As a certified professional trainer, be ready to have solutions for your less sociable clients. Your less sociable clients or clients sensitive to the special needs of their shy dogs may be less desirous of dog-dog interaction on walks. These clients can use a few helpful tips and words of encouragement.
1. Meeting social needs.
Help your clients understand that dogs experience a diminishing desire for social interactions with unknown dogs as they age. With this knowledge, they are less likely to feel pangs of guilt for minimizing on-leash greetings during regular walks. It’s also important to help clients understand that dogs are individuals, and their dog may have different needs than previous dogs or friends’ dogs. There are social butterfly dogs and wallflower dogs. Shy or fearful dogs simply may not feel comfortable meeting new dogs on walks.
2. How to speak with other dog walkers.
Give your client some examples of how they can avoid dog-dog interactions. Having a few responses for oncoming dogs and their people can help some clients have more confidence about speaking up and advocating for their dog. A few examples include:
· An extended arm straight out from the body with an open hand, palm out. This resembles a halt gesture.
· “We’re training and not meeting strangers today.”
· Simply turn and walk away.
· “My dog isn’t friendly with new dogs.”
Each of these is polite but clear. Most clients with whom I have discussed this topic are uncomfortable either with confrontation or with giving strangers a negative opinion of their dog. The above suggestions take this into account. Some clients aren’t shy. They’ll simply yell “STOP!” or tell people their dog is contagious or even that their dog is. But most importantly, your clients should have a response with which they are comfortable so that they can respond readily on walks.
If you hold an appropriate class (shy dog class or reactive dog class), you can practice this technique with your clients, so they are better prepared when it happens in real life.
Read more tips for creating successful greetings in our Greetings series: “Greetings Meeting the Friendly Stranger,” Greetings: Mom, You’re Home!,” and “Greetings: Meeting The Friendly Leashed Dog”