While the spring buds blossom
and the birds whistle their tune, I see more and more dogs out walking people. All over the place, whether in stores, on the streets, or corner cafes, puppies and dogs of all sorts are catching an “ooh!” or “ah!” from the passing public. But not all merely pass. At least, in my estimate, 85% of folks just have to approach and pet the pooch. I have always wondered at this phenomenon. Why is it? What is that compelling force that makes it so overpowering? And why do folks get so enraged when an owner says “Please do not pet”? The fact is, I should not have to say anything! Why do people seem to think they are entitled to pet and play with everyone else’s dog? What’s worse is the people that encourage their children in the same attitude. I wish I could teach my dogs to say, “Just ignore me, please.”
Then again, if I could teach my dogs to talk I would be a billionaire and able to hire body guards for my girls 🙂
A Serious Problem
People do not seem to connect (or want to connect) the facts. The most important fact being that a majority of “accidents” with dogs boils down to the attitude of the “victim”. Whether it is a child left to precariously venture on its own, approaching all dogs as they would a stuffed toy. Or an adult with less than adult respect for another’s property, or as I like to say, “pack”. I wonder what would happen if I randomly went about the grocery store or mall, patting others’ children on their heads? Even those that give the appearance of being “polite”, that ask, “Can I pet your dog?” are, in my opinion, treading where they ought not. How about I go ask, “Can I pat your child?”
I would likely get arrested and everyone would be aghast at my behavior.
No, I am not likening dogs to children. I am drawing a comparison to the fact that my dog is my pack, and you are not a part of that. Just the same, your child is your family (pack), and I am a stranger in regard to it. Just as your child depends on you to keep unwarranted advances of strangers at bay, so my pup depends on me for the same. When it comes to children, most people are attuned to just smiling and telling the parent how cute he is. There is an unspoken rule to go no further, which most people abide. Yet that same respect (and common sense) is void when it comes to dogs.
Alongside this, if you do not teach your child to refrain from talking to strangers she may be easily led away. Stolen, or in the least develop behaviors unbecoming. Same here. I teach my dog to not respond to strangers so that she learns appropriate behavior for our pack, even in public. Too, why would I let my dog learn that it is alright to take food from anyone or, worse, be able to be led away by a stranger? Yet all too often strangers approach to chat with and pet my dog. Most are angered when I politely shoo them away. Some have even cussed at me. Still, others had the audacity to slip my pup a treat (that made her puke) in a moment I had my back turned.
This entitlement mentality of the public when it comes to others’ dogs is serious because, I believe, it is at the core of most “accidents” involving dog bites. Think of it this way… If you teach your children to just observe a dog–at most–you are not only teaching him respect of others, but also he learns that not every dog is a stuffed toy.
This is something that may save his life someday.
Let’s Learn Something from London
An article caught my eye not long ago. The author, Kama Brown, wrote about visiting some friends that moved from the US to the UK in an article titled Why Are European Dogs So Well Behaved? While getting settled in they realized how much better behaved their English contemporaries were. In a dog-watching expedition with their friends in several European countries they found this to be consistent. Of the differences pointed out, the bottom line with all of it was that the public ignored others’ dogs…and taught their children to do the same. Thus, there is no distraction, rather reinforcement from strangers while the dogs became accustomed to new environments. They learned quickly that all the people walking to and fro were not going to provide any stimulus. So the dogs learn to ignore them as well, fully focused on their owners–as it should be.
In the US it seems there is a stigma against owners that clearly want and understand how to have a well-behaved dog. In other words, please ignore my dog so she can better learn to behave! In Europe, it seems that this respectful etiquette is expected. We can definitely learn some things from London!
“Socialize” Does NOT Mean Chummy With All
The practice of introducing your pup to new environments, with all the smells and activity that go along with each, is a must for a well-rounded dog. Helping your dog learn to behave no matter who or what is going on around him is not only fun and good, it is essential to responsible dog ownership. This is what actual socialization means when it comes to dogs.
I have a dog, Hanani, that is fearful of all that moves. In that, she could prove dangerous. Thus, I work her in highly active areas for short periods of time so that she can be helped over her fear. In that position, she counts on me to limit the stimuli. To watch her carefully, as she communicates with her body language and, sometimes, voice, to let me know when she has had enough. Each time I see that she is calmer I can lengthen the time spent in these areas. For strangers to ignore her helps her succeed in getting over her fears and becoming a well-rounded, socialized dog.
If you are one that has a dog with anxiety issues, or a pup that jumps around bonkers at every human, you need to rethink you understanding of “socializing” him. If you are out in public letting everyone walk up and pet him, of course he is going to pull and jump when he sees strangers. That excitement is difficult to contain! And, hey, it gets him what he wants (attention), so why not jump? Not all dogs, however, are so pleased by attention from strangers. Another approaching can cause unnecessary anxiety. Instead of him learning to depend on you to help ward off unnecessary situations, you encourage it by letting random people pet, play or give treats to your dog. What may seem like fun for you is not so much for your pup. An overstimulated pup (or dog) is never a good thing. Just like children, over stimulation can cause behavior problems and health issues. Unlike children, dogs can become dangerous when stimulated beyond their capacity. After all, he cannot count on you, so he must ward off what aggravates him.
Bottom line is that to socialize your dog does not mean let him interact with everyone, dog and human, that is around. If you want a good, well-rounded, well-behaved dog, be a sensible, responsible dog owner that he can depend on.
I Can Be Mean
My words here may seem harsh to some, or even mean to many. I have been called worse 😉 But I am plain sick and tired of hearing another news piece about “dangerous dog breeds” and other malarkey. I am also tired of being heart-broken at the sight of yet another child mauled by a pet. And then doubly broke to hear that dog was killed for being “vicious”. Tragedies like this make me want to go beat up the people who set the stage for this to happen.
Anyway… Due to the nature of this issue, I believe it is necessary to not candy-coat words in addressing it. So yeah. I can be mean, especially when I believe it is warranted.
Key #1: YOU are your dog’s leader and she depends on you for everything–including keeping her from becoming over-stimulated.
Key #2: Socialize does NOT mean chummy with all.
Key #3: You want a well-rounded, well-behaved dog? Then tell folks, “Just ignore him, please.”
Key #4: Watch your pup closely, especially when in new environments. She will let you know when she has had enough, and she depends on you to pay attention.
Thanx for hanging with me again today! Let me know your view or experience on this very important topic below. This is definitely a conversation that needs to be expounded!