Over the years, I’ve gone on walks and interacted with a whole lot of dogs and generally, it’s been a whole lot of fun! Bellingham, and the Pacific Northwest in general, is such a dog friendly place and many of the dogs that I’ve walked love to say hi to the other dogs we see. But I also realize that not every dog is going to be okay greeting other dogs and I’ve learned over the years just how important the question ‘can my dog say hi?’ is.
There are some dogs who just aren’t okay saying hi to other dogs or who might not be into playing. There are so many reasons why this might be the case: the dog might be a service dog and currently working to assist their owner or the dog might have a history of bad interactions with dogs. The dog could also get too excited by other dogs and the owners are still working on training (as training takes time!).
While there are so many reasons to why dogs might not be okay saying hi to other dogs, it’s important to always ask if your pup can greet a strange dog and to respect any answer, even if the answer is no. Your dog might really want to say hi to the other dog but if the owner or other dog doesn’t want to, allowing your dog to say hi regardless could result in a negative interaction.
A part of this conversation is also that if you let your dog off leash, they should be under voice control at all times and you should still have a leash with you. This seems really intense but you still need to ask if your dog can say hi if they’re off leash and the other dog isn’t. Of course, things are a little different if you’re all at an off leash park because there’s an assumption at these parks that the dogs there are okay with other dogs.
But if you’re not in a designated off leash area and let your dog off leash, please make sure that your dog doesn’t surprise other nearby dogs! I’ve been surprised by off leash dogs while walking dogs around my neighborhood and while the interactions have usually been pretty good, it’s never fun to be surprised by a dog who is too excited to listen to their owners.
Plus, there are some dogs that aren’t good at greeting other dogs while there are leashes involved. Some dogs might not like greeting other dogs while on leash so while they might be friendly otherwise, having an off leash dog run up to them while they’re on leash could be scary for them.
Lastly, while there are many dogs who love to play after saying hi, there are others who don’t or who might not feel like playing at the moment. Rooster, for example, loves saying hi to other dogs but doesn’t play and gets really overwhelmed by dogs getting in his face. He’ll often bark and run off when he’s done with a dog but sometimes, the dog doesn’t get the hint and will continue to bother him. While I know these dogs mean well (after all, they just want to play!), it can be a lot to have a dog that keeps bothering Rooster.
Understanding dogs’ behavior in these situations is just as important as asking if they can say hi. If it seems like the other dog doesn’t want to play (including if the owner says that the dog doesn’t want to play), it’ll be important to distract your dog or keep walking and respect the other dog and their owner.
Socialization and training are a vital part of having a dog but both these things take time and effort to accomplish. And there are other dogs who are working while out in public, doing a job that’s vital to a person’s or even the public’s safety. Having other dogs constantly come up to say hi can be distracting! In the meantime, asking if your own pup can say hi and respecting whatever decision is the best way to go.