Introducing Dogs on Leashes
While COVID isn't yet in the rear-view mirror for Michigan, the winds are warming. The snowdrops, pansies, and crocus are peeking up through the still-shivering soil. You and your dog are both feeling the need for sunshine and exercise. At this point, most medical professionals think outdoor activities can be safe if protocol includes masks and social distancing.
Before you step off the porch, don't let your giddiness make you forget Michigan's 100-year-old leash law. It requires you to keep your dog on a leash at all times when on public property. Even in a friend's yard, you need to keep your dog under control, and the easiest way to do that is with a leash. If you violate the leash law, you could be charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $10,000. Some cities in the Great Lakes State also have a leash length requirement, so check with law enforcement when traveling outside your immediate area.
So, you and your canine companion are finally out and about, and here comes someone you do not know, walking a dog you do not know. "Hello!" the human exclaims, and their pup seems just as excited to stop and meet your dog. Unlike people, dogs learn about each other by smelling, so what happens next is the two humans' responsibility. The assumption that two dogs will get along immediately because, well, they're dogs is quickly proven false as these two take one sniff and tear into each other, leaving you and this new human yelling and pulling on leashes to break up a fight.
How could this have been prevented?
Professional dog trainer Paul J. Kearney, featured in the April/May issue of "Dogster" magazine, has given the best advice I've seen for introducing two dogs on leashes. Kearney presents readers with an easy routine he calls, "1-2-3 Retreat Repeat." He developed it to help dog guardians control the environment while allowing dogs a chance to get to know each other. It is done slowly, in 3-second chunks of "introductions." The routine would go like this:
With dogs on-leash, facing one another but not touching, count aloud, "One 1,000, two 1,000, three 1,000."
Each person will then back up and increase the distance between the two dogs.
If that works well, repeat the 1-2-3 greeting, back up, and increase space between the dogs again.
Perform "Retreat Repeat" until the two dogs seem comfortable with each other, still keeping a hand on the leashes and a sharp eye out for any sudden signs of stress, fear, or aggression. If noted, retreat immediately and allow both dogs to settle down a bit before resuming introductions. Even humans give themselves a few minutes to get to know someone new. If another person tries to get intimate too quickly, we may react with irritation and our own way of retreating.
One last note before you and your pup get frisky outdoors: be sure his vaccinations and heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives are current and always walk in the cooler parts of the day.