When to react or say “Ahh, whatever…” instead

If you read my blog you know that I don’t believe in following one “method”. My reasoning for this, is that every animal is different. We, and our animals as well, don’t fit into one category or method.

Today I am going to talk a bit about dog encounters. Meaning when you encounter another dog with your dog, either on or off the leash. For some this is a non-issue – the dogs casually saunter over to one another, sniff, maybe play, and then move on. This post is for those dog owners who don’t have that.

So as I said, each dog is individual and you really need to take the time to feel out how they react to your reaction. In essence, we don’t want our dog to react as much as respond to how we are acting when we see a dog. If we are calm, our dog should be calm. If we are nervous, our dog has right to believe that he or she should be nervous (about the other dog), as well. Think about that for a moment…

Thought about it? Good. So your dog mirrors you. That makes step one to having a happy, balanced, calm dog encounter, being exactly how you want your dog to me! Dog? What dog? I don’t see a dog. Exactly. You need to stay calm, breathe, ignore the other dog, and politely greet the other dog owner. Even if their dog is freaking out on the leash.

As far as correcting your own dog, it depends on his or her personality. I have a dog with me right now, a huge black lab, who is very calm. But if he starts acting up, I give him one stern correction and he says, “Okay, fine, sorry…” and stops looking over at the other dog, etc. Another dog of mine, a poodle, will always get more excited when I correct him. This is due to his sensitivity and intelligence.

When I walk with him and he gets maybe a little antsy at the sight of another dog, I ignore his behavior. That’s right, you heard me. I go against everything trainers tell you to do (“correct that dog!” “Show him who’s boss!”) By ignoring him, I tell him a few things:

  • He’s not running the show and I’m not that easily convinced. If I reacted, he would learn that he can control my actions.
  • By seeing how calm I am, he learns to take my signals seriously. When I don’t react at another dog, that means that that dog is not interesting. Eventually he mirrors me.
  • I give him no fuel. Meaning, if I correct him, I am “nudging him on”, in a sense.

Those are just a few points. Very sensitive breeds tend to be like this (aka poodle). Other dogs really do need a correction. Earlier today I was at the vet with that same poodle. He was very calm, curled up by my feet and ignored the other dogs – content with a simple wag in their direction. Then a very moody dog walked through the vet’s door and barked and pulled toward each dog. That got my poodle a little upset (he stayed laying down but squeaked around a bit).

At first, I corrected him by saying, “Leo, leave it.” Which usually works. But then he got more antsy and started sitting up. I kept telling him to lay down again. He would do that, but keep squeaking every now and then and sitting back up again. Eventually I looked him in the eyes, sighed, and started giving him a belly rub. Immediately he changed. His muscles loosened, he rolled on his back stretching all four feet straight up and was completely at peace.

If one thing isn’t working, try something else. I usually say, don’t pet a dog when he is not acting calm and happy, but sometimes it can have a calming effect. When a problem shows up that you have been unable to crack, try doing the exact opposite of what you’ve been doing up to this point.


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