This is a PSA post. Right now I’d like to encourage you to see the world through your dog’s eyes, and to approach and treat all dogs accordingly.
I have plenty of clients with dogs that are big and cute. Some of these dogs also, unfortunately, have aggression issues. Frequently the owner will be walking their dog on the street and have to deal with a difficult situation: a neighbor sees the dog, lights up with a smile, and runs across the road to get in the dog’s face and say hello.
Do you ever do this? If so, don’t take offense, but please do spend a moment thinking about why you feel the need to do this. Surely you’ve met dogs before. Surely if this dog passes you by, nothing in your life will change and you will go on having a great day. What do you get out of this? What is to be gained by touching every dog you see?
Because for all dogs—not only aggressive dogs—this experience is absolutely terrifying! Some dogs welcome it, but even those dogs eventually learn that they’re supposed to greet people with huge levels of excitement and energy. Some people feel the need to touch, acknowledge, and even approach every single dog they see, and this just isn’t a fun way for dogs to live. They’re just minding their own business and feeling safe, and then someone gets on their level and puts their hands everywhere. For a solid majority of dogs, this is a nightmare.
Please view all the dogs you come across from this perspective. And if you’re an owner, recognize that this problems compounds when we don’t stick up for our dogs and stop people from doing things to them. The only reason we don’t do this is embarrassment. We don’t want to scold others or tell them “no.” As people, we generally want to get along. But because of that desire, we don’t do anything about this problem, and as a result our dogs get scared and nervous or even develop aggressive habits.
When you’re being accosted (that might sound harsh, but to your dog there’s no difference between getting mugged and receiving this attention from a friendly neighbor), there’s real fear in your dog’s mind. This is a scary situation—and their owner obviously isn’t doing anything about it. This is the reason why so many dogs take matters into their own hands.
Is it weird to tell someone “no”? Absolutely not! If I’m riding my bike and someone tries to touch it, it isn’t rude to ask them to stop. If you have your baby in a stroller and someone keeps getting in its face, it’s not rude to say “no.” There’s nothing rude about asking people not to touch your dog either. I don’t mind being a little bit blunt. I’ll just say “Stop it, get away from my dog!” Other people aren’t comfortable being so blunt, but that’s okay. Just say your dog is “in training” or “working,” or that “you’ll get syphilis if you touch him.” Use any excuse you can!
Whatever you decide to say, you’ve simply got to start sticking up for our dog. Many of the dogs that I work with have so many issues because no one ever took their side. No one ever played the role of their big brother and told other people to leave them alone. Be that big brother for your dog. He’ll thank you for it!