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