I was recently speaking with a client who stated that on their morning dog walk they encountered another dog owner, and both of them stood there, not sure what to do while their dogs became more and more excited. This is common – in many locations, only one side of the street has a sidewalk. And of course, no one feels they have the right to tell another person what to do. And this is normal, polite, and correct… and can sometimes lead to awkward situations!
Sometimes we try to hold on tight and maintain the course – we wind up in a familiar “drag the reluctant dog” position, pulling them away from that oh-so-interesting-other-dog.
Sometimes we simply wind up facing off with another uncertain dog and owner, even though we’ve thoughtfully pulled over to the side. Other times there is traffic, or other pedestrian concerns to worry about. Like cars…
Then we feel it – anxiety strikes.
Our thoughts stray from our pup, and our objective and start to spiral out: What do I do? I don’t want to end my walk, we’re not done, and it’s nice out. I don’t want to turn around, having another dog follow us at a distance isn’t that good of an idea either. Uh oh. Now he’s all excited and barking. This is so frustrating. I just want to go for a walk!
So let’s refocus….Instead of feeling uncertainty and risking setting our own canines on a collision course, take charge of yourself.
There is no reason you can’t tell the other dog owner what you’re going to do with yourself and what could possibly help you out. In this situation, you take initiative, and take charge at the same time.
There are two goals: the first is you want your walk to be peaceful and predictable.
The second is you want to control when and where your dog interacts with other leashed dogs when on your walks.
Now, imagine you’re on a walk with your dog, and at the next intersection another dog owner and canine companion round the corner. The other dog owner sees you, and your pup. Both dogs of course, see each other and express interest. Regardless of level of interest – from friendly to not-friendly – the sidewalk on a busy street is no place for an unpredictable encounter. You know this. The other dog owner has also likely learned this lesson on their own.
But you -and you alone- have the power of communication: You can solve the problem with gentle leadership.
How to do this? It’s deceptively simple: you have to communicate with the other owner, and do so immediately.
You can call out to the other owner, and explain your course of action: “Hi there! I’m going to take my dog across the street, can you give me a minute to cross? Thank you!”
Now that you’ve done this, you present your dog with an easy to follow instruction such as “Let’s go!” and “Cross the Street!” Keep it light-toned, as if crossing the street is the best idea in the world.
Now, this is just an example. For you and your dog it might be a command or a different motion, or a clicking of the tongue, or maybe making another familiar, attention getting sound – even a short whistle works.
This can also be accomplished when dog walkers are in their own world, wearing their headphones – or if they speak a different language.
How? Well, you have to rely on waving to some degree, to get their attention. Wave your arm in an unmistakable “Hey! Over Here!” motion so they see you and make eye contact. Gesture clearly to yourself and your dog, and then gesture across the street. Then hold up your hand in a “stop” position with a “Wait one minute gesture”: “We’re crossing now, hold up a minute? I’ll be out of your way in a moment”.
This can accomplish so much – first, it’s a non-confrontational manner to solve those “Uh-oh” moments we all encounter at some point in our daily walking routines.
It takes pressure off of all involved.
Now the other dog owner has the opportunity to say “Actually, I’m going this way, so hold on a minute and I’ll be way ahead of you” or to say “Hey thanks, it’s no problem”. (Or, if you live in the city like I do, they look bleary-eyed and somewhat tired, nod their heads or twist them in an Oh-I-Don’t-Care motion.)
Now, you might feel a slight amount of pres sure to cross the street quickly, but the other owner won’t fault you for not crossing if isn’t safe, and you did ask politely for them to wait a moment. And you’ve got a job to do – crossing the street carefully. So hold your head high, and cross safely and don’t look back – Look forward to your destination, and let that momentum flow to your dog. Keep their attention with happy-toned “Let’s go! Good job! Almost there! YAY! Sidewalk!”
Now, crossing the street might not be the best idea. You might be on a trail, and you’ll need to say “Hold on, let me secure my dog before you walk by?”
Or maybe there’s a driveway to wait in.
Maybe there’s another route to take.
Whatever the case may be, tell the other dog owner that you need to do this, and your intention is to remove your dog from the temptation of a potentially loud and exciting interaction.
Excitement has it’s place, and you should set the appropriate time, and place for that excitement.
A few more examples, and then I’ll let you go for today…
“Hi! I’m training my dog – we’re new to obedience training. Can you give me a minute to get across the street? Thank you!”
“Hi! My dog is learning some new commands, and I don’t want to disturb your walk, we’re going to turn down this street, will you let us go ahead?”
(I use this one for Close Encounters of the Unexpected Kind)
“Whoops! Didn’t see you there! Hold on a moment while I get him over to the other side, please? Thanks a bunch! Sorry about that, we’re working on some new stuff today.”
These sorts of friendly interactions make you the one to be the leader, your dog to be your faithful companion and follower.
It also accomplishes something more: You’re leading by example.
When that other dog owner finds themselves in another similar situation, they might just call out and say “Hi! I’m going this way, can you hold up for half a second while I get him turned around? Thank you!”
So get outside, take a deep breath of beautiful sunshine and morning and enjoy your day!
Squirrels and other assorted wildlife do not speak English, or Spanish.
Waiting will not work.
Waving at them will not work.
I have tried. It failed. Spectacularly.
Learn from my mistake: one of my arms may be permanently
longer than the other…The Brutus & Charlie Fund for Big Dogs »
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