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Pet Health


Social Distancing And Our Dogs – Part 2

Last week we talked about social distancing with dogs. In that blog, we discussed respecting the space around other people and dogs while in…



Last week we talked about social distancing with dogs. In that blog, we discussed respecting the space around other people and dogs while in public. This week we will cover how to ensure a proper greeting between two dogs.

Needless to say, we are living in an unusual time right now. A “proper greeting” between two dogs has taken on a new angle, much like it has for two people, right? Socialization and play is important to the mental and physical wellbeing of your dog. It is possible – even now – to let your dog enjoy a romp with his pals while maintaining your safety and health.

We have been advised that it is unlikely a dog will become infected with the coronavirus, however, there is talk of possible residual contaminant on a dog’s coat if they have been in contact with someone who is sick. During these times of uncertainty, keeping your distance is always the best bet. I know. It stinks, but it’s our current reality… and it’s not forever.

The basics of a proper greeting between two dogs does not change that much in our current reality. The difference is the amount of distance we are comfortable with between us and the other dog’s owner. Have you noticed the number of people that will now cross the street with their dogs as you come towards them on the sidewalk? Or they may step off the sidewalk and into a grassy area while you pass? We get it…the reach of this virus is vague at this point, and if someone chooses to widen their comfort zone, it’s perfectly acceptable. If people and their dogs get too close, we can politely let them know you are practicing social distancing.


Positive greeting between two dogs depends on many things. Early socialization, good past experiences with other dogs, and a desire to interact with other dogs. Unfortunately, you cannot know these things about someone else’s dog. It’s important to be able to read a dog’s clues. They will let you know if they want to make friends. Generally, greetings take place when you’re out walking your dog. As you are nearing another dog and owner, the two dogs immediately start checking each other out. What happens next?


Before approaching the other dog and owner, assess your own dog’s body language. If your dog appears uninterested in socializing with the other dog, don’t force it. Look for signs of tension in your pup, like a rigid stance or tucking of the tail. Sometimes your dog will step behind you in an effort to put distance between themselves and the other dog. These are all negative reactions. Your dog is trying to clue you in to the fact that it’s best to just move on….

Then assess the body language of the other dog. It’s not always easy to do with a dog you do not know, but here are some tips that may help:

  • Beware of other dogs that whine or bark at your dog. That is often a sign that the dog is overexcited, anxious or uncomfortable for whatever reason. This type of confusion can hinder a positive greeting.
  • A lunging dog can also be a bad sign, but not always. It will depend on the language behind the lunge. Does the dog appear hostile in any way? Sometimes a lunge is just a sign of bad play manners or “friendly” over-excitement.
  • Look for raised hackles. You probably know this, but raised hackles are when the hairs on the back of the dog’s neck are raised. It can indicate anger, fear, or some other feeling that is not conducive to a positive greeting.
  • Be cautious of cinched teeth and jaws. That tightness is an indication that there is some sort of tension. A dog’s face and jaws should be relaxed and sort-of “dropped”.
  • Is the dog’s posture relaxed and loose? A rigid or stiff posture is not friendly. We’re looking for loosie-goosie, waggly. (That’s dog talk for easy-going, calm, and welcoming.)
  • Read into the wagging tail. A big, broad, leisurely swishing tail wag, usually accompanied by wiggling hips and a relaxed posture, is a friendly tail wag.

Trust your instincts. If you feel in any way that the other dog could be a danger to your dog, do not allow them to greet one another.


Communicate with the dog’s owner before allowing the dogs to meet. While holding the dogs apart from one another, ask permission from the owner for your dog to approach their dog. Try not to be insulted if the answer is no. As we discussed in part 1, there are many reasons a dog is not approachable. Add to that the fear of contamination, and you have yet another reason that a stranger may not want to interact. Again, don’t be insulted.

If the other owner approves, and you feel good that an amicable greeting is likely, loosen up on the leash and allow the dogs to sniff noses and bottoms. Here’s another thing to watch: How do the dogs approach each other? Do they come towards each other face-on, or do they appear to circle each other? A face-on meeting can be an assertive gesture and should be carefully monitored. Preferably, the dogs should sort of move around each other – like in a curve.

Caution: As we mentioned in part 1, the limitations placed on a dog when leashed can sometimes add frustration when greeting another dog. The dog may become irritated because of its spatial limitation. Even an otherwise friendly, well socialized dog can react badly when annoyed by being on a leash.

While we’re talking about leashes, we caution against the use of a very long or a retractable leash. Even though the distance it creates could be considered helpful while we are hyper aware of our proximity to others, the lack of control can be dangerous. Also, the thinness of the lead in a retractable leash is easy to get wrapped around legs, necks, and can sometimes cut the skin. A normal 6-foot leash with the extension of your arm should provide enough distance, based on the CDC’s advice. If possible, an 8-foot leash would be preferable.


After your dog and his friend(s) have played, it’s a good idea to take some additional measures to avoid any cross contamination of the virus if present. The next stop for your happily exhausted pup should be the bathtub! Once he/she is squeaky clean and germ free, don’t forget yourself. Wash your hands, arms, legs… wherever you made contact with your pup. Then change out of your clothes and toss them in the washer along with your dog’s collar.

We hope this information has been helpful to you. Please contact our Glen Allen location or our Midlothian location if you have any questions! Stay safe, practice good social distancing, and enjoy those long walks with your BFF (Best Furry Friend)!

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