If you live in Reston, and own a dog, chances are you have come across other dogs on your walks. For many dog owners, coming across a new dog on their walk is a fun social event! For others, it can be stressful, tense, and most of all - unpredictable.
The most important thing to do when crossing paths with a new dog, is evaluate the situation presented, and evaluate your own dog. What type of collar and leash are you using? What kind are they? How is each dog reacting? Is the dog in front of, next to, or behind their owner?
Common reactions when dogs see other dogs from afar and what they mean:
1. The dog from afar ignores you and your dog
The dog probably has decent self control, and would greet you and your dog in a calm, non-chalant way - if at all.
2. The dog from afar shows direct interest in your dog, they are now posturing their body (tail up, ears erect, eyes focused) to communicate with your dog.
This is okay depending on your dog's interpretation of the other dog, based upon the associations they have in their life. If your dog matches the other dogs body language, they are probably on the same page. If their energy increases to excitement, and NOT aggression, then they are telling you they are motivated to see the dog - and you can now use that to make your dog 'earn' the right (by behaving) to see the new dog.
3. Barking, level 1
Barking on the first level would be considering friendly barks, not rapid yapping. Playful, excited barks. These should absolutely be corrected, it is not appropriate to meet another dog while your dog (or their dog is barking).
Barking level 2
This would be an unfriendly bark - which you should avoid. This means the owner does not have control of their dog. Meeting another dog who controls their owner, can often lead to undesired aggresion and behavior. You should just move on about your walk and encourage your dog to be polite.
4. The Stare Down
This occurs when one or both dogs crouch down into a stalking position. Dogs trigger their prey drive, and meeting a new one makes them go into prey mode. It is not a good idea to meet a new dog like this, however after your dog is friends with another dog, they may play this way - which is perfectly normal.
5. The little yapper on that retractable leash!
Yes, I hear you dog owners! There's one of these yappers in all of our neighborhoods. Unfortunately, we just have to teach our dogs to leave it, and move on. Keep them walking forward and with haste! Snap and release the leash as your walking if they pull. If you have a little yapper on a retractable leash, get a 6 ft leash, and train your dog to heel. Do not allow them to relentlessly bark!
6. Use a leash!!!
It is just not worth the risk. It is against the law, and you never know what might happen. Use a leash when walking your dog off your property.
I hope as a community, we can make our dogs balanced and happy.