Updated: Apr 5, 2022
Your dog is socially as individual as you and I.
A couple of days ago we were walking our little dog family through a big nature reserve. In the distance we saw an excited Golden Retriever so walked the other way. We did this because we have one dog who is terrified of unknown dogs, and three with varying levels of arthritis. We don’t walk away from all dogs, just the ones who look too bouncy, are on leads or dogs that our own little friends might find too intimidating.
Each of our four dogs like some dogs and not others. Both of us like some people and would run for the hills at the sheer risk of socialising with others. In fact, a couple of ladies walked by us yesterday and my hubby pointed out that he wouldn’t choose to go for a walk with the one who was very loud and animated. We can’t enjoy everyone and let’s face it – everyone won’t enjoy us.
People are varied. Some of us go about our business in our minds, not paying much attention to other people and are happy in our own company. Whilst some people say hello to everyone they meet, chat about the weather and anything at all, for this person the subject doesn’t matter it’s the social interaction that’s important.
People use cut off signals. For example, if we walk towards another person on a narrow pavement, with no way of avoiding the approach, we may glance away and pull out our phone to avoid even the smallest interaction with the stranger.
Similar to ourselves, the way that our dogs handle the world and interactions is directly related to their personality. Personality is defined by genetic and environmental input – for example what they have learned about others and how they have learned to react to them.
Dogs are introverts and extroverts, just as we are. If you’re a quiet methodical person who is easily overwhelmed by others you will probably not appreciate being hugged by a stranger, just as a quiet, gentle dog won’t want to be jumped on by an obnoxious member of their own species.
If we know our dogs well, we will already know which dogs approaching that they will appreciate, along with those we should really avoid. It becomes second nature to us to know which dogs will trigger certain behaviour from our own and cater our approach or ninja direction change accordingly.
In the same way, responsible dog walking dictates that we must consider others using the area and not allow our own dogs to initiate a greeting without the other person and their dog offering acknowledgement and most importantly consent!
Every meeting between dogs will be a match or a mismatch of personalities and intentions. An immediate match is lovely to see, it’s like when we meet someone we just click with, this often happens when one dog invites a second to play, at their first meeting and both dogs have a great time. A mismatch is just as likely to occur and as good dog guardians we really need to protect our dogs from being forced into mismatched interactions, because our dogs don’t enjoy forced interactions any more than we do.