Something you can count on when it comes to dogs and humans, is that humans don’t have good listening skills and that’s all dogs are doing; listening and reading body language. Recently, an article was written in Psychology Today by Stanley Coren PhD, about how our personality may affect why dogs bite some and not others and includes a study. It’s worth the read.
We can tell people exactly how to approach our dogs and 9 out of 10 times, they don’t listen and do whatever the hell they want, including this phrase that makes me want to run and puke at the same time; “Dogs love me”. Other times, we tell them how we want them to interact or not interact with our dogs and they just don’t care and why they don’t listen. They either, can’t be bothered, don’t like dogs, think they know better or simply, too busy with other things, even though they are in the proximity of your dogs. Dogs may be startled by someone, met the person and didn’t like them. I’m certain dogs know inauthenticity when they experience it, so it doesn’t matter what words are spewing out of their mouths, their actions and pheromones (scents dogs can smell better than humans), spell very clearly to dogs, they are not who they say they are and dogs will respond to this essence of being.
To be a responsible dog owner and not put the onus on the human, we need to set dogs and humans up to succeed. We can do this by telling them before hand, that we want to introduce our dogs and exactly the way we want it to go. Have the conversation beforehand. This way, when they say whatever it is they need to say, you can listen and say, something to the effect; that’s great but this is how I want you do meet my dog, asking them, if they are on board. If they hesitate, then you know the conversation isn’t complete, needs more explaining. If they say no, then you don’t introduce them.
If you live on property with multiple residents and dogs are able to be off leash, it’s imperative that everyone feels safe, where they reside. This conversation and introduction, must happen. Remember, dogs sense inauthenticity and they know anger, frustration and all the emotions that humans are feeling and believe me, it won’t be good without a proper introduction and it make take several introductions until both dogs and humans accept each other, even if the humans don’t care about them, especially if the humans don’t care about the dogs. In time, the dogs won’t bother to ask for attention if the humans aren’t interested and there can still be peace for all involved.
Here’s how to set up the introduction.
Use high value treats: pieces of cooked chicken, turkey, hot dogs, meat balls; something yummy that your dog rarely gets, so meeting new people is the best thing ever. With your dog on leash, give these treats to the person they are meeting, asking them to just throw the treats on the ground at first, with little to no eye contact, presenting their side to them, while tossing treats. Then, tell the person, the dogs name and ask them to say their name, while tossing a treat. If the dog looks happy, invite the person to ask the dog, name first, to sit, offer the treat with an open palm. Tell them NOT to pet the dog until you feel that your dog is comfortable and then tell them not to pet the dog on the head but offer a hand for them to sniff and then perhaps pet under the chin. Petting isn’t something dogs crave from new people, so be watchful of their body language to make sure they are comfortable. Promise them, you’ll give them a cleaning wipe when their done. If all goes well, continue to offer treats and drop the leash and invite them to sit for a cuppa joe or a glass of water. All of this will be explained before the session begins. Tell them that the first introduction will be about 20 minutes and subsequent introductions will be less and then invite them for a drink at least once a week. Do this at your home/yard and their home/yard.
The dog in the image above is not comfortable with this greeting. The Look Away is the first sign dogs offer about their emotional state. Look at all the body parts talking so that you can be your dogs best advocate and keep everyone safe.
In order for peace and safety to be respected and honored where we live, please make sure that these introductions happen, sooner than later. Being proactive can mean the difference between feeling like a prisoner in your own home, for all parties involved, including the dogs.
About the author: Jill Breitner, is a professional dog trainer and dog body language expert loving and living her life on the west coast of the USA. She is the author of Dog Decoder, a smartphone app about dog body language recommended and used by veterinarians, shelters, trainers, educators and guardians worldwide. It’s available in iTunes and Google play. Jill has been teaching gentle handling/basic husbandry skills to clients and their dogs for 40 years, to be your pets advocate for a happier and stress free life. She also does online dog training, worldwide. Join Jill on her Dog Decoder Facebook page