That's Honeydew, our last service pup, and Tango, nose to nose, fast asleep. Clearly, not a whole lot of "snippiness" between the two of them. However, I've had several clients lately whose dogs have been getting snippy with other dogs and they need help figuring out how to help their dogs.
It can be surprising to many dog owners to find out that their dog doesn't like every other dog. Do you like every person you meet? Don't some people just rub you the wrong way? You may not even be able to explain why you don't like someone, you just know you don't. Dogs have preferences for dog friends just like we have preferences for our human friends.
Training can work wonders with this problem. Usually a protocol that involves counter conditioning and desensitization will address the problem. Find a professional trainer who specializes in positive reinforcement to help you. Contact me if you need help locating a trainer in your area.
In the meantime, here are a some quick tips that might help you navigate through doggie populated areas with your dog.
- Your dog isn't going to like every dog he meets. That's ok. Learn and respect your dog's preferences - keep him away from the dogs that tend to set him off. You'll be happier, and so will your dog.
- Some dogs aren't good with other dogs while they're on leash. My Lily has this problem. We cannot meet dogs we don't know if she's on leash. And because it's not safe out in the neighborhood to take her off leash, we usually take the scenic route and try to skip all the doggie-centric areas. It's not enjoyable for her to meet dogs while she's leashed, so I try to avoid putting her in that position.
- It's ok for you to tell another dog owner that your dog isn't friendly and would rather not play with their dog - even if they tell your their dog is the friendliest dog in the world. Your dog's comfort is your top priority - so don't be afraid to stand up for your dog and kindly tell that other dog owner that your dog just doesn't feel like playing today and move quickly on.
- Read your dog's body language. Maybe your dog is ok with another dog for the first three minutes or so, then the play gets too rambunctious and the play becomes more harsh and less playful. Interrupt immediately, thank the other person for allowing the dogs to play, and move along.
- Never, ever force your dog to play with or tolerate another dog. Ever. If your dog is giving you signals she's not happy, she wants to leave -- listen to her!
Of the four dogs we have, only one is completely without issue around other dogs and that's Nemo. He's the "bomb proof" dog who actually enjoys almost every encounter with another dog. Tango dislikes puppies (don't ask me why, I find them irresistible!), Lily's not good on leash, and Lucky's not good with strangers. So it's not at all unusual to have a dog that's not perfect with other dogs. That's ok. After all , we're not perfect with all other people.