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Imagine being out on a walk with your dog in your neighborhood, when you suddenly spot your neighbor out on a walk with her own dog. Now imagine being able to walk up to that neighbor with your dog and have a wonderful conversation with her, while your dog waits calmly by your side.
Training your dog to greet other dogs nicely can make walking your dog less stressful since you do not have to worry about your dog pulling on the leash and barking every time he sees another dog approaching. It can also enable you to bring your dog places where other dogs are present, such as pet stores and parks, and it is very important if you would like to pursue more advanced training with your dog, such as Therapy Dog training, Canine Good Citizenship Certification, and off-leash training.
Knowing how to greet other dogs nicely is a very important skill for all dogs to learn. Having a dog that knows how to greet other dogs is not only beneficial to you, the owner, but it can also benefit your dog by increasing the number of places he gets to accompany you and by preventing him from getting into dog fights that are due to poor greeting behavior.
Be patient with your dog while teaching this. For some dogs, usually those with calmer personalities, this is a relatively easy behavior to learn, but for others, like those with more excitable personalities, this can be a very challenging behavior to learn and it will take them more time.
The goal is to teach your dog to approach another dog calmly and to interact with the other dog politely and briefly. This is something that benefits dogs of all ages, and the earlier you begin training it, the sooner you can enjoy a polite dog!
To begin, you will need some small, tasty treats that are soft enough that your dog will not choke on them while moving. Something such as freeze-dried meat treats can work well for this. If your dog is not food motivated, a favorite toy or item can also work well.
If you are able to, recruit a volunteer with a calm dog to help you. If you cannot recruit someone, you will need to pick a location where you are likely to see other friendly dogs at various distances from you.
You will need to work at your dog’s own pace. Only increase the difficulty level once your dog is consistently succeeding at the current level. It is important to be patient for this reason, and to practice this several times a week to help your dog to improve.
The Passing Approach Method
Practice walking your dog at a heel beside you, without any other dogs around. Reward your dog with a treat or a toy for paying attention to you and for staying by your side.
Once your dog is focused on you, have your volunteer and his dog pass you from across the street. Keep enough distance between the two dogs for your dog to remain calm.
Continue heeling your dog past them, and reward your dog for acting calmly, for paying attention to you, and for walking right beside you as they pass by.
Decrease the distance
If you dog remains calm, have them pass by again, but this time decrease the distance between you and them by a couple of feet.
Continue to decrease the distance between you very gradually as long as your dog is remaining calm and attentive towards you. If you dog begins to get distracted, work at the current distance until they are calm and focused again.
Once you are close enough to the volunteer and other dog that the two dogs can almost touch each other, stop and command your dog to “say hi” while giving your dog enough slack in his leash to be able to greet the other dog. Have the volunteer do the same with their dog.
Let the dogs sniff briefly, and then command your dog to heel again and leave. This will help your dog stay calm during greetings and will decrease the chance of fighting between the dogs.
Now practice, practice, practice with all different types of friendly dogs. Practice in different locations, such as neighborhoods, pet stores, and parks to help your dog generalize his new skills to many new dogs and locations.
The Walking Together Method
Practice walking your dog at a heel beside you, without any other dogs around. Reward your dog with a treat or toy for paying attention to you and for staying beside you.
Walk together at a distance
Once your dog is focused on you and heeling, have your volunteer walk his dog parallel to yours from across the street.
Reward your dog with a treat or toy for paying attention to you, acting calmly, and staying by your side while you walk parallel to the other dog.
Decrease the distance
If your dog remains calm, then decrease the distance between you and the other dog by a couple of feet. If your dog does not remain calm, then work at the current distance until your dog is once again attentive and calm.
Continue to decrease the distance between the two dogs by a couple of feet every couple of blocks that you walk. Reward good behavior as you go.
Once the dogs are close enough to each other that they can almost touch, stop and command your dog to “say hi”. Have your volunteer do the same thing with his dog, and allow the two dogs to sniff each other briefly.
After the dogs have briefly sniffed each other, command your dog to heel, and have your volunteer do the same to his dog, then continue the walk with both dogs walking side by side with each other.
Practice this with many different dogs and in many different locations in order to teach your dog how to greet all dogs nicely wherever you go.
The Slow Approach Method
Practice walking your dog at a heel beside you, without any other dogs around. Reward your dog with a treat or a toy for paying attention to you and walking beside you.
Introduce from a distance
Have your volunteer stand with his dog about a hundred feet away from you, where your dog can see them.
Reward your dog for paying attention to you, for remaining calm, and for sitting.
Take a step towards the other dog. If your dog stays calm and remains beside you, reward your dog with a treat or a toy. If your dog barks or pulls, then turn back towards the direction that you came from and take a step away from the other dog.
When your dog is calmly standing by your side, repeat taking a step towards the other dog. If your dog remains calm, reward your dog and continue to take more steps, one at a time, towards them.
Take it slow
If your dog begins to bark, pull on the leash, lunge towards the other dog, or get too excited, take one step away from the other dog and wait until your dog calms down and is acting politely before taking another step towards them again.
Once your dog is close enough to the other dog to almost touch him and is acting calmly and politely, tell your dog to “say hi”, and instruct your volunteer to do the same to his dog, then allow the dogs to briefly sniff each other.
Keep it short
Once the dogs have sniffed for a couple of seconds, command your dog to heel and leave. Keeping things brief will help your dog to remain calm, and it will decrease the chance of the dogs fighting.
Practice this often with as many different dogs as you can, and in as many different places as you can, to ensure your dog will know how to greet all dogs calmly wherever he goes.
By Amy Caldwell
Published: 12/29/2017, edited: 01/08/2021