As you all know I am big on socializing; it is one of the most important factors with having dogs. At two years old now; Elsa has a great deal of it under her belt. But the socializing doesn't stop there; I am constantly on the look out for nice dogs to say hi to. We don't say hi to everyone and learning to calmly walk by some dogs is just as important as saying hi. There are always dogs at the parks, beaches and fields that you just don't want to talk to. They either give off clear "not friendly" vibes or their owner shares this information with you. Too many bad interactions can cause a dog to react defensively more often. So we are very choosey who we say hi to.
At thirteen years old, Luke is beyond needing socializing. He has a list of dislikes that has grown over the years. I know him so well that I can tell way in advance if an oncoming dog will be a match or not. It can be a certain breed or body language that a dog is giving off. If it's not a match we simply take some space. As for Elsa, she is much more flexible yet she too has had some bad interactions so I do my best to minimize these. Picking and choosing who to say hi to takes work. You need to read the other dog and do it quickly. Much has to do with an owner. The other day we walked passed a guy with an older Labrador; Luke is not a big fan of Labs. But the biggest factor in not talking to these two was the man who was barely holding the leash. The dog was straining at the end and it looked like it was all the owner could do to hold on. Not good.
Leash aggression is a very common issue with dogs. When you put a leash on a dog; several things happen. One you have your dog within your personal circle making the guarding reaction kick into gear. Then we add onto that the whole tension on the leash issue. Humans typically do much too much pulling and tugging on a leash. This in itself gives off lots of incorrect messages via the dog. As the owner pulls back the dog pulls forward; which implies a lunging statement from the dog. In turn the other dog seeing this gets defensive. Then there is the whole relaying of our own emotions to the dog via the leash. The leash also takes away the ability to move away for a dog. Moving freely makes things much more relaxed.
Sometimes I will walk very close to another dog so that I can see their body language a bit more clearly before making a decision. Lots of people say "yes, very friendly" when asked but they are often incorrect in their response. I make the decision for myself, whether they have said that their dog is friendly or not. If it is just Luke with me then we don't bother; when I'm out with Luke I am out for simply the outing unless we run into a friend of his. But for Elsa I am always looking for a nice dog to perhaps makes friends with.
The other day Elsa and Luke stopped to talk to a nice little poodle mix. He was a bit apprehensive but not enough to give off any aggressive responses. We made it short and sweet which is always the best way to go and continued on our way. Up ahead I saw a Golden and Siberian interacting; even though both dogs were wagging, it was clear that there was tension. I opted to make a big arch around these two and to the other side of the park. As we passed by them the little dog we had been talking to stopped to chat with the Siberian and they got into a scuffle. I'd made the right decision as far as that one had been concerned. If you are in doubt at all, don't. It just is not worth the work of undoing the fallout behaviors that come from negative greetings.
Socializing is wonderful but minimizing the negative is just as important. Pick and choose. Best to have two great interactions than a whole handful of bad ones; negative fuels negative.