The story of a boy living with Type 1 and his family's journey to raise and train a diabetic alert dog.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Video: Why We Don't Greet On Leash

We don't allow Bo to greet dogs while on leash for a few reasons. Helen advised us not to allow on leash greetings early in our training but it took seeing an on leash greeting gone bad for me to truly understand why on leash greetings can be dangerous.

The meeting I saw involved two well-meaning dog owners walking their dogs on leash in a public space. Their two dogs spotted one another and immediately pulled their owners toward each other. The dogs met nose to nose on tight leashes before their owners caught up to them. The meeting appeared friendly at first as the dogs sniffed each other but in an instant turned into a fierce fight. The owners pulled on their leashes in an attempt to separate the dogs but it ultimately took one owner getting on the ground between the dogs to break up the fight.

We don't allow on leash greetings for three reasons:

1. When Bo is on leash we want his focus on his handler. If we allow him to greet other dogs while he is on leash, he learns it's ok to turn his focus away from his handler when he sees another dog. 

2. When dogs greet they typically move in a circle sniffing each other's tail ends. Two dogs on leash will get tangled in their leashes when they attempt to sniff each other in this circular motion. On leash greetings interfere with dogs' natural way of saying hello.

3. When dogs meet on leash we as handlers tend to tighten our hold on their leashes. The tightening restricts the dog's mobility and ability to flee from an uncomfortable situation. A dog that feels threatened but is restrained may react with aggression.

In a situation where we cannot avoid an on leash greeting, we drop the leash until we can separate the dogs. (i.e. an unleashed dog(s) approaches while Bo is on leash and we are unable to stop the greeting)

Bo does get to play with other dogs but we are diligent to be sure he greets his playmates and his playmates greet him off leash. This looks like getting to a meeting spot where Bo and his playmate are on leash and not allowed to say hello until they are taken off leash at the same time. We use the release command 'go play' to cue Bo that it's okay for him to go and greet the other dog. In this video, Bo is waiting for his dog friend Tracy. Bo is off leash waiting and Tracy is released from her leash to greet Bo. Tracy and Bo see each other about once a week for off leash walks.

When an off leash play session is over both dogs get put back on leash and may walk side-side-by but are not permitted to interact with one another on leash.

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