Dogs love their people. That’s a special and precious relationship. But it may not extend to the world at large. And it doesn’t have to. Dogs’ feelings matter.
Some dogs do love everybody. They love meeting new people and seeing new places. Anyone can say “Hi!” to them and they’re okay with that. But your dog isn’t wrong, or mean, or broken if they don’t.
Dogs in society
The growth of things like dog parks and doggy daycare foster the notion that socialized dogs have “doggy friends.” And if your dog doesn’t like other dogs, or strange people, there’s something wrong with your dog. That’s not true. Among dog trainers, a well-socialized dog is one who is able to ignore distractions, be calm in unfamiliar circumstances, and pay attention to their person. It has nothing to do with playing nice with other dogs.
Another bizarre idea, probably spurred by internet video, is that dogs should let anyone take anything away from them. If the dog dares to object, either by keeping hold of the thing, or even growling, it’s a bad dog. What happened to the old saying “Let sleeping dogs lie?” Pestering dogs by taking stuff away from them, just to prove you can, may be one reason that dog trainers are seeing more dogs with issues of resource guarding.
Obviously, you have to be able to take things away from your dog. Especially if they’ve gotten hold of something dangerous or toxic. Knowing this, most dog owners teach their dogs some form of “Drop it!” and trade the dog for something they really like, like Chicken Heart Treats. We don’t just randomly reach for their food bowls when they’re eating.
Petting and greetings
We take our dogs many places, especially when we’re training. Our goal is to have that dog be able to focus on us, pay attention to us, and become accustomed to different sights and smells. Many times people charge up, hands outstretched, exclaiming “Look at the doggy!” They get offended when we step between them and our dog and say something like “I’m sorry, we’re training. I’d rather you didn’t try to pet him.”
It’s as if, just because we’re out in public, our dogs are public property. They’re not. And they don’t have to be. Even if your dog is a menace to other people, you’re allowed to be out and about together. Our 13-year-old Brussels Griffon Tango was just such a menace when Fran got him. Hope couldn’t even touch him without risking being bitten. But through training and patient persistence, he can now go anywhere and loves everyone.
Fran was able to turn him around by carefully managing every single encounter with every single person and dog Tango met. No one was allowed to get near him without coaching and a handful of yummy treats. If you have a reactive dog, and you want to change that around, check out Fran’s book: Tango: Transforming My Hellhound
Small dogs more vulnerable
It’s more common for people to ask “May I pet your dog?” when you have a big dog. Little dogs seem to be magnets for hands. They’re little, cute, and hard to resist. And some small dogs enjoy the attention. But if yours doesn’t, it’s okay. It’s okay for you to block those reaching hands. Some may think you’re rude, but that’s okay. You and your dog get along just fine. Dogs love their people. Others are optional.
Enjoyed this post? Click here to sign up for the weekly newsletter and never miss another!