The Friendly Dog-Owner Nod
When I take Roscoe for a walk in Brooklyn he might meet a dozen dogs on a single outing. Some dogs are nice. Some ain't. So the question is, how do you know if the approaching dog is a "friend" dog (aka nice sniffer/tail wagger) or "foe" dog (aka mental rabid dog who wants to bite your dog's face off for no reason)? It's up to me to decide whether Roscoe is allowed to say hello or not, as Roscoe can't make smart decisions for himself... because by human standards... Roscoe is an idiot.
It's hard to tell with dogs. Some very sweet-looking ones are always looking for a fight. They walk around with a bait-and-switch personality. Little cute dogs are sometimes the most vicious. Pugs in pairs or trios seem to be extra nutty. If a dog has weird creases on its muzzle (growl-lines) that's a red flag. And I never trust Pit Bulls if they have a prong collar on. Sorry Pit owners. Blame the bad seeds... or pits... or whatever. Etc.
Of course, some breeds seem to be reliably friendly. I find that Retrievers, Dobermans, solid color mutts, any tall dog, Labradoodles (The most embarrassing new breed name) and any long-eared dogs are usually not a problem at all. But there's always the 'off' dogs there, too. The bottom line is, you really can't trust any dog based on its apparent demeanor or breed. So on a dog hello, I find it's more important to get a read on the person walking the dog-- and make a snap judgment on that person before allowing our dogs meet. Get a read for body language etc. Like if an owner reels in their dog as they get closer-- you know to steer clear.
I do have friends who have dogs that are mental crazy with other dogs. And I really do feel for the challenge they have every day walking down the street. They just want their dopey dog to one day realize that all other dogs aren't a threat! So they keep testing out their social skills to convince them-- by allowing them to say hello. But it's only fair to give a heads up to the other dog owner that your dog is sometimes mental! "Be a little careful. Fluffles is moody..." That's all that has to be said. I sometimes let my dog say hello to dogs if a heads-up is given, but with no warning it's not fair. And scary.
Fortunately, there is something in the eyes of a true "friendly dog" owner. An unspoken language that goes along with any commonality. There's a relaxed 'My dog is fine. Yours too? Cool.' nod we give each other. Like when I was losing my hair and I'd see some guy in the same stage of baldness. We'd have that subtle nod. We were on the same page. Or Moms with screaming children who see another mom with a screaming kid. They know each other already. They have the nod. And it's there between us 'friendly dog' owners too.
So, if you have a dog and you have no idea what I'm talking about and you've never picked up on the nod... please reel in your nutty dog--- or at least give us a heads up.