Petiquette: Should You Let Your Pooch Sniff Other Dogs?
We asked the advice of dog trainer Kyra Sundance, author of The Dog Rules: 14 Secrets to Developing the Dog You Want, who says letting dogs sniff each other is not necessary, especially those who are leashed and therefore more prone to getting into fights because they can't get away.
"There is no reason why you need to let your dog sniff another dog while on a walk," she explains. "Dogs can air-scent each other, not to mention pick up each other's scent from markings on the ground. But, being humans, we enjoy the brief interaction with the other person and dog, and assume that our dog enjoys it as well. If you want to let your dog sniff another dog, handle the situation wisely."
Sundance says it's important that you ask the owner's permission first. " 'Is your dog friendly? Would he like to say hi?' " she suggests. "Beware of responses like, 'He's usually friendly' or 'Most of the time,' as this probably means the dog is not, indeed, friendly."
It's your responsibility as a dog owner to make sure you have control over the situation and are strong enough to pull your dog away from a potential fight if necessary. Keep a close eye on body language of both dogs (raised hair, snarling or stiffening are signs of aggression), and watch out for dogs sniffing nose-to-nose because this is usually a precursor to a snap.
"Fifteen seconds is enough time for dogs to sniff each other. Thank the person, and move on," says Sundance. "If you observe tense body language, call your dog away, 'C'mon boy, let's go!' and continue on your walk. Avoid jerking your dog back by the leash, as this would heighten the anxiety level and reinforce to him that there was indeed a danger present."
Sundance says that if a snap occurs, you shouldn't coddle your dog after the fact because it only reinforces his fear. "Continue immediately on your walk so as to distract him from the event and let him know that it was not a big deal," she says.
If letting your canine sniff neighborhood dogs is a part of your daily routine, you don't have to stop cold turkey. "Just be smart about it," she says. "and be alert to warning signs."
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