Why you shouldn’t let your dogs run up to other dogs

Saturday August 5th 2023

Esk Valley Dog Training

This article has been written by Midlothian Dog Trainer Nick McMechan.

Last month I attended the P in the Park event at Cousland. It was a delight to help so many owners. However, the (very common) theme that nearly every anxious dog owner presented to me was about off leash dogs running up to theirs and the problems caused.

Lets all work together on this one and have a great dog community in Midlothian!

Our dogs are lovable and sociable creatures who enjoy interacting with humans and fellow canines. While it can be tempting to let your dog run up to other dogs during walks or playdates, it’s important to understand the potential risks involved. In this article today, we will discuss why it’s crucial to keep your dog from approaching other dogs without permission.

Safety for All Involved

One of the primary reasons to avoid letting your dog run up to other dogs is the safety of both dogs and their owners. Not all dogs are comfortable meeting other dogs, and some may even display aggressive behavior when approached without warning. By keeping your dog on a leash and maintaining distance, you can prevent potential altercations and ensure a safer environment for everyone. If in doubt, don’t interact. In my personal experience. I’ve met many owners who claim “my dog is friendly”! However, as an expert of dog body language, I often find myself thinking, ‘No, it’s really not’!

Fear and Anxiety

Many dogs are fearful or anxious around unfamiliar dogs or in unfamiliar situations. Approaching another dog without proper introduction might trigger fear or anxiety in either dog, leading to unwanted behaviors or even aggression. It’s crucial to respect your dog’s comfort level and allow controlled introductions to build positive associations and reduce stress. Its also crucial to respect the other dogs comfort level. The right thing to do is often to simply leash your dog and carry on.

Respect Personal Space

Just like humans, dogs also have boundaries and personal space preferences. Allowing your dog to charge up to every dog they encounter disregards the individual comfort level of the other dog. Some dogs may become defensive or aggressive when their personal space is invaded, leading to potential conflicts or injuries. Respecting personal space is essential for maintaining a harmonious and peaceful environment for all dogs and their owners.

Training and Socialization

Training your dog for proper socialization is vital for their overall well-being and helps prevent behavioral issues. Encouraging positive interactions and teaching your dog to approach other dogs calmly and politely can set them up for success. Whilst many owners believe socialisation is about their dogs playing with other dogs, I’m afraid to tell you its not. your adult dog was socialised when it was young, and hopefully you may have made a good job of that. Now it’s time for your adult dog to behave as an adult.

Proper Etiquette

Responsible dog ownership involves practicing proper dog etiquette. Approaching other dog owners politely and asking for permission before allowing your dog to interact with theirs is respectful and demonstrates good manners. By respecting others’ boundaries and preferences, you contribute to a positive and considerate dog community where all dogs can feel safe and comfortable. If in doubt, do not approach. There’s so much bad information on internet and social media, but one piece of advice I agree with is the “three second rule” where you alow your dog to interact for three seconds and move on. This prevents a lot of issues whilst allowing your dog to explore the world as well. But, if in any doubt, don’t interact


While it may be tempting to let your dog run up to other dogs for socialization or play, it’s essential to prioritize their safety, comfort, and the well-being of others. Keeping your dog under control, respecting personal space, and practicing proper dog etiquette can help prevent unnecessary conflicts and ensure a positive and enjoyable experience for all involved. Remember, responsible dog ownership involves understanding and respecting the needs of your own dog and those of others.


Nick McMechan is a Dog Trainer who owns Esk Valley Dog Training, based in Dalkeith and covering Midlothian, some of South Edinburgh and some of East Lothian. Nick’s Clients describe him as friendly, knowledgeable and reliable.

Nick specialises in Loose Leash Walking and Reactivity as well as everything you would expect from a great Dog Trainer. You can find out more here: eskvalleydogtraining.co.uk

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