By Sean O’Shea
Dogs are acutely aware when other dogs are under human control…or not.
What do I mean by this? Well, in almost every situation when dealing with problems on the walk, there are two primary things a dog wants to know:
1) Is my owner in charge and in control?
2) Are the other owners in the area in charge and in control of their dogs?
If you’re walking your nervous dog down the street, what does he think when he sees another dog pulling its owner, lunging, barking, and carrying on? He sees a direct threat. Your dog is keenly aware that the aforementioned dog is NOT under control, that its human is not running the show, and that at any moment it could close the distance and inflict harm on him. This is why nervous dogs freak out when other dogs are misbehaving or acting up – they can tell that no one is truly in charge, and when no one is truly in charge, everyone is in danger.
Now what if you have a very confident, assertive dog and he sees this same dog misbehaving and carrying on? He sees a dog that is once again NOT under control, but instead of being frightened, he feels challenged and disrespected, and feels the need to put the dog in check.
The nervous dog feels threatened by the lack of control, and the confident, assertive dog feels challenged. Either scenario, the result is a negative reaction.
Of course, the opposite end of this is YOUR dog’s behavior, and what other dogs see in your dog. If YOUR dog is the one misbehaving and sending out nervous, fearful, anxious, dominant, assertive ju-ju to the other dogs in the neighborhood, and if you’re not being the leader your dog needs, you have to expect the other dogs to take exception with this behavior and react accordingly.
We are all responsible for keeping harmony in our doggy community! We can’t blame others in the neighborhood if we aren’t on top of our own game.
Remember, leadership creates comfort and relaxation, whereas the lack of it creates anxiety and stress.
In the next post, I’ll explore further how this impacts dog behavior in multiple-dog situations, both indoors and outdoors…