaching your dog proper sidewalk etiquette will help make uncertain encounters safe and peaceful.  
.   Exude confidence. Dogs pick up on emotions, so don't let on that you're nervous or apprehensive. Be confident while out walking, even--and especially--when another dog is approaching. Speak to your dog in a calm voice, and walk with a smooth, steady pace. Whether you stop for a meet-and-greet, pass by each other, or divert your path, stay positive and composed; your dog will take your cue.
Passing another dog on the sidewalk or pathway should be an easy, uneventful experience. When in doubt about an approaching dog, however, it's better to be safe than sorry. The above tips can help make sidewalk encounters with other dogs comfortable, smooth, and free of stress.


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