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Posted on Tue, Sep 25, 2012 : noon

One dog walking tool might help provide better experiences in social situations

By Lorrie Shaw


Lorrie Shaw | Contributor

One of my biggest pet peeves while I’m out with a client on an adventure is other handlers allowing an unsolicited approach by the dog under their care. This doesn’t happen as often when a dog is unleashed.

Are you surprised?

In my experience, when some people see a dog approaching on a leash, it gives them a false sense that the dog that they see is well-mannered and can handle a face-to-face meeting with a fellow canine.

In a perfect world, that would make sense. Things just don’t work that way, though.

The issue of healthy ways to redirect a dog’s unwanted behavior has been fodder for much discussion, and I’m glad to see that the dialogue has been vigorous. Positive training techniques are a must, whether you’re training a puppy, an adolescent or adult dog. In the latter two cases, it’s not uncommon for some of these pets to be working through behavioral issues or physical problems (like a recent surgery) that are not easily identifiable: A canine may seem fine upon a distant observation, but get close, and you might even find it difficult to detect a shift in behavior that can be aggravated by the too-close proximity to another dog. Sadly, I often find that the dog on either leash is demonstrating that they are finding the situation challenging, but the other human is not recognizing it.

It’s not unusual for me to hear that human exclaim as they allow an approach that’s too close for comfort, “Don’t worry! My dog is friendly!” (We dog professionals refer to this as MDIF, by the way.) Then I respond, “But this dog has difficulty, so it’s appreciated that you please give them a little space.”

I have several clients who are in the process of learning to be better socialized (and admittedly yes, some of them will never change). Others have had a recent surgery, or have painful injuries or arthritis. Some are seniors and do not see or hear well, and that can complicate sociability.

A fellow dog professional from Maine, Jess Dolce coined the acronym MDIF and another phrase that everyone with a dog needs to know: Dogs In Need Of Space, or DINOS and wrote about the topic in 2011.

Along with that, wouldn’t it be great if there were another way to offer a visual signal to others who are accompanying another dog while out on a walk? John Speiser, a professional dog trainer and contributor for pets section broached this topic before. Speiser indicated that perhaps if dogs wore colored bandanas to signify temperament that would help facilitate more peace in social situations where dogs are concerned.

In reading the comments, the idea was well-received.

A new dog walking tool that uses the same premise might just be the thing.

Friendly Dog Collars, a company based in the United Kingdom. has created collars and harnesses that come in attention-getting colors with clear phrases like “friendly”, “no dogs” and “caution”.

I think it’s a pretty nifty concept. Would you consider getting a harness and collar like this for your dog? Tell us your thoughts.

Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for Connect with her on Google + or e-mail her directly.



Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 6 p.m.

In my neighborhood, color-coded doggy neck wear is already in fashion. Red bandana shows the owner's support for Ohio State, green for Mich State and blue for UoM. It's a rough 'hood. I'm not a professional critter sitter but I do get out quite a bit with my dog. Kids and adults are unfailingly polite and always ask if they can approach my dog beforehand. I'm thrilled they want to pet my big ol' dog and he's equally pleased with the attention. And I always thank 'em for asking before approaching. Same goes for other people walking their dog(s). It seems to be an unwritten rule that the humans clear it with each other before allowing the dogs to meet. I'm not sure if a color-coded collar or harness would be of benefit for me. (Full disclosure: I have a large dog with a bearish aspect. A smaller cuter dog might invite more uninvited attention.) My pooch does wear a bright orange collar & safety vest when we're walking through fields and woods during hunting season. Hunting is not allowed in most of the places we frequent but that doesn't stop stray bullets or stupid hunters.

Lorrie Shaw

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

RunsWithScissors: Ha, ha! I encounter those bandanas too! I think, too that there is a greater awareness that some dogs are not quite as receptive to being approached, and for that I'm grateful. It does make my job even more enjoyable. I want all of my clients to have a good time when we are out on an adventure. I want other dogs to have the same. And, oh, yes... that season is here. I have a hunter's orange fleece vest that I wear when I'm out with my charges, and I do provide doggy vests in the same color for my furry friends if they don't have one, just in case. Better safe than sorry! Enjoy the weather and thanks for adding your thoughts. Much appreciated!


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

No. Speaking directly to another human is the best way. And if the collars and harnesses are treated like other signage in this world, people won't read it. Or they'll come even closer to ask about it, they'll think it doesn't apply to them, or they'll think it's just decorative and not pay attention to what it represents.

Lorrie Shaw

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

To a degree, LA, I agree: Humans have a tendency to become "tone deaf" to visual cues sometimes, even if they are blatant. Good communication is a multi-faceted process. I really appreciate you weighing in.


Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 4:08 a.m.

My dog is a great pet at home, but when we go out, he is scared of everything. That includes other dogs. Because he's a dog, I can't explain to him why he doesn' t need to be scared. It's not really fair to let other "friendly" dogs come up and slobber all over him while he tucks his tail and shivers. I think colored collars are a great idea. Also, a friend was pet sitting his brother's bull terrier (who liked to eat other people's pets if allowed--which he wasn't), and two friendly, unleashed dogs approached while the owner called out "Don't worry, they're friendly." He was dragging his dog with all his might the other direction yelling, "But HE'S not!" Does it not occur to people that the OTHER dog might have a problem? Leash your dogs, people.

Lorrie Shaw

Wed, Sep 26, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.

BradP: I encounter both of those scenarios frequently. I always remind people that just because a dog is a dog, that doesn't mean that they want another member of their species approaching them. I mean, most humans prefer that bubble of space in between them and another person, right? Thanks for bringing up those experiences. You make a very good point.