As a dog trainer, shelter volunteer and pet sitter, I get to work with a wide variety of dogs on a daily basis. Many, many dog guardians don’t know how to read the signs their dogs are providing them. Often, by the time I’m called out, a dog has already snapped or growled or acted out of fear. The bottom line is that your dog doesn’t speak human and he’s not going to tap you on the shoulder and say, “You know, Bob, I’m really uncomfortable around that little kid. He grabs my ears and it hurts!”
I can give you lots of real life examples of people not reading the signs their dogs are giving. Every Saturday, the rescue I work with, Mostly Mutts Animal Rescue and Adoption, has their weekly adoption event at a PetSmart. It’s a great way to get people interested in adopting our animals. It is, however, very stressful for our cats and dogs to be there.
Often, there is little to no supervision of children in and around the kennels. Lots of little fingers sticking in and poking the dogs and cats with various reactions. Some of our more confident dogs take the opportunity to lick, some bark or growl, some just back up as far as they can get. Parents need to start teaching children the proper way to approach stranger dogs in every setting.
1) Never just go up to a strange dog! Some dogs have what I call “stranger danger” and feel frightened when a strange person walks up to them in public. This doesn’t mean that the dog shouldn’t be in public. Once properly introduced, the dog becomes a sweetheart. Think about how you would feel if some stranger walks up to you, gets into your personal space and starts bobbing you on the head!
2) Regardless of whether your dog is friendly with other dogs or not, meeting another dog can be frightening, especially for a dog on leash. Some dogs have what we call barrier frustration or leash frustration. You see the “crazy” dogs racing up and down a fence line barking like crazy at anyone or anything that approaches them. A dog on a leash can act similarly because there is no place for them to go – no escape. Try to “handle” your dog as best as you can at a large pet store for your safety and theirs. Very often the dog who’s owner says that he loves other dogs seems to be a rude dog not taught any manners — snout to snout greetings should be avoided. A dog with some manners will curve into another dog with a soft line, not a direct stare or confrontation.
Don’t get me wrong, take your dog out and take everywhere you can! Have them meet people and dogs but learn how to do that in a non-confrontational manner. Your dog can be the king or queen of the dog park if you can read their body language and react before a situation gets out of hand.
If you are interested in getting some basic manners training for your dog, contact us! Summer group classes will be starting in July for puppy kindergarten and basic manners.