Being a responsible part of the community involves ensuring that your pet is a good neighbor. But while you probably want to be polite to other people, you should also be intentional and thoughtful about interactions between your dog and human neighbors.
Being Neighborly While Knowing Your Dog
Just because you’re saying hello to your neighbors doesn’t mean your dog has to. If you have a very social pet who loves people and greets them appropriately, you may want them to say hello. But first, check to see if your neighbors like dogs and want to greet your pup. Some people are nervous or afraid of canines, while others are allergic or would just prefer to keep their distance. It’s important to respect your neighbors’ boundaries and comfort levels. Similarly, not all dogs are going to be comfortable meeting strangers.
Be sure to consider how your dog feels about interacting with people they don’t know well. You’ll also want to think about how your pet feels about others approaching your property. If your dog doesn’t have a lot of experience meeting strangers (which will be the case for many pets gotten during the pandemic), ensure they’re comfortable and calm before greeting neighbors.
Observe your dog watching other people from a distance and also offer them treats whenever they see your neighbors. Avoiding putting them in stressful situations where they could feel afraid or threatened. This will also show your dog that they can depend on you to not put them in uncomfortable circumstances, which can help them feel more comfortable and confident. If your dog is selective about greeting strangers, explain that to your neighbors.
You can also use tricks to allow your dog to engage with new people from a comfortable distance. “Wave” allows your dog to say hello from afar and also tends to delight and impress. Teaching that trick is very similar to teaching them to shake hands, but instead of rewarding your dog for making paw contact with your hand, click/praise/reward right before your dog touches your hand. This trick can help increase a shy dog’s confidence. Your pup will realize you aren’t asking them to approach people; instead, they will start to associate seeing neighbors with doing tricks and subsequent rewards.
Meeting Neighborhood Pets and Children
Before introducing your dog to your neighbors’ dogs, consider your pup’s comfort level around other animals. Many dogs find on-leash greetings to be stressful. If you are going to allow your dog to greet another dog, try to do so on neutral territory, away from either of your yards.
Be especially careful to manage any interaction between your dog and any children. Many kids love dogs but don’t yet know how to safely interact with them. Make sure that your dog is comfortable around kids before allowing them to say hello. Do not let your dog approach children uninvited, and ensure you have permission for the kids to greet your dog before then explaining to the youngsters how to safely greet your pet.
Manage your dogs’ interactions with your neighbors. If your dog is still working on calmly saying hello and your neighbors want to greet your pup, explain to them what your dog is learning. You can ask if they would like to practice helping you train for polite greetings.
This is especially useful if you’re training your dog to become a Canine Good Citizen. Don’t be afraid to tell your neighbors how your dog likes to interact, places where they like or dislike being petted, and whether it’s okay to give your pet treats.
This is a great opportunity to gently educate people on how to interact with dogs. If your neighbor does anything that makes you or your dog uncomfortable, explain why that is unsafe or something your dog dislikes.