Dog greetings can be wonderful or devastating to dogs and it all depends on them.
Oscar is the cutest Labradoodle in the world and he knows it but he hates people coming up to him to say hello. He’s shy and takes a long time to get to know someone. I can relate. I don’t like hugs or my personal space encroached upon when I don’t know the person. Just because he’s a dog and he’s adorable doesn’t mean people have the right to invade his personal space.
Not all people are aware of how dogs feel or better yet how they express how they feel and it’s not because they don’t care. They simply don’t know how to read them. As Oscar’s guardian, I must take care of him when people don’t read him correctly. So when they ask to pet him, I tell them how. Each dog is an individual so the education of dog greetings will depend on your dog. Role play to find out ways that feel comfortable for you to teach others how to greet your dog and you’ll find that it will get easier and easier to tell people and this will translate into your dog becoming more comfortable with dog greetings. He’s depending on you.
There is always the occasional person who says “Oh, all dogs love me” and they move in too close, too loud and way to demonstrative for his liking. He tells them with these body languages: Looks Away, whale eye, moves away, indirect eye contact if they persist and I don’t move in, paw lift, lip licking, tail down and if I haven’t stepped in, he will walk away, staring at me telling me to get the heck out of here. I always respond by saying please stop, he’s not enjoying this and I walk away.
Offending people is difficult for some and why most don’t say anything, making their dog more and more fearful. When your dog is uncomfortable and you are uncomfortable it becomes worse for your dog because they sense your anxiety and boom, the escalation begins. This is when a bite can happen.
What I would like to do is encourage you to role play, getting very comfortable with a consistent phrase that works for you to say when people approach your dog in a way that you know is uncomfortable for him. If you find a phrase that works for you, you’ll be more apt to speak up and save your dog the anxiety he’s in which is most important. I have gotten over the notion of offending people because as my dogs’ advocate I must do what’s right by him not worry about others. You’ll get over it too. We can only try to educate people but some don’t want to learn and there’s nothing we can do for them, so at this point it’s best to walk away. We can’t speak to deaf ears. Your dog is your primary concern so some things we can’t change.
Most people will listen when we teach them about how our dog prefers to be greeted but when they don’t, we need to teach them how. If they’re not willing to listen only their own agenda, we must step up to the plate to save our dog. Remember, he’s depending on us and if we don’t there is always a potential of a bite and this would be devastating for all involved.
If a child approaches without a parent you MUST stop them in their tracks and tell them emphatically to please get their parent before any dog greeting. If the parent comes and they don’t seem to have much control of their child, I tell them that the dog is too afraid right now and not willing to say hello as I walking away with my dog. If the parent and child seem to have good communication, it’s a great opportunity to teach parent and child appropriate dog greetings.
When you’re prepared there is a sense of calm and this is how you can be your dogs best advocate.
Learn the signs of stress in dogs with the Dog Decoder App. Keep it with you as a great teaching tool, ready when you need it. Your dog, your friends, your family and the people you meet will thank you for it.