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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! 🙂
Start by waiting to feed your dog just before company comes. He will be more interested in food if he is hungry. Before company arrives, start dropping kibble into the crate & then have company come in. (He should start off in crate or on leash). I prefer a crate.
As my dog started to light up I dropped his kibble into his crate as a distraction. “Here think about this instead.” After a few minutes he was pretty calm. I continued to stand there dropping kibble, his whole meal.
After he was very chill I opened the crate to let him go out & greet my mother. (He had not met her yet). Normally I would recommend leashing a dog for this but I was being lazy! You can imagine if you wait until your dog is totally chill to let him greet company how much better mannered they will be. Any bad manners (jumping, barking) will be milder & more subdued. Of course if your dog is aggressive at all you shouldn’t go this alone. To find a trainer in your area visit the International Association of Canine Professionals to find a competent trainer in your area.
So as you can see I’m not rushing anything. As a matter of fact I hadn’t thought of introducing them until I noticed Monday my cat wasn’t hiding any more. That indicated to me the dog wasn’t sending off a dangerous vibe anymore. So each day this week I’ve been feeding them closer & closer, challenging Annyong’s impulse control & focus. I want him to choose to make good decisions, not tell him all the time what he should be doing “come sit down stay” blah blah blah. (video below)
Could I have moved this along faster? Did I have to wait a month, 5 weeks to be exact? Sure I could have brought him to the cat or the cat to him. What would have happened? Dog would have lit up (like he did on day 1) & cat would have ran. Dog would have gotten harsh physical correction to override his strength & intensity on the cat. (This dog was almost impossible to handle when I was just training him under his previous owner). So I would have been forced to be heavy handed with him had I rushed things ahead of their timetable. Cat would have hid longer. Both animals would lose trust in me.
So by going at their pace I’m able to achieve more. Better results with softer handling. They are speaking to us all the time. Are you listening?
How long have you worked here? 5 awesome years TODAY
Why did you choose to work here? An ex coworker from my old grooming shop where I started my trade was an employee at the time.
What did you expect it to be like? I was originally hired as a groomer and had a good idea of what to expect in that aspect, but as for the daycare and training? I had no idea.
What do you like best about your job? Seeing the positive impact we have in dogs and people’s lives alike.
What do you like least? Stepping in poop.. most of the time I laugh about it.