No, My Dog DOES NOT Want To “Meet” Your Dog

It happens every time.

Responsible dog people take their dogs off to the side when we walk by. But the crazy people, the ones whose dog looks rabid at the end of their leash, think my dog wants to “meet” their dog.

No freaking way.

No, my dog does not want to meet your dog.

Do this dog look like he wants to meet us?

Where The Nice Dogs Hang Out

Last week I was getting ready to take Honey off the boat for her morning walk. We were at the Hampton Public Piers, a short walk from a lovely, residential park.

Honey the golden retriever meets some flat friends.

These aren’t the playmates I had in mind when we left for our walk today.

While I put Honey’s leash on her, I saw a man riding his bike on the path above the dock. His leashed dog ran happily by his side.

A few minutes later, we saw the same dog and his person playing off-leash with another dog at the park. All the people engaged with the dogs—tossing balls, following them up the park, calling them back for regular check-ins.

Honey was calm but interested to see the pups chasing each other around the park.

I looked for signs that they would welcome another friendly dog. But instead, the people called their dogs to them and kept them close while Honey and I walked by.

I don’t blame them a bit. They did the exact right thing, keeping their dogs under control while a stranger walked by.

But it’s a little sad that, being strangers, it’s harder to meet responsible dog people and their pups because they’re so darn responsible.

Do You Know Your Dog At All

Several days later and a few miles south, Honey and I were sitting by the river while the boat was being worked on.

View out our port at dock.

This is the view out our starboard port where we’re docked. Even if we saw a dog over there, it would take us at last half an hour to assembly our dinghy and go.

A large, reddish dog came around the corner with her person attached.

The first thing I noticed was that the dog was wearing one of those choker collars with huge spikes attached. Luckily, the leash was attached to her harness.

It took all her person’s strength to hold her dog as she shouted, “Would your dog like to meet my dog?”

Besides the prong collar, I saw other signals that this would be a bad idea. For one thing, the red dog was highly aroused with raised hackles and a stiffly wagging tail.

But even worse, this dog crouched low to the ground and stalked Honey with a glint in her eyes I usually associate with a border collie herding sheep.

I looked to Honey since she knows far more about dog body language than I do.

Honey didn’t take her eyes off the other dog. Her tail was up, lightly wagging. And her hackles were up too.

I told the woman that her dog did not look very comfortable meeting Honey but they kept coming as the woman assured me that her dog got along well with other dogs.

In moments, her dog was face to face with Honey in one of those rude greetings clueless people find cute.

I knew that if I physically pulled Honey away, I’d be adding to the tension. So I pointed out to the woman once again that her dog did not look comfortable while I told Honey, “leave it” and walked her backwards.

The woman finally got the message and pulled her dog away.

And I managed to keep myself from shouting, “Do you know your dog at all?”

Honey the golden retriever doesn't want to meet your dog.

How could anyone not love this face?

Not The Dog’s Fault

I don’t blame the red dog for being uncomfortable.

She has probably been put in situations where she felt unsafe and needed to defend herself. Heck, maybe she doesn’t even like other dogs.

My dog doesn't want to meet your dog.

Honey likes other dogs. But she likes humans even more.

Many dogs prefer people to other dogs for company. How many dogs have felt tortured at parks by people who think that every dog wants a canine playmate?

What makes me crazy is seeing how clueless that dog’s person was.

I’m far from expert in reading dog body language. Dogs surprise me all the time.

But how could that person, who claims to love her dog deeply, not notice how tense her dog was around Honey?

I Don’t Want To Meet Anyone Whose Dog Wants To Meet Mine

It seems silly. But I almost feel like I just always say “no” to any stranger who insists their dog wants to meet mine.

But sometimes people know their dogs well and can read Honey’s body language well enough to know it’s a good match.

While we were staying in Cambridge, Maryland we met many people walking their dogs through the marina.

Honey the golden retriever in a log.

I hope the other puppies find me. But I don’t want to make it too easy for them.

There was the woman who took her two Newfoundlands for long (and slow) walks every day. The Newfs weren’t interested in playing with Honey. But they were happy to give (and receive) an interested sniff or two before continuing on their way.

There were the playful (but poorly trained) GBGVs who came in on a boat with their people.

And then there was Lily, the powder puff Chinese crested puppy who loved to play. Honey would roll all over herself trying to get as low as possible so she’d be on eye level with the ten pound pup. And Lily would chase Honey around and around.

If we could have kidnapped Lily and brought her with us for Honey to play with, I would have.

It’s easier to meet other responsible dog people when we’re in one place for a while.

They can see us interact with Honey. And we get to watch them.

Once everyone is comfortable, it’s time to meet.

But traveling and arriving in places where many other people are traveling through, makes it hard to meet suitable dog friends for Honey.

I guess we’ll have to keep developing our observation skills to keep Honey safe when people tell us their dog wants to meet her. And give her plenty of chances to meet new people, which she loves even more than meeting new dogs.

It’s a good thing that nearly every dock master loves dogs.

Mike looks for dogs to meet on the horizon.

Most sailors look for land. We look for puppies.

Your Turn: How do you respond when people want their dog to “meet” yours?


photo credit: Snarling dog via photopin (license)


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  1. When we lived in the city, this didn’t happen. People who wanted their dog to meet other dogs went to the off-leash dog park. We’d go, so Duster could meet the other dogs’ people. Like Honey, he prefers to meet the people rather than the dogs.

    • Many of the small coastal towns we find ourselves in don’t have dog parks. I’m just counting myself lucky we haven’t encountered too many off leash roaming dogs, something fairly common in rural Southern U.S. communities.

      And yeah, Honey liked meeting the other people at the dog park like Duster. It was the one place you’re guaranteed to meet dog lovers. 🙂

  2. Oh my goodness. I can’t believe someone would use a prong collar yet have no idea how to read their own dog’s signals. Oh god oh god oh god.

    People think dogs need friends. As for my 4-pound Matilda, I struggle with knowing when she can meet other dogs – even one playful swipe of a big paw could leave her paralyzed.

    One time we were walking, and came across a very large, lionlike pit bull (or bully breed whatever) as his owners were shouting at him to get back into their yard. I had a hunch he was friendly and let him sniff Matilda, as I was worried picking her up all the time would ruin her confidence. He was very gentle, but I’m not even sure if that was a smart risk. I didn’t know him. Maybe I’d rather have an unfriendly chihuahua than a dead one.

    My sis-in-law has a husky pup, and he’s as gentle as a husky pup can be (so not very!) and Matilda growls at him whenever he gets near – last time I just took her home. I never scold her for growling at him because it’s her only way to communicate, and I’m thinking I’ll have to wait until he’s older to try again, or maybe just never.

    • It sounds like your dog reading skills were excellent when Matilda met that runaway pup. Good for you.

      We find that many small dog people want their dogs to meet Honey. The small dogs often aren’t as keen. Like you say, it doesn’t take much for big dog to hurt a tiny one.

      When we greet a small dog, I have Honey sit or lie down very still so the small dog can approach first on his or her own terms. If all goes well, I give Honey a little more freedom unless I see the other dog has concerns.

      If a small dog hides behind their person, Honey comes back to my side immediately. I’m hoping positive experiences with Honey will make big dogs less scary for small dogs who find them intimidating. Even if that positive experience is only having a big dog sitting quietly nearby.

  3. Some people are so clueless. Torrey likes most dogs, but not all. I generally defer to her, unless I see that the dog is with a clueless owner and the dog is obviously a social retard, or dangerous.

    • Yes, I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to understand that even friendly dogs don’t like everyone. Heck, it’s true for people. Why would it be any less likely for dogs?

  4. Luckily, it doesn’t happen very often. In Germany where we lived dogs were usually all off leash and decided on their own who wanted to meet. It was lots of fun and worked really well. The whole leash thing makes it difficult here. I prefer to keep walking, Bailie wants to meet everyone. I can’t imagine any poorly trained GBGV’s, do they really exist 😉

    • YESSSSS! Allowing dogs more freedom socializes them and promotes better behavior. I don’t know why we’re so backwards in the U.S.

      These two GBGVs were adorable. I didn’t realize at first that the male was wearing an e-collar. Every time a new dog walked by, he’d run off, pulling his leash out of his person’s hand. She’d just click and click that stupid collar which probably signaled to the pup that the dogs he was chasing were absolutely evil. After all, his neck hurt whenever he saw them.

      So yes, any dog can be badly trained when they live with a bad trainer. 🙁

      It broke my heart to think of how much more fun this pup would have had at your house.

  5. I have avoided people with dogs that I was uncertain about. And yes, when they saw me change directions, they were offended. One person called after me that I must not like his particular breed of dog. But no, I was just avoiding a possible altercation with his dog since he was exhibiting signs similar to the one you described above.

    Maybe we should make this a blogville project? Everyone could film short clips of polite, happy canine greetings, and greetings where one or both dogs are obviously uncomfortable? Maybe if we pointed out the key things to watch for, people might finally get it?

    • I think that’s a great blogville project.

      Mel of No Dog About It has found excellent video of bad dog interactions. But I always thought it would be helpful to see positive play and greetings.

      I have it in the back of my mind to capture some video with Honey. But I’m always too busy supervising all interactions to even take pics.

      Do you have some positive greeting video with your dogs?

      • I would love to see what a positive greeting looks like! I’ve got the negitives ones down, lol. I don’t have a clue what a positive one looks like, how it feels etc. It’s totally foreign to me.

  6. I love meeting people who are dog lovers. However, safety first. When my two shelties are with me, I have them sit calmly by my side when another dog/person comes along. If the other dog appears calm, I will allow a gradual introduction of their dog to mine. It must be gradual to give everyone (person and dog) time to acclimate to each other. If there’s a hint of tension, it’s a no go. My biggest challenge are the off-leash dog parks. Fortunately, our city has a section fenced off for small dogs. Even then, some small dogs can be aggressive.

    • Having two dogs makes it even tougher to manage introductions. It’s good you take a cautious approach.

      Besides that face to face greetings are tough for dogs. When we’re meeting savvy dog people, we have our dogs walk side by side instead of greeting face to face.

  7. My 13 (Soon to be 14) year old Kadie (a Scottish Terrier) just does not like every dog. When she was a puppy, she would lie down in the middle of our walk when she saw another dog approaching us. When her tail would wag, she would stand up. However, if her ears went forward and there was a vibration on the leash from a vey inaudible growl, I put myself in front of Kadie and we slowly walked to the other side of the pathway. Kadie is a trained therapy dog. I knew this would be important with a terrier. I see other dog owners who think the aggressive behavior is “just a Scottie thing” or “just a terrier-ist thing” and look at it as cute and shrug it off as “clan-like”, but I think it is both dangerous for other dogs, and for the breed. Kadie is the sweetest, most caring, loving, THINKING, dog I have ever met, and I am so glad we put the hard work and training in at the beginning of her life. Now, as a little old lady, we are much happier with just hanging out…the 2 of us. This does NOT mean she “does not like other dogs” or that she is “a grouchy old lady” as we have heard. It is more a case of “we don’t want to deal with your lack of training and your complete oblivion to the dog communication world and the fact that dogs are better when they can THINK….not REACT!!!!!” Thank you for this post!

    • Sounds like Kadie is a smart girl.

      I always look at Honey when I’m uncertain about the vibe I’m getting from another dog. She is much savvier than I am. Our dogs can see things in other dogs’ body language that we can never hope to catch.

  8. It depends on the dog, the human, and the situation. 9 times out of 10 I will take B completely off the trail when we see another dog; getting off the trail only slightly doesn’t work, we have to go far enough away that the other human can’t force any interaction). But there are some instances at the human park where the smaller male dogs flock to B like bees to honey. I’m not sure what it is about her, but the little fellas are pretty infatuated with B. Any female dogs that are her size or larger, that’s a no on a meet and greet – the females tend to show more animosity towards her than she and I are comfortable with. But males are typically okay, even if they are larger, as long as they aren’t displaying any aggression towards her.

  9. I usually respond with a friendly but firm “no thank you.” But then you always have those people who don’t understand the word no and “say my dog is friendly.” That’s when I give them the same friendly smile and say “my dog is not.” Being that he’s a 90 pound German Shepherd people take me at my word and go away.

    • Yeah, you can’t get away with that when you have a golden retriever. Everyone and their brother just KNOWS that every golden retriever is friendly. Morons.

      I was wondering if you were ever tempted to flash a badge when you meet ignorant people on walks?

  10. I’m pretty firm with my “No thank you” and my other line is “We’re working/training, not playing right now.” Both seem to be ok, if someone has no control of their best on a leash we quickly vacate the area – Ziva does not do well with rude dogs.

    But we’re always sure to ask if we do want to play, I took Dante to a spot a while back and when we arrived their was a group of adults with two labs playing ball. When they saw me and Dante they leashed up their dogs and waited to see what I was up to, I hollered from a distance if we could join them and they said sure – we did a leashed doggy intro, unleashed everyone and play began! Everything worked out great. 🙂 I never would have done this with Ziva though.

    • Yep, you have to know your dogs. We always give other dogs a wide berth until we receive an invitation. Why make a shy dog feel worse?

      And isn’t it easy to find those people whose dogs are probably good playmates? Because they immediately get their dogs under control and safe in a new situation.

  11. I am totally 100% with you on this post! I say no more to people than I say yes. Most of the time I tell everyone that my dogs are not friendly because I don’t like doing on leash greetings. My dogs do get defensive and crabby with other dogs sometimes and it’s because too many people let their dogs run wild off leash and the girls have been attacked or pushed around by rude dogs. It also definitely stresses me out when people can’t read their own dogs.

    • On leash greetings are not ideal with even the most confident dogs.

      When we’ve been visited by other dog bloggers with their pups, we always start with a side by side leashed walk. It’s much more comfortable for the dogs and sets them up for success.

      Of course, it’s easier to arrange that with a savvy dog person you’ve known online for years than with some stranger on a walk.

      • We do the same thing when we meet bloggers or other online dog friends! 😀 You’re right! It’s definitely easier to arrange that with a person who knows what they are doing than a random stranger!

  12. BJ Pup (Lynda) says:

    I was careful to keep a xlose eye on BJ when other dogs stopped to say hello. He wasn’t always friendly depending on the dog.

    • BJ is a smart boy. He can probably see things about another dog’s behavior that tell him to be careful that we’re not fast enough to pick up.

  13. That sounds awful. What hard encounter to go through Pamela. I feel sorry for that dog and their person. I wonder how many dogs her dog has ‘met.’

    As you probably know, mine is an ephatic ‘no’ when it comes to meeting other dogs. My dogs have no problem showing their distaste in meeting other dogs. So no one ever ask.

    I know someone who thinks that her dog LOVES other dogs, yet this dog keeps getting growled, snapped and snarled at because the said dog is very undersocialized and rude. The owner can’t see it. Which is too bad, because it’s a good dog.

    • It’s amazing how many people thing it’s normal for dogs to prefer other dogs.

      It’s true that dogs are interested in other dogs. I’m sure yours pay lots of attention to dogs going by. But that doesn’t mean they want to play.

      In truth, domestication means that dogs generally prefer humans to other dogs. I hope your acquaintance figures that out soon. Before her dog gets hurt.

  14. I’ve run into a few of these types of people/dogs before and I always get the impression that somebody told them to socialize their dog more with other dogs. I think their intentions are good (for their dog, that is) but they just don’t understand dog behavior or body language and they often end up making the problem worse.

    It’s always better to protect our pups even if we might come across as rude and I’m sure Honey sure appreciated you looking out for her. 🙂

    • I’m a big believer in socialization. But it works best when it happens gently and when the dog is a puppy.

      So yes, people do make things worse. I’m happy to see dog body language posters and articles appearing in more places. But what we probably need is a really cool YouTube video that goes viral and teaches some basic dog body language.

  15. I don’t let other dogs meet mine. Drives. Me. F***ing. Crazy. My dogs are mostly small, and it’s just too easy for them to be seriously hurt or killed by an out of control dog.

    • Yep, even a friendly dog who’s overenthusiastic can hurt a small dog.

      I’m astounded at how many people with small dogs try to approach Honey. I think it’s the golden retriever thing–of course she’ll be friendly and safe for my dog. And Honey is.

      But I find that many small dogs, unless they’ve been heavily socialized around big dogs from puppyhood, really don’t care to be around big dogs. It’s just too overwhelming.

      Small dogs aren’t stupid. They know how to look out for themselves. And it’s the smart people who look out for their small dogs before they have to look out for themselves.

  16. I tell people politely that I don’t allow my dogs to meet other dogs when on leash. Fortunately, most people see me walking four dogs and leave us alone. I’ve only had one person let his dog loose to “meet” our dogs and I’m proud that I keep my cool. I knew I couldn’t get angry, because it would make the situation worse as my dogs picked up my energy, but it was hard.

    When I finally got the dogs under control, I politely turned to the man and explained why I couldn’t allow our dogs to play with his dog. I was so angry, but I know he didn’t mean any harm. He was just clueless. I used to be him years ago, but now I know better thanks to some nice and not so nice dog owners who clued me in.

    Although I want to yell at people for being such morons, I remember how it felt to have people treat me that way and I remember how well I listened. LOL

    • I’m finding more people who understand that leashed greetings are problematic. Which is a good thing.

      But I’m astounded at how many people will let their dogs off leash for a greeting without having done the training to call their dog back to them instantly.

      And yes, I’ve made my share of moron mistakes with dogs over the years. I definitely deserved to be screamed at a few times when I’m glad I wasn’t. 🙂

  17. I’m usually walking both of my dogs at the same time so it’s tough when an excited dog wants to meet Sophie and Sanne. Every time they meet a new dog it’s nobody has ever met a dog before.

    Sophie can be a bit of an excited beast on the end of a leash so I know I have been on the other end of the equation. But I never initiate contact with other leashed dogs. I’ve meet too many perfectly pleasant dogs that become leash aggressive.

    99% of the time we meet new dogs at the park where everyone is off leash and playing. I don’t think most dog owners realize how stressful being on a leash can be for their dogs at times and that they would be better off making friends in an open space.

    • You’re so right the leashes add to the tension.

      Even if you allow your dogs to greet others on leash, it’s important to keep that leash loose and relaxed.

  18. I have to keep Kelly away from most/all dogs. Including, as you witnessed, Honey! She CAN get along with others in the right circumstances, but she doesn’t like to play anymore. After all, she’s nearly 14. Ike gets along with most dogs but one dog on a leash bit his nose.

    • Kelly shouldn’t have to play with any dog she doesn’t want to. I’m just sorry we added a little stress to her day with Honey.

      It’s also interesting to see how Ike takes his cues from Kelly. They’ve certainly bonded.

  19. Kudos for taking the high road. I personally want to grab people by the throat when they have an off-leash dog racing up to get into Sam’s face but try to cross the street to avoid confrontations (mostly with the upright, not to mention with their dog). What is wrong with people anyway? Argh. ღ

    • I feel sad more than I feel angry. The person is missing out on a better relationship that comes from trying to understand their dog. The dog is missing out on having a person wo doesn’t only love him but also understands him.

  20. With 4 dogs, even little guys, we are pretty much left alone. Yes, Poodles can be intimidating when they have back up.

  21. I am usually the person asking from a distance “Is your dog friendly?” as I’m walking the neighbourhood. And if it’s anything other than ‘YES!’ (“um… welll…” … just say no), then I give them space. And if the other dog is reading as anything other than friendly and comfortable, I’ll avoid interaction. If I’m not comfortable with the other dog when someone asks me if my dog is friendly/ok to meet up, I either say he’s sick, or straight up ‘no, not friendly’. I also tell people with any more than 1 or 2 kids (or kids that are screaming and running) that he isn’t friendly, because being mobbed by littles makes him very uncomfortable.

  22. I don’t take a chance. Rumpy already has a strike against him because he’s a “dangerous breed.” If your not-so-dangerous breed dog starts some crap with mine, guess which dog will end up being blamed? Yep, so keep your dog away from mine. I don’t even walk near people who have their dogs out; we turn and go a different direction. I hate to do that, but it’s in Rumpy’s best interest.

  23. And then there is Dog flu. It’s rampant in Chicago and I don’t want to expose my boy to it. I often come across like a dick but my dog’s well being is more important than having a civil interaction.

  24. I could feel the tension from here when you described meeting the red dog! Sigh … it happens all the time. Like you, when that happens I don’t pull Ace away because I know that can add tension. I try to keep my tone and energy light and sometimes I make that little clicking noise with my tongue to try to get either dog’s attention away for a second. I’ve definitely caused little scuffles by tugging on the leash but sometimes you feel like you have no choice!

  25. Boo's Mom says:

    Personally, we try and walk where it is not to populated. Almost impossible to find many places if any like that in my area.
    When I see a dog walker approaching us, I’ll cross the street, turn around and back track our hikes. I’ve actually put my hand out as in “Stop” to let people know we don’t want to meet. We don’t go to dog parks either.
    I suggest people who want play dates for their dogs arrange them with a friends dog who they are familiar with and not try to approach strange dogs on walks.
    Great article! Thanks for posting!!

  26. In the summer we walk past a lot of boaters who are staying for the night. It is always fun to see the dogs (usually a couple of different boats have them) and the dogs seem so mellow as a group. I realize now that it is no accident, their humans have done right by them to help them be so laid back and comfortable in different environments.

  27. I go through that a great deal #almostdaily – People with dogs seem to believe that mine are supposed to want to play mid walk with theirs. I’ve even entered the street to give up the sidewalk and they’ve come into the street after us. If I want them to play with other dogs – it will be with dogs we are familiar with (and their peeps too!) Great post –