There are many things to navigate when walking a dog through crowded city streets. One of the biggest challenges for many is encountering another dog. Whether you are going to let the dogs greet, or you’re just planning on walking past the other dog one thing remains the same – you need to physically keep moving along on your way.
Here is what I hope all dogs and handlers can learn – how to MOVE ALONG! Of course there are all different stages of learning and this wish is not intended for reactive dogs who may need to pull off to the side in order to get some help from their handler and maintain composure, and it isn’t for puppies who stop and splat every 10 feet anyway because “what is a leash?” There are also some spatial circumstances where maybe one dog will have to pull off to the side and wait while the other passes (which still requires at least one dog to have the skill of moving along). This hope is for all other contexts.
Please reconsider asking your dog to sit or down when passing another dog. This may seem polite, a quick display of manners and an acknowledgment of the other dog, but what it actually does is leave the other dog and handler with no choice but to do all of the work. Imagine you’re walking your dog who is a bit anxious around other dogs, and you’re attempting to just keep moving, but instead someone is stopped with their dog sitting and just staring at you while you move on by, and the lack of movement by the sitting dog greatly prolongs the encounter.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been pushing a stroller, baby in tow with a toddler kicking at rocks by my side, while I walk two 14yo dogs down a narrow sidewalk, only to have someone with a bouncy adolescent large dog, just stand there and grip their leash. Sure let me drag my old dogs, cajole my toddler, use one hand to push the stroller (possibly into a trash can bc this is a crowded sidewalk) all bc the other handler is… just kickin’ it? Perhaps you’re thinking. “Two dogs and two small children? Isn’t that a lot?” Yes it is!! And because my dogs are well trained (the children not so much) it’s manageable, not to mention it’s downright required because we live in Philadelphia and we don’t have a yard. We walk past all sorts of things very smoothly, and we CAN walk past even a lunging dog safely and without much stress. It isn’t that this pass-by cannot be done, it’s that by being the only one moving you’re forced into the position of doing more work. When someone stops, the other dog/handler is forced to be the only one going, because if you both stopped, everyone would just stay in the same place. It’s not an impossible thing to navigate, it’s mostly just poor etiquette, it’s like making a meal with a friend but sitting it out while they clean it up.
In general, if we consider how our own handling decisions effect those around us, we can have more peaceful walks. Awareness and consideration can help us all work together on proper passing so that it’s quick, easy and respectful.