Spokesdog's Canine Couch
A journey about dogs and their people by Diane Rich
|Record Setting Year|
|Seattle Humane Society completed a record-setting year with 6,937 lives saved! Pet adoptions also hit a record high in 2013, with 6,403 dogs, cats and critters placed into loving homes and 128 pets returned to their owner.“We save lives and help complete families, but we don’t do it alone,” Seattle Humane CEO David Loewe said. “Our 1,900 volunteers donated 210,000 hours to help pets in need in 2013. Our community stands beside us every step of the way and we couldn’t do it without them.”Additional highlights from 2013 include:• Nearly 5,647 pets at the shelter received foster care in the homes of nearly 600 volunteer foster parents. They tended to underage puppies and kittens who required round-the-clock bottle feedings; senior pets who needed a break from shelter life; and pets recovering from surgery.
• Nearly 8,000 surgical procedures were performed at Seattle Humane Society’s veterinary clinic, including 2,309 pets spayed and neutered through our programs for low-income families in our community. This program is critical to Seattle Humane Society’s leadership efforts to reduce pet homelessness and suffering.The Seattle Humane Society is setting goals to help even more pets in need and to save more lives in 2014, Loewe said.“The animals are counting on us, the community depends on us, and we will be there for them,” he said.
|About the Seattle Humane Society
Seattle Humane Society has been awarded the coveted 4-star rating by Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator for the fifth consecutive year! Founded in 1897 to bring people and pets together, Seattle Humane Society provides incredible companion animals for adoption 7 days a week, pet workshops and training, a pet food bank, a low-fee spay/neuter surgery program, humane teen club, a visiting pets program and more.
The Journey to the Dog Show of Dog Shows
Ch. Channahon’s Kikiah Tyee, CM, call name Oscar will be on his first plane ride to New York with junior handler, Anna Jane Pearson in February. Oscar is a Chinook, one of 3 new breeds now recognized by the American Kennel Club. I had the opportunity to interview Anna who resides in Western Washington.
Anna won Best of Breed at the Chinook National in December 2012, photo above, out of 30 Chinooks entered. Oscar was the first male to finish and the only Chinook on the west coast with a Championship.
I wanted to learn about Anna’s journey, how she got started showing dogs and how she first connected with the Chinook. Anna’s mother has a kennel and has been showing and training Australian Shepherds since 1975 so it is not surprising that Anna caught the handler bug. She said, “I have been showing since I could walk in the ring at 2 years of age.”
Kismet may have contributed to this matchup. I choose to believe in a little bit of kismet, peppered with some luck and then knowing what to do with the opportunity. So how did Anna and Oscar meet? Anna’s mother teaches conformation classes at a facility in Monroe, WA. and one day at a class Anna noticed Oscar and introduced herself to his owner. This meeting of owner and a determined junior handler had a dog show future written all over it.
Anna volunteered to help train the dog and offered to show him. This Chinook was 2 ½ years old at the time and the breed was still listed in the miscellaneous group. Anna took him to dog shows in Washington, Idaho and Oregon.
Fast forward to the breed’s recognition by the AKC in the working group, Anna’s BOB (best of breed) win at Nationals in 2012 when he was 4 years old and off to Westminster they will go in February. There are 4 Chinooks competing at Westminster this year.
New York, Exciting New York
This will be Anna’s first time in New York so I asked her what she wants to see and do outside of prepping for the ring. She and her mom will do the tourist thing and see the Statue of Liberty, the 911 memorial and she wants to be in the audience at the Katie Couric show. Prior to the dog show, she will accompany David Frei, the co host of the Westminster Dog Show for some media opportunities which may include a photo shoot at Central Park.
As a trainer I had to ask Anna about the breed’s temperament and what family would be a good match for this breed. Anna told me the breed is loyal, friendly with people, and intelligent. Some dogs in the working group may be a little aloof with strangers but Anna told me Oscar was not aloof. She also said the Chinook is “an endearing breed” and picked up training very quickly. How could he not with Anna as his trainer. According to the AKC, the Chinook is not a protection breed and does not make a good guard dog.
Anna adds, the Chinook is a powerful breed that would be best suited for an active, athletic family who can meet this breed’s daily exercise needs and is experienced with dogs. The breed is intelligent and wants to learn so training and socialization should begin early. Anna suggests the breed is best suited for families with older children. The Chinook is not high maintenance with regard to coat care but does shed, so brushing is important. The males can weigh 80-100 pounds and females 60-80 pounds.
Fun Facts about the Chinook According to the American Kennel Club:
1. Chinook means warm winter wind in Inuit
2. The Chinook is one of the few American dog breeds, bred in New Hampshire
3. The Chinook was bred from Mastiff types, Shepherds and the Greenland Husky
4. The breed was created to pull a sled which with New Hampshire winters could be an asset when car travel is impossible
Recognition of a New Breed by the American Kennel Club
I did not know how a breed becomes eligible and recognized by the AKC so went to our own Ranny Green for the answer. Ranny is an award winning writer about dogs, was a long time columnist for the Seattle Times and is a member of the media team at Westminster. More about Ranny in an upcoming blog.
Recognition of a breed can be years in the making and some of the criteria for recognition by the AKC includes; generations of breeding must be documented, a national club must be in place and meet strict AKC requirements and there must be sufficient interest in the breed throughout the U.S.
Many breeders, handlers and trainer’s lives revolve around dogs. I wanted to know about Anna’s future goals. She was clear that she wanted to continue with her mom’s kennel and do some professional handling. Anna said handling dogs is not going to be a full time profession as she wants to go to school to become a lawyer. She said she has fulfilled the requirements to become a Junior’s Judge in AKC and eventually wants to become a breed judge.
Anna asked me to include a link to help her fundraising efforts with expenses at Westminster and I am happy to provide that link. The link also provides more information on Anna.
I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Anna. Good luck at the show!
Some pet parents are very clear about what they are looking in a Veterinarian; someone who is empathetic, kind and interactive with their animal, doesn’t rush through exams, knows how to work with a shy, nervous, anxious or cranky patient (the dog), politely answers your questions and is skilled at their job. These owners want a connection and will drive miles out of their way to see a trusted Vet as it makes them feel their dog is in great hands.
Other dog parents seem quite satisfied with a Vet who has a clinic within close proximity to them so they do not have to drive too far. They are satisfied with a general overview of their dog’s health. These owners hand the dog off to a tech or staff person and sit in the waiting room until their dog is returned to them. They ask few questions, pay for services rendered and leave the clinic. This person doesn’t love their dog any less than the person who wants to be part of the whole process of their pet’s health care,. They may just feel when told all is ok that is good enough or may feel a little intimidated by their Vet or the environment.
For those new pet parents looking for a Vet or for those people who think it is time to make a change, here are some tips:
1. Recommendations are key. Ask a friend, your breeder, foster care volunteer, shelter personnel, dog trainer, groomer or pet sitter who they would recommend. On line reviews may be a start but don’t be taken in by glowing reviews as reviews are not always legit.
2. Look at the clinic’s website as to what services they provide and hours of service.
3. Is the clinic privately owned or owned by a corporation? Is it a clinic where you can establish a relationship with one Vet or will you get the first available Vet on any given day? The end result may be satisfactory but the fee differential between a private practice clinic and a corporate owned clinic could be an eye opener. Although some privately owned clinic fees could also make you flinch when you are ready to pay your bill.
4. Is the clinic a member of AAHA, American Animal Hospital Association? This membership indicates the clinic has met certain criteria and standard of care.
5. Is the facility clean? Cleanliness should begin in the parking lot, continue through to the waiting room and exam room. Unless you ask for a tour you will usually not see the operating room and pre op or post op areas
6. Is the clinic’s business model by appointment only or do they take walk in clients on a first come, first serve basis? Which do you prefer?
7. Some clinics provide 24 hour emergency care in addition to their normal day to day care.
8. You can price shop by phone for some services asking for general rates for routine exams, general dental cleaning, neuter and spay and a fecal float which tests for parasites. You need to ask if the fecal test sample is read in house or sent out to a lab. To compare apples to apples you must ask what the total cost includes or excludes. You may be quoted one general price over the phone for a surgical procedure but that quote usually does not include exam, pre-op blood work or post op care, possible boarding and medications.
9. How many Vets work at this practice? If you need care on your Vet’s day off will you be taken care of?
10. Is front desk staff congenial and are you treated with respect? Vet practices are usually very busy, phones ringing, techs and assistants checking people in and out or getting your pet from you for weigh in before taking them to an exam room. Some receptionists and front office staff can handle the pressure and are amazing with clients and patients and others should find another line of work.
11. Do they offer multiple pet or senior discounts?
12. Do you know what a complete exam should include? Some Vets do the bare minimum to get you in and get you out of their exam room and other Vets take time to make sure they offer your pet a full nose to bum to feet exam.
13. If you parent a purebred dog you may feel more comfortable with a Vet experienced with your breed
Are You a Good Client?
If you can find a Vet you like it is helpful to be a good client. Be on time for appointments even though your Vet may be running late. If your Vet is continually late you may want to nicely discuss it with your Vet rather than getting angry with the staff. If the tardiness continues for reasons outside of emergencies, you may want to look around for another clinic.
When our furry family member is sick or injured it is very easy to feel helpless. That total dependence on your Vet to “fix” a condition, help you decide on expensive pet care or even help you decide on when that right time is to put the end to your pet’s suffering can be challenging. That feeling can bring out all sorts of emotions. Your Vet doesn’t have all the answers. And some Vets have better animal skills than people skills. Finding that right Vet or staying with a Vet is a personal decision based on what is most important to each individual pet parent. You are not married to your Vet so staying or going to another clinic is in your hands.
c Diane Rich 2014
Many Vets have the dog weighed prior to an exam
Some Vets are amazing and go beyond the norm and even when exhausted from their busy day, take their personal time to contact you to see how your pet is doing after a procedure. That is rare. If you find one of these Vets, hang on to them.
An Interview With David Frei
David Frei, the director of communications and co-host of The Westminster Kennel Club’s
All Breed Dog show said “this event is more than just a dog show, this show is a celebration of the dogs
in our lives.” I had the opportunity and great pleasure to talk with David Frei over lunch yesterday
about this prestigious event.
David became the host of this exciting dog show in 1990 when he resided in the Seattle area. His new job
meant commuting back and forth from the NW to NY so in 2002 he decided to move to New York.
Largest Entry to Date
This is Westminster Kennel Club’s 138th year presenting an all breed dog show with the largest entry since 1990 of 2845 entries. Add to that the first ever Master’s Agility Championship and NYC will host more than 3000 dogs or 12,000 paws in February.
David told me that Westminster will be televised live on the west coast which is another
first for Westminster. Look for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on
February 10th at 5p.m PT on CNBC and February 11th at 5p.m. PT on the USA channel.
If you miss either of those times the show will be repeated at 8p.m. each of those days. Other options to catch the show would be live streaming video on the website and on the Westminster app, and social media.
The Northwest is home to many breeder, owner, handlers and this year out of the 2845 entries for the all breed show, Washington State has 73 entries.
David mentioned the new breeds accepted by the American Kennel Club are :
1. The Chinook
2. Rat Terrier
3. Portuguese Podengo Pequeno
Purina Pro Plan, Fox Sports 1 and Westminster are teaming up to present the 1st Masters Agility Championship on Feb. 8th, the Saturday preceding the prestigious all breed dog show. It will be on Fox sports 4-6p.m. PT.
To find the channel location of Fox sports 1 in your area, log on to:
http://msn.foxsports.com/other/story/find-fox-sports-1-on-your-tv and enter your zip code and cable provider. The Masters Agility Championship is open to dogs competing at Excellent or Masters level. The agility event at New York’s Pier 94 is the opening act on Westminster weekend. The Masters Agility Championship has 225 entries, 6 entries coming from Washington State..
Although AKC is a registry of purebred dogs, the Masters Agility event is accepting what AKC calls, All American Dogs a new title that defines the mixed breed category at this agility event. Lori Sage, a north westerner from Oregon will be one of the judges.
The breeds not yet accepted by AKC that will compete in the Masters Agility competition are the Miniature American Shepherd and the Spanish Water Dog
1. Entries in 187 breeds
2. Labs, the most registered AKC breed since 1991 has 76 entries
3. Entries have come from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 13 foreign countries
4. New York has the most with 272 entries
5. California follows with 239 entries
6. Canada leads the foreign entry with 115
7. Entries from outside the U.S.A include Mexico, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Italy just to name a few
8. Westminster has been televised since 1948
9. Best in Show will be judged by Ms. Betty Regina of Texas
10 Breed groups include Toy, Non-Sporting, Working, Herding, Hound, Sporting and Terrier Groups
Show Dogs are Real Dogs
David would like the public to realize that “show dogs are real dogs with real lives” when not competing in the show ring. They don’t just sit around looking pretty and primped waiting for the next dog show. If you think about it, a human athlete outside of practice and the sports season actually has a life. Show dogs, when at home get to kick back with their people, play fetch in the back yard and some are registered therapy dogs putting smiles on the faces of individuals who benefit by unconditional canine love. Truth be told, show dogs have naughty moments, shed on clothing and furniture, steal food off countertops, sleep on the sofa or their person’s bed and yes, some may even drink from the toilet.
Your Dog is Best in Show
So whether you share your life with a purebred or All American mixed breed dog, sit back enjoy the Westminster Dog Show and Master’s Agility Championship, root for your favorite canine and hug the dog you’re with. As David Frei beautifully states “the dog that shares your couch and your life is truly the Best in show.”
Westminster website is: www.westminsterkennelclub.org
Or Is It?
With regard to dogs, separation anxiety or S.A. is a psychological term used to describe behaviors presented due to a pet’s stress and anxiousness brought on by separation from that pet’s owner or caretaker.
The behaviors presented can be mild to severe. A severe case could be one where the dog cannot cope with her person being out of site at all, follows that person from room to room and falls apart if that person leaves them alone at home or sometimes alone in a car.
Some pups or newly adopted dogs may present mild S.A. behavior in their new home. As they become more comfortable in their new surroundings they learn to manage quite well without being their person’s shadow. A mild case that can become a more severe case could be a situation where the dog is fine as long as that person is somewhere within the home but when that person leaves the house, the dog’s anxiety level increases to a highly agitated state. Some dogs may cope well if their person leaves them for short periods rather than all day.
Professional Help May be in Order
There is quite a bit of information on separation anxiety online which may give you some guidance to assess your dog on your own. S.A. unfortunately is a common label given dogs that present certain behaviors usually in the absence of an owner. Just because your dog destroyed a pair of your favorite shoes when left alone, that particular act may not mean your dog suffers from S.A.. So, if the dog is misdiagnosed as other variables are not included in the total evaluation process and the owner opts out of professional help and behaviors become unmanageable, that dog unfortunately may find its way to a shelter.
A Few Behaviors That May Be Related to S.A.
The behaviors owners believe are due to by S. A are usually barking, howling or whining heard when that owner is just outside of their home. Or upon returning home, the owner may see the dog has had accidents in the house or destroyed anything from a shoe or dog bed to chewing through drywall. The owner may even hear from neighbors, or by an anonymous note the dog has incessantly barked or howled for hours on end.
Is S.A. inherited, a trait more common in certain breeds, a behavior the dog developed before the new owner purchased or acquired the dog or something an owner inadvertently created? Pet parents who find it endearing to have an overly attached dog contribute to this problem.
For the answers, my suggestion is to talk with an experienced Veterinary Behaviorist or a trainer who is a behavior expert so you can get an accurate evaluation of the dog and an evaluation of your relationship with the dog. Otherwise someone could just slap a label on your dog and may make suggestions that either will not work or could exacerbate the problem.
Why is it imperative for a pet parent to get an accurate evaluation from a behavior expert? If an owner punishes their dog for behaviors that the dog presents due to stress and anxieties the condition usually worsens.
Your Vet may recommend medication to help calm the dog in your absence but if the Vet just throws a pill at the problem without referring you to a behavior expert you and your dog will most likely fall short of a successful outcome. The medication may take the edge off, but meds alone will not help the dog learn to cope with specific anxieties without the implementation of a sound behavioral modification plan that is monitored by a specialist. You may be able to find a Veterinary Behaviorist in your area who can not only prescribe medication but give you a specific behavioral modification plan and will closely monitor results.
No Quick Fixes
I have worked with S.A. cases for many years and find it incredibly rewarding to help dogs learn to cope with their environment and everyday life. I am hopeful if your dog has been carefully evaluated by a behavior expert who finds that the dog does suffer from separation anxiety, you have the patience to see it through with their help. There are no quick fixes. Improvement or total success will take as long as it takes with a proper diagnosis, treatment plan, tweaking the plan if necessary and your due diligence and love.
Should you parent a dog with separation anxiety I wish you good luck and patience.
Socialization for humans is defined in part as a process providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within his or her own society. Socialization for pups seems to be generally defined by many dog lovers as the act of meeting and playing with other dogs. I would like to elaborate on that definition.
Your Pup and A New Life
I have always defined socialization as a full circle process whereby the pet owner calmly and confidently exposes the pup, without force to new sights, sounds, smells in various environments. Included in this important process is giving the pup the opportunity to meet and play with appropriate, social dogs. In addition, the pup should be also exposed to a variety of people which includes supervised introduction and interactions with children.
This time sensitive socialization process also needs to include giving the pup access to different surfaces to walk on indoors and outdoors, objects to climb on or over or through like an agility tunnel, a raised platform or even boulders to summit.
The first two car trips may be a bit intimidating to a new pup. The first car trip is usually to your home which is a new environment. The second car trip is usually to the Vet. So frequent, fun car trips can help put a new pup at ease. The pup should ride in a crate that is secured to prevent it from tipping over.
Window of Opportunity
Some canine behaviorists state there is a small window of opportunity to get the new pup acclimated to life. That short window is up to 12 weeks of age. Other behaviorists state the window for exposure is by 16 weeks. There are some breeders who hold back a pup until that 12th week , so if this is the case, you will have some work ahead of you to play catch up.
Can socialization after the 12th or 16th week make up for lost time, sometimes yes and other times not so much? I have worked with many older pups and dogs of all ages with limited social skills that found their way into the shelter system or made their way to a foster home. I have also worked with older pups and adult dogs that stay with a breeder past their 16th week for one reason or another before that dog is sold. If the owner understands how to help this new addition, confidence can improve through proper introduction to all aspects of their new life. Either way patience, love and understanding without pity will help pave this road.
Critical Points To Remember:
- Socialize and make it a fun, positive experience
Dog lovers want to pet, hold or love on a pup. It is best to set limits during these interactions so the pup isn’t overwhelmed by too much stimulation. If the pup is over stimulated too often s/he could develop behaviors at some point such as avoidance or withdrawal around people leading to a fear of people. Fear is one underlying factor that may lead to aggressive behavior towards people or other dogs
- Understand the pros and cons of early socialization with other pups
Some Vets are still adamantly opposed to puppy classes for pups with only one or two rounds of vaccinations. However, Vets who specialize in behavior such as the members of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior believe that “it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated.” The reasoning behind the statement is weighing the fact that dogs presenting behavioral problems are dumped at shelters, and proper early socialization and training may help prevent behavioral problems and shelter overload. So, you may want to weigh the risks of early exposure against potential behavioral issues down the line.
- Puppy Classes
When properly run puppy classes can be a wonderful learning opportunity for your puppy. If you attend a puppy class the trainer should require proof of vaccinations and a recent fecal test with a negative result.
- Class Size
It is best to find a trainer who offers small classes and manages the social interactions when it is time for puppy play
c Diane Rich 2014
- Purchasing a pup from a breeder
If you buy from a breeder, find one who handles the pups from birth and offers some type of enrichment in their environment.
- Socialization should to continue into adulthood
Happy Neuter Year!
Seattle Humane Society & PetSmart Charities team up for Happy Neuter Year
| Get your male dog or cat fixed for just $20 in January. The Seattle Humane Society and PetSmart Charities® are joining forces to provide low-fee neuter surgeries for dogs and cats belonging to income-qualified pet owners in King County. Pets receiving the surgery must be at least four months of age. Each pet will also be given a free microchip identification, and vaccinations will be available at $10 for cats, and $15 for dogs as part of this special package. This discount is for males only.Neutering actually improves a pet’s health! The surgery eliminates prostate cancer in males, and has many other benefits too, such as making pets less likely to roam and get into fights.If you have an unaltered pet or know someone who does, make an appointment online today at seattlehumane.org/fix or call (425) 649-7560. For a list of Happy Neuter Year particpating organizations, please visit http://bit.ly/petsmarthny.Speaking Woof,
Diane Rich Dog Training, LLC
ABOUT SEATTLE HUMANE
Seattle Humane Society has received the coveted 4-star rating by Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for the fifth consecutive year! Founded in 1897 to bring people and pets together, Seattle Humane Society provides incredible companion animals for adoption 7 days a week, pet workshops and training, a pet food bank, a low-fee spay/neuter surgery program, humane teen club, a visiting pets program and more. Seattle Humane Society is located in Bellevue, at 13212 SE Eastgate Way. For directions and more information, visit www.seattlehumane.org or call (425) 641-0080.
ABOUT PETSMART CHARITIES®
PetSmart Charities, Inc. is a nonprofit animal welfare organization that saves the lives of homeless pets. More than 400,000 dogs and cats find homes each year through our adoption program in all PetSmart® stores and our sponsored adoption events. PetSmart Charities grants more money to directly help pets in need than any other animal welfare group in North America, with a focus on funding spay/neuter services that help communities solve pet overpopulation. PetSmart Charities is a 501(c)(3) organization, separate from PetSmart, Inc.
From a Pup’s Point of View
cDiane Rich 2013
Pups are so darn cute and begin life as innocent beings. They learn so much so quickly. Some of their mischievous behavior and time intensive requirements may make you question your sanity as to why you brought a pup into your life but then they give you that look, you know the one and you melt forgetting why you were upset.
c Diane Rich 2013
From the mouth of canine babes, here are some tips for the New Year to help puppy parents understand life from a puppy’s point of view.
1. Please have realistic expectations when I am going through puppyhood. I know you think I am being naughty on purpose, in most cases I am just being a puppy. Teach me.
3. Be patient with me, I am trying to understand what you want. Yes I can be a handful sometimes, so can you.
4. I forgive you for your mistakes, please do the same for me.
6. I want you to know that I don’t miss a thing. My new life is about observation, exploration, testing myself and oh by the way testing you, too.
7. To me your shoes, socks and underwear smell like you. You are my person so it is comforting for me to chew on them when you leave them around.
8. I love it when I have a thing in my mouth and you run after me flapping your arms like a bird, making loud noises and breathing hard, you are a bit scary at that moment but seem to want to play with me
9. I am not sure why you keep touching me when I eat or why you take away my food and then give it back to me. It makes me frustrated sometimes and I am learning not to trust you around my food
10. When you walk me and attach some new thing to me that stops me from enjoying new smells it confuses me that you are not enjoying these smells too. And, you are so slow. Hopefully you can keep up with me.
11. I do not understand why you play with me so rough and seem to be having fun then get angry with me when I play rough back
12. I do not understand why when you are angry with me you grab me and hold me down on the ground until I stop squirming. I cannot remember what I did and you are scaring me. When I grow up and am stronger, you’ll see how it feels to be treated so badly
13. I don’t understand why you leave me all day, alone. Come home and seem to be happy to see me, and then leave me again. I need you, you are all I have.
14. The place you took me to with so many other dogs coming up to me so quickly scared me. I wanted you to help me but you were busy talking to another human. I am learning not to trust you. I hope we don’t go back there.
15. I like humans but am not sure why humans come up to me and stick their hand out or get in my face. It makes me feel very uncomfortable sometimes and they don’t seem to understand me when I try to tell them that what they are doing scares me. I needed your help but you pulled me over to them making me get too close. I am learning not to trust you.
16. I really liked it when I did something that seemed to make you talk and act happy. Thank you for letting me know I pleased you. I like that.
17. I am confused when you ignore the things you used to like that I did so I am going to stop doing them.
18. I really love being outside in our yard. I hear what sounds like the name you have for me but then hear you get loud and I think you want me near you. I had to smell a few things but then when I was near you, you yelled at me. I thought coming near you was a good thing. I won’t do that anymore if I don’t have to.
19. I hope I am as good of a hunter as you when I grow up. You always have food for me.
The Dog Lover
It is fun to see people enjoy loving our dogs. Dogs can be a great ice breaker for conversation and your dog gets the added benefit of learning and maintaining good social skills.
Sometimes, however the overly enthusiastic dog lover can undermine efforts a dog parent is trying to create or reinforce with regard to puppy or dog manners when meeting a friendly stranger. Sometimes a shy, nervous, or a fearful dog that is giving clear signals of discomfort to the experienced eye goes undetected by the dog lover who can’t wait to get their hands on your dog.
My Dog My Rules
Consider this subject line as your new pet parenting mantra.
c Diane Rich 2013
Some dog owners are comfortable setting up meet and greet boundaries with their dog and strangers. Other pet parents would rather not offend the stranger and choose to allow that stranger carte blanche access to the dog. Your dog may enjoy the attention from some strangers but also looks to you for protection from overzealous, well intended dog lovers. By not stepping up you could put that stranger at risk if you allow that person access to a dog that does not welcome the attention as the leash prevents your dog’s escape. More importantly, by not managing or preventing an interaction your shy dog can become even more leery and nervous around any future encounters with well meaning strangers.
I believe one of the many ways dogs learn to trust their people is being with a handler who manages the meet and greet from beginning to end rather than behaving as if this interaction is a spectator sport.
I feel like I have seen it all in almost 3 decades as a dog trainer and long time dog parent but suspect there are more surprises just around the corner.
Are any of these scenarios familiar to you?
1. You are out with your dog, enjoying the day and a 4 or 5 year old child runs over to pet or stick their face in your dog’s face and their parent or guardian is either not around or standing and watching from afar?
c Diane Rich 2013
2. You are in pet store or a retail store that allows pets or at a dog park and someone comes up and puts a cookie in reach of your dog without asking permission. Or, the human cookie dispenser is asking permission while the treat is in transit towards the dog?
3. You are in a pet store or retail store that allows pets or walking your dog in your neighborhood and someone comes up to pet your small dog or puppy and without asking permission scoops your dog right off the ground for a cuddle?
4. Your dog is in your car with a window partially rolled down quietly waiting for you to return and you notice some idiot sticking their hand in the car through the window to pet your dog?
5. Susan Clothier, a well known trainer who coined the catch phrase “he just wants to say hi” which provides a great lead in for the following; you note an owner about 10 or 15 feet behind their dog that is on a flexi leash hogging all the real estate and cutting off your access to continue on your path. That dog is allowed to come over to your dog for a sniff without the owner batting an eye. This particular owner feels they own as much real estate as the retractable leash allows. This owner has no idea if your dog will welcome the intrusion.
6. In addition to #5, the owner with a dog on a flexi or regular walking leash allows their dog to pull that handler over to your dog, stating their dog is ok AFTER “he says hi” and when you opt out that person is miffed and educates you on the benefits of socialization?
7. You educate the stranger on petting your pup under the chin or on the chest and due to the dog lover’s selective hearing and expertise they choose to pat your pup on the head then when the pup mouths them the dog lover starts rough housing with your puppy?
9. The stranger approaches your dog and you tell the dog lover your dog is shy, uncomfortable or aggressive with strangers and ask them nicely not to approach. They approach anyway believing if they love dogs, dogs will love them in return. This dog lover follows old school information sticking out the back of their hand so the shy, nervous or aggressive dog can get a whiff.
Dog lovers on either end of the leash are not always observant as to the pup’s body language that will clearly indicate stress or fear upon the approach of that stranger. Forcing a meet and greet with a shy dog is not recommended. An experienced dog behavior expert can guide you properly through positive meet and greet protocol and can educate you how to read your dog’s body language.
10. A stranger asks if they can give your dog a treat and you politely decline. They slip a treat to your dog anyway with a comment or two about how mean you are.
My Final Thoughts
If your dog is well mannered, is everyone’s buddy and you are comfortable allowing strangers to pet your dog and manage that interaction, fantastic. However, if a stranger does not respect your wishes after you nicely state how you want your dog to be touched , or in some cases not touched why on earth would you as that dog’s guardian put your furry family member in a position to tolerate the love of a stranger or even the inappropriate way that stranger chooses to approach, pet or rough house with your dog ? I understand not wanting to be rude to someone but allowing the interaction that may not be welcome by your dog or choosing not to manage that interaction could end up being a problem for all in the near future