December 03, 2012
"What is this little guy’s name? I can’t get close enough to see her tag." she asked. I looked down at the little min pin who was quietly standing near her. She looked a little nervous about being at doggy daycare and a little on edge. While I was thinking of the dog’s name, the girl started walking quickly towards the dog (because the dog was trying to move out of her reach). With hands outstretched, she grabbed her collar, picked her up, and held her up to her face so she could see the tag on her collar. "That’s a good way to get a good bite in the face!" I said. She seemed surprised that I would say such a thing, and I was dumbfounded that she had no idea why I would say it. She works with dogs every day. Doesn’t she know when a dog is scared?
The number one reason dogs bite is out of fear. Let’s show these guys the respect that they deserve. Just because we can pick up a dog doesn’t mean we should. Dogs are amazingly tolerant animals. They have to follow so many rules that go against their nature as animals so that they can live peacefully in our society. That is why we love them so much. They are willing to do that, for us! What a wonderful gift. We should remember that and show them the compassion and respect that they deserve, and keep from pushing them just because we want to. Everyday I see dogs do amazing things that I would probably not be able to handle myself. Dogs entering the doggy daycare amazes me. They walk in and, immediately, almost every dog in the place comes rushing towards them to investigate as they struggle through the pack to find their way. Can you image walking into a crowded room, possibly not knowing anyone, and have everyone come up to you all at once, shaking your hand, giving you hugs, and maybe even kissing your face! I think I would go nuts! I couldn’t handle it. What if you were out on the street and a complete stranger starts quickly walking towards you, hands outstretched, and tries to kiss you. I think I might actually punch them in the face. That would scare me to death! Yet we expect our dogs to handle this all the time, and most of them do.
It is up to us to recognize the times that our dogs may not feel comfortable with what we are asking them to do. So many dog bites could be avoided if we learned to read the signs. Slow down, pay attention to how the dog is reacting to you, and build trust. Here are a few rules to follow when greeting a new dog or dealing with a nervous dog:
- Let the dog decide if he wants to be petted. If a dog walks away from you, cowers, pulls his ears back, or tucks his tail when you approach, he doesn’t want you to pet him. Respect that. Try crouching down and turning to the side to see if he will approach you.
- Keep your arms down. Dogs can get very nervous when people approach them head first with arms already outstretched. The human’s hands go zooming over the dog’s heads, which, to a dog, sets of the alarms! Warning! Danger! Keep your hands close to your body; again let the dog decide if he wants you to pet him right then. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.
- No hugging! Oh we primates just love to hug each other. Dogs are thinking, geez this person is rude! This is about as offensive as it gets to a dog. Yes, dogs do learn to tolerate hugging and a few might even enjoy it, however most don’t. Never ever hug a dog you’ve never met before. Even a friendly dog may react to a stranger trying to hug him. Again, just think what you would do in that situation. A complete stranger on a busy street runs up to you and hugs you tightly, not letting you go, and talking about how cute you are. Most people would scream, kick, and punch until free, and call the police!
- Never grab the collar. I’ve seen many people grab a dog’s collar when the dog is trying to get away, or pull a dog towards them who doesn’t want to be any closer. One of the most common reasons of dog bites is because someone tried to grab their collar. When greeting a dog, never go for their collar; it’s a bad idea.
- Do not pick them up. A dog that feels threatened and then is given no option of fleeing has little choice if they feel scared enough except to bite. Never pick up a scared or nervous dog that you do not know. Let them take their time to get to know you and to trust you.
We love dogs, some of us a bit too much. Let’s take our time with new or nervous dogs and let them decide when to be held and petted. We are all in such a hurry, but some dogs need to slow things down. They need to be able to trust us, and believe me, if you take the time and respect their feelings, the rewards will be tenfold.