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Pet Health


Social Distancing And Our Dogs – Part 1

Social distancing is tough in our world, isn’t it? None of us want to distance ourselves from the ones we…


Social distancing is tough in our world, isn’t it? None of us want to distance ourselves from the ones we love, and that’s completely understandable. But social distancing in a dog’s world is fundamental, yet often overlooked and misunderstood.

My dog is a very social dog. He feels it is his duty to greet and waggle for every dog and person when we’re out on a walk (he knows he’s irresistible!). Social distancing has been difficult for him. As we have been out walking the last couple of weeks during this health crisis, I have had to create boundaries for him by firming up on his leash and saying “no” when he attempts to go toward another dog or person. Just yesterday and today I noticed he is beginning to ignore others while outside. He’s beginning to understand. It’s kind-of sad, really, but it’s for the best.

Regardless of whether we are under a social distancing order or not, it’s frustrating to take your dog on a walk and be fully approached, uninvited, by a strange dog. Even if the dog is on a leash, many times the owner will allow them to come too close. It always surprises me the number of people that will say, “Oh, she’s friendly… she just wants to sniff.” Maybe my dog isn’t friendly; maybe my dog is fearful; maybe I’m trying to teach my dog manners and this strange dog is hindering my efforts. Even worse, maybe my dog is blind or ill and is startled or hurt by an approaching dog.

Despite what the owner says, it is often difficult to read another dog’s intentions. Even if the dog is wagging its tail, we cannot assume it is a good sign. As we have discussed in many previous blogs, a wagging tail can mean many things. True, it can be a sign of a happy, friendly dog, but it can also be an aggressive gesture or an indication of insecurity or excitement. If a strange dog approaches your dog, he may appear amiable, but don’t let down your guard. There are many unknowns in an animal introduction scenario. Also, the limitations placed on a dog when leashed can sometimes add frustration which could cause an otherwise friendly dog to react badly.

Ultimately, it is our responsibility to look out for our dog. Holiday Barn Pet Resorts Professional Dog Trainer, Dickie Martinson, says “As my dog’s pack leader, it is my responsibility to keep him safe. When I’m out with Chappie, my main concern is some other dog coming into his space and creating an issue. A dog attack on another dog can cause lifelong fear and frustration”.


Have you ever seen a yellow ribbon tied to a dog’s collar? This program began in 2013 and quickly caught on around the world. A yellow ribbon tied to a dog’s collar signals to others that the dog should not be approached. It doesn’t necessarily mean the dog is aggressive. She could be recovering from an injury, in-heat, or some of the reasons we mentioned above – fearful, or in training. But the point is, the dog just needs its own space. If you think about it, it’s sad that we have had to resort to these measures when common sense and good manners should be enough to keep us from approaching another dog uninvited.

Contact with another dog should be your decision, not forced upon you by bad mannered owners and pups. Competent and caring dog owners should not allow another dog to converge upon your dog’s space unsolicited. Dickie says, “As my dog’s leader, I have to realize this and respect other people and their dogs.”

One of these days we will be over the social distancing order and we will return to a somewhat normal social reality. Perhaps the good thing that will come from this experience is that other dogs and people will have learned to respect the space and wishes of people and dogs who do not choose to be sociable.


Of course, “there is nothing cuter than watching dogs make friends and play with one another”, Dickie says. but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Next week, we’ll talk about how to allow our dog to approach another dog properly.

If you have any questions about dog training, reach out to either our Glen Allen or Midlothian location! We are more than happy to help answer any questions you may have.

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