Why You Should Avoid On-Leash Greetings

By Sandra Roosna / March 21, 2022

There is no doubt that wanting our pups to be well-socialized with others comes from a good place. There are many ways to do it safely, on a 6-ft leash on a sidewalk is not one of them, however.

Here are 5 reasons why:

💜 Interrupts communication:

The way dogs greet each other off-leash typically follows a certain pattern: first, they approach each other in a banana curve & with a loose body, then they sniff each other’s noses and rear ends, maintaining a focused but loose body. After a few seconds, they may go separate ways, engage in play, or sniff & run together. Having a tether and human attached on the other end of it, prevents them from following a ritualized greeting pattern, resulting in mixed messages being exchanged. This increases stress levels & the interaction could possibly end in an altercation.

💜 Leash tension leads to bad things:

We tend to be a little nervous ourselves, especially when meeting a dog we don’t know. We inadvertently keep tension on leash, pull our dogs back when they seem “rude” by sniffing another dog’s privates, or trip on the leash as the dogs go about. Tension on leash translates into tension in the environment, making everyone uncomfortable & nervous.

💜 Bad habits get reinforced:

Following your dog while they’re eagerly pulling towards another dog just sets precedence for more unwanted behavior. Maintaining calm while another dog approaches/passes should be reinforced, as overexcitement has no place in a normal greeting ritual. Wouldn’t you be freaked out if a stranger happily ran up to you and gave you a big ol’ smooch?

💜 “He just wants to say hi!”:

We need to recognize that there are dogs out there who just want to be left alone. Being in close proximity to another dog, friendly or not, can be a traumatic experience for a lot of anxious dogs. A well-intentioned "hello" can set back a great deal of progress when learning to be comfortable outdoors.

💜 Your dog may not actually like it:

Dog stress signals can be subtle and easy to miss or misinterpret. Advocate for your dog & read up on their body language. Pay attention to what they're trying to say. I guarantee that your dog won't just "get over it" if they've shown signs of being uncomfortable in the past. Instead, it creates a reactive pup who may no longer enjoy being outside.