One of the things I loved about getting a dog was that I immediately became part of this amazing community of other doggie lovers. These were people that I could literally spend hours chatting to about everything from dog poo to where to buy the best toys. But in the excitement of finally belonging to a cool new gang, the walks became more focused on socialising me than Mossy!
Let me know if this sounds familiar…walk into the park, wave to group of friendly dog owners all standing in the middle of the park, join group, stand there for an hour chatting while the dogs go mental playing and chasing.
At the time this seemed perfect, I was making friends, Mossy always had wee pals of her own to have a run about with and I had a nice tired pup for the rest of the afternoon…surely a no brainer!
In reality though what I was teaching her was the expectation that every time she went for a walk it meant lots of dog focused, high energy play. As she got older she started to bark at everything and her play style became rougher.
I now know that the crazy play time was pumping her full of adrenaline and cortisol and depleting her dopamine resources which reduced her ability to think rationally and led to increased reactivity at very mild triggers e.g. lots of barking! This in turn was damaging her confidence around other dogs because a lot of the play became too highly aroused and would spill over into aggression.
So how do you stop this from happening without losing all the benefits of having doggie friends? You have to make sure you change your dog’s expectation of what going for a walk means. The 1 in 3 rule is a perfect way to do this, and still lets you have a chat too.
- 1 in 3 of the dogs that you meet on the walk let your dog go up, have a quick sniff and recall them away.
- 1 in 3 of the dogs that you meet let your dog go and have a play with while you have a wee chat with the owner.
- 1 in 3 of the dogs that you meet don’t let your dog approach at all.
IMPORTANT: please be aware that not all dogs enjoying being approached so watch their body language, ask the owner first and if the other dog is on lead then use that as your opportunity to practice teaching your own dog how to walk past calmly.