You love walking dogs: it’s one of the best parts of being a pet sitter. But how can you introduce your canine client to another dog safely while on leash? Here are some tips to ensure that each walk goes smoothly.
Communication Is Key
Before the stay or walk begins, ask the owner if their dog is okay with meeting other dogs on walks. Some dogs are reactive or frightened and might not be so interested in making friends. Ensure that:
- The dog is comfortable. The owner will be able to tell you if their dog is okay making other dog friends.
- The owner is comfortable. Even if their dog is fine with other dogs on leash, the owner might not want you to take that chance when they aren’t there to supervise. Follow their instructions exactly, even if that means avoiding other dogs on walks.
- You’re comfortable. Do you think you can handle whatever situation may arise when allowing dogs to greet each other? If you don’t feel comfortable assessing body language and stopping a potential scuffle, passing other dogs by may be the best answer.
Never allow a dog in your care to greet another dog without the verbal consent of that dog’s owner. When considering allowing dogs to meet be sure to consider:
- The other dog’s interest. Just because your dog is friendly doesn’t mean another dog is. Ensuring that both dogs are happy and engaged will keep a greeting positive.
- The other owner. By asking the other owner if your dogs can say hello, you’re respecting their wishes and the safety of both dogs.
- By making sure that everyone is aware that a greeting is occurring, both dog handlers can decide if they are comfortable with and prepared for it.
Think About Body Language
Dogs have their own greeting rituals and specific ways they like to say hello. When allowing dogs to approach each other, keep an eye out for happy and relaxed body language like:
- Soft eyes. Happy looking eyes are a big clue towards how a dog feels about greeting another dog.
- Greeting in an arc. Dogs approach each other in a semicircular motion, so they can smell each other’s back ends.
- Loose wiggly bodies. You know what a happy dog looks like. If both dogs are exhibiting wagging tails and relaxed body language, you should be good to go!
- Play bowing. Bowing is an invitation to play!
Keep an Eye Out for Warning Signals
- Staring. If one dog is staring intently at the other, do not let them greet. That is a threatening signal.
- Greeting head on. In dog culture, greeting straight on is a real faux pas. If a dog wants to rush another dog’s face, do not allow them to greet.
- Whale eye. A dog that is uncomfortable will show the whites of their eyes, letting others know that they need space.
- Stiff upright bodies. A dog may freeze when make a decision to run away from another dog or fight it.
By keeping these tips in mind, you can keep dog introductions safe and fun for your canine clients—and you!