We interact with dogs daily on with our solo dog walker service in St Albans and Harpenden. We get up close and personal with dogs very quickly in terms of going into their home and popping on their harness to go for a walk. We have had dogs who need some more introductions with us before the initial walk and we’re more than happy to provide this – we provide a personalised bespoke service for your dog’s needs. We always arrange a free initial consultation with our dog walkers, the dog and their guardian and recommend a public place like a park so the dog doesn’t feel threatened in any way (it can be unusual if a strange lady turns up at your house whether she’s carrying treats or not!). A large field can be less threatening as the dog can go have a sniff of the grass or the tree. When approaching a dog for the first time I bend down side ways on – it can look confrontational to a dog if you approach them head on for the first time. If they want to approach me they can and if not then that’s fine too – it’s their choice if they feel comfortable to or not. I’d always recommend letting the dog have a sniff of my shoe or an item of clothing beforehand – I can give this to their guardian before I enter and they’re behind a stair gate or in a room, so they have a sniff. Dogs have 30 million scent receptors in their nose, I saw a post on Facebook saying that with spaghetti hoops, that we just smell the sauce while the dog smells every ingredient! After attending a puppy class I found our that dog-to-dog greetings are bum to nose as this is where strong chemical messages can be smelt the most and they can find out lots of information such as the age, sex and health of the breed of the dog.
When I pop a dog’s harness on I do this without leaning over their head as in dog-to-dog greetings this communication can be seen as threatening. A good harness won’t restrict access across a dog’s body or chaff underneath their arms or get tighter if they pull on the lead. Perfect Fit harness and xtra dogs have a good selection. I think that a tight or ill fitting harness for your dog on a walk would be as uncomfortable as a too tight a sports bra for us ladies! Here
Having knowledge of canine body language is super important to me. As a dog is in my care it’s my responsibility to keep them safe as much as possible, recognising signs that they or other dogs around us may be uncomfortable. St Albans wonderfully, is a city that loves dogs and has a big dog population. However, for dogs that may have had negative experiences with other dogs, haven’t been habituated and or socialised with other dogs it can be a stressful and antagonising experience. This is why I’ll walk in quieter areas and drive to these areas if needed. When I’m walking a dog or ask you to pop your dog back on the lead when it’s approaching the dog I’m walking I’m not being rude, I’m requesting space as my dog doesn’t feel comfortable. Some people claim that dogs need to “deal with it” and “just get on with it”, I’ve even been told to shut up when I requested space before (!) but I have both dogs interest at heart. Why deliberately put dogs into a situation it feels uncomfortable if there’s an alternative situation? Walks are meant to be fun after all! I’m under no illusion that it’s life and that there are other dogs around us and the odd one might come up but flooding dog’s by walking them in busy spots where there will definitely be lots of other bouncy dogs when they’re very reactive will scare them, and as a fellow dog guardian allowing your dog to approach when we’ve requested space is really inconsiderate. Saying “my dog is friendly” or “don’t worry my dog needs a good telling off” isn’t helpful to us or you. Some dogs are working on a behaviour modification programme so being flooded with rude interactions that could be avoided may take them back in their training plan. Furthermore on the lead they will feel trapped. It’s also important to recognise that some dogs won’t ever get on in a certain environment because their previous negative experiences may be too engrained – I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable in a crowded place! But there are lots of great things out there that people have had great results with such as Behavioural Adjustment Training. Some things to look out for which suggest your dog/ other dogs are uncomfortable is lip licking, shake off, stiff tail, staring, sniffing the ground. Here’s a good poster:
If your dog is showing reactivity around other dogs and you would like some help first see your vet to rule out any pain or illness and then if needed enlist the help of a force free qualified pet behaviour counsellor – ensure you get testimonials, ask what qualifications they have and ask what methods they use if the dog’s behaviour is the desired behaviour you’d like and what they do if the dog doesn’t do the behaviour – if you don’t get clear answers or feel unsure of anything keep searching! Anyone that talks about using fear, force or breaking the dog’s spirit should be avoided like the plague – as well as being ethically wrong, research shows that dogs that are ‘trained’ using aversive methods can become more unpredictable and react aggressively – in some cases with hands that go to pet them they may associate a hand with something to be scared of if they’ve been scolded with it in the past so growl or snap.