May I Pet Your Dog? Let’s Ask The Dog!
I get this all the time, as I’m sure you do too. “Can I pet your dog? Is your dog friendly?”
Today as my daughter played on the playground with her friends one of them ran up to me, not even going to ask me if she could touch my dog. I stopped her & told her he wasn’t friendly. This stopped her dead in her tracks- mission accomplished. She turned and went back to the slide. I said to her a few minutes later she could say hi to him, that I was only trying to make her think before running up to a dog that he may not be friendly. I gave her a bit of advice I give to all my new employees “think of every dog here as going to bite you”. I told her I didn’t want her to be afraid of dogs, just more cautious.
Then I told her to stand still, take a deep breath & hold her hand out for my dog to sniff her. He didn’t. He was too interested in looking at everything else. So I told her to wait a minute to see if he’d sniff her hand. He finally noticed her & sniffed her hand. I then instructed her to touch him with one hand only. I said to never use two hands, as it can be too confining to a dog. He was fine with her touching him & she ran off on her merry way, hopefully a bit wiser, but I doubt it. She is, after all, only 7.
This brings to mind a question I ask in my weekend classes. What are the 2 main reasons a dog bites? Answer: offense & defense. Which dogs bite more? Answer: defense. Why? Because most people are smart enough not to reach their hand out to a snarling dog!
Meanwhile, if a dog looks scared or shy like this, we feel bad & think they need to be comforted. Not the case!
We want the dog to WANT to be touched too! If you went up to a person to say hi & they backed up- they are saying they want to be left alone, right? Well these looks are saying the same message in dog language! The dog is saying “I’m unsure of you & want to be left alone”. The best way to make friends with a dog like this? LISTEN TO HIM! Respect him! Give him space & by all means don’t reach your hands out to invade his personal space. If you love dogs, you must think of their needs & wishes & you should want to keep their record clean! Don’t give a dog a bite history that didn’t have one. Did you know that 85% of dog bites are from human error? -I’m making this number up, but it’s probably in that ball park 😛
Here is my flow chart for whether or not a dog wants to be touched:
If you are not in the New England area & are in need of a professional trainer, please visit the IACP International Association of Canine Professionals. Remember not all dog trainers are the same, so if you have not gotten the results you want, please do not give up on your dog. Find a competent, qualified trainer near you. And be sure to tell them Laurie Wagner sent you! 🙂