The 3 Second Rule For Savvy Socialisation

We love getting out and about with our dogs. We love letting them have a sniff, get some exercise and maybe let them play with a few other dogs too. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching your dog be a dog and play with his friends. 

Picture the scene – the sun is shining on a lovely weekend in August. Fido’s family have decided to take Fido on a lovely relaxing walk up the park. Everyone is laughing and having fun, Fido is happily running around off-lead playing ball with the kids. Some distance away Fido sees his best friend Rosie. Fido has known Rosie since they were both puppies and they frequently meet up and have a good run around together. However today is different because Rosie’s family are going away and can’t stay out for long. Fido and Rosie start to have their usually boisterous play before being rudely interrupted by Rosie’s family, who clip her on her lead to take her home. Fido is clearly disappointed and completely upset with his girlfriend being taken away and becomes a little overexcited and starts running around the kids. Such arousal that would have likely being put to good use after a long play with Rosie. However, with today being different, Fido is left a little anxious and confused. 

Fido’s family carry on with their walk and let Fido do what Fido normally does on his walks. The park is quite busy today and the family end up walking toward another dog on the lead. Fido’s family do the right thing by clipping Fido on his lead too, as they remember their trainer telling them at puppy class all those months ago, that dogs are usually on lead for a reason and it wouldn’t be fair if Fido ran over to disturb the other dog. Fido is usually happy to have his lead on but today he struggles a little, attempting to avoid his family for a minute or so, which is unusual, however he is soon caught. The family head toward the other owner and dog, asking ahead if their dog would like to greet Fido. The other owner says that should be fine as her dog is also friendly. They head toward each other, with Fido being rather exuberant and pulling on his lead which is a little strange but the family just put it down to excitement at seeing the other dog. Both parties head toward each other and let the dogs have a sniff. The strange dog is quite still but has a loose tail wag and relaxed posture. Fido is quite excited and tries to pull harder against his lead to have a closer sniff, wagging his tail quite quickly whilst the other dog stiffens. Everything seems relaxed and both dogs appear to be getting along in the family’s eyes so they stick around to speak to the owner. Then. Disaster. The strange dog suddenly growls and barks at Fido. Fido barks back and lunges toward the other dog. Both dogs are snarling and jumping at each other – somehow in the chaos Fido ends up underneath the dog. In shock, the family tugs on Fido’s lead to pull him away from the seemingly aggressive dog he just had to defend himself from. The other dog quite happily walks away. The family are shaken up and check Fido for any injuries but he’s very uncomfortable and wriggles around. The family are now very upset; the children are crying, Mum’s crying and Dad is furious at the strange dog and owner. How could she say her dog was friendly when it was so clearly not?! 

Unfortunately stories like these are very common, yet also very often not understood and may be misinterpreted. Let’s take a closer look at the situation to see what contributed to the unfortunate event that ruined a family day out. The facts may well surprise you as this was not the strange dog’s fault at all. Fido actually caused this scuffle. Let’s find out why:

  1. Fido’s usual routine was disturbed with Rosie leaving early. Dogs get used to a routine and often become stressed if this changes. This was demonstrated when Fido started to herd the children in attempt to relieve his stress. Fido was also very aroused and excited as his usual playtime with Rosie is quite full-on. However, he didn’t get to release this excitement in the usual way so it got saved up. This is evident when he starts pulling on the lead – another training issue which is usual for him. 
  2. He was not rewarded for being on lead. Fido had a LOT of excess energy and being put on the lead was quite punishing for him because he had no way of burning that stress and excitement off in a positive way. He attempted to play a game by running from his owners, yet that just made them angry. What Fido’s family didn’t consider was that they did not give Fido a suitable outlet before putting him on a lead. For example, they could have played a little training game to help relieve his anxiety. 
  3. Fido’s family failed to see the numerous warning signs in Fido. He was displaying issues he had not previously shown, such as pulling on the lead, not listening to them, frantically wagging his tail, herding etc.
  4. As both owners missed the warning signs in Fido’s body language, they agreed to meet. However, overexcited dogs should never meet as this energy can be projected onto the other dog and create a dangerous situation.
  5. Neither family followed the ‘3-Second Rule’. 3 seconds is more than enough time to decide if two dogs are getting along. Typically we greet our dogs head-on which is unusual and quite rude in the dog world. If your dog is sniffing another dog count to 3 and move on. Always reward your dog for returning to you and moving away by playing a game such as tuggy or give him some of his favourite treats. 
  6. Both owners missed the final chance at avoiding this situation. The strange dog started off quite relaxed. Fido was not; he was pulling on the lead and being quite rude by getting close to the other dog’s face – which his family allowed. The other dog stiffened up (a sign of stress), Fido started to lunge forward, ignoring the signal as he wanted to play. The other dog didn’t want to play and had to escalate to growling after several seconds, which Fido saw as a challenge and carried on. Only at this point did the owners move the dogs away. 

Fido simply was not in the right frame of mind to meet another dog and ended up getting into to trouble because his owners didn’t see this. Even if his family had missed everything else but followed the 3-Second Rule, both dogs would have been moved away before the dogs became overly uncomfortable and directed that emotion at each other. 

Remember our dogs are never at fault in these situations; we are the ones that put our dogs in tense situations and should be checking if our dogs are uncomfortable. Situations like these can always be avoid if we just pay a little more attention to our dogs. 

These events could all have be avoided with the right training. If you need help getting control of your dog when out walking contact us now and we can help you with tailored training for you and your dog – visit to book.


Head Trainer (IMDT)

Way Forward Dog Training Solutions 


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