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Sunday, August 18 2013


From time to time strangers cross our paths, and through inattention on our part, we forget to show our appreciation for the sunshine they bring. Such was my case today.

Although I enjoy PetsMart, I rarely take the opportunity to shop there, thus a trip to PetsMart is a treat for the dogs. Because we have so many dogs, only a chosen one or two get to go.

Briar - Nope, except to go to the vet, she never leaves the farm.
Ranger - No, strangers and shopping carts? His idea of hell.
Ice - No, slick floors. Ice has the "linoleum gene."
Aja - Only once, to try on boots for work, and then it took three police officers to protect Aja from the curious public who believe a police dog in public should behave like a stuffed animal.
Cowboy - from time to time he goes
Trace - He should go more regularly, but he is more interested in working stock.
Dillon - sometimes
Lily - ALWAYS! (Princess goes EVERYWHERE with Mommy!)

Today however, Dillon was The Chosen One.  He was quite excited, but on his best behavior. We shopped. We avoided children. We avoided other dogs. Dillon was stressed, but having a good time. His shopping cart was full of beef bones and stuffed toys, and he had controlled his urge to lift a leg and mark things. (which is why I like FEMALE dogs!)

We were just approaching the counter when our stranger appeared. She was a sweet woman who politely commented on how handsome he was and asked to pet him. Since Dillon is normally the friendly sort, but was a bit stressed, I told the lady that it was up to Dillon, as he was a little overwhelmed by everything at the moment.  The lady talked to him nicely and put out her hand, but Dillon ignored her. He gave her the classic, "look past" look. 

This can be interpreted as "I see you. I don't wanna see you. I don't want to make a scene or anything, but I'd rather you just went away, so I'm gonna pretend I don't see you."

Now this situation can be played a couple of ways:

(1) Force the dog to endure the stranger. This can result in either:

     A. Unhappy Dog is violated by total stranger. Dog loses trust in handler. Dog no longer feels safe in public.
     B. Unhappy Dog growls at stranger. Handler jerks dog. Dog loses trust in handler and no longer feels safe in public.

Or . . . .

(2) Handler recognizes the look and advises stranger the dog is stressed and shouldn't be approached. This can result in either:

     A. Stranger is offended. Dog trusts handler to take care of him. Dog feels safe in public.
     B. Stranger is not offended. Stranger recognizes "the look" also. Stranger continues to talk sweetly to dog and tell him "Maybe another day." Dog feels safe in public. Dog feels safe enough to happily eat cookie offered by store clerk. Total experience: Positive for dog.

Now fortunately, our stranger was a dog person who recognized the look and not only did not push herself into Dillon's space, but wasn't offended. This interaction gave him the confidence he needed to interact positively with the next person he met in the store. It was a positive learning experience for him. I wish I had taken the time to thank her profusely for her behavior. How a dog is treated in public can shape his entire outlook in the future. I never allow people to push themselves onto my dogs. Although I try to be polite, my attitude towards the public is this:

"My dogs are not here to amuse you or your children. I do not rush up to your husband, pet his head and gush about how handsome he is, so please don't push your attentions onto my dog. Rude is rude, whether it is a human or a dog. If you ask, and he wants to approach you and get his ears scratched, then that's okay."  (this doesn't apply to husbands.)  I don't allow my dog to drag himself into your space, so I appreciate it if you don't push into his."

Dogs are like people. Some are gregarious, and some are more reserved. As a puppy, Dillon was more social. As an adult, he is reserved with strangers, and it behooves all of us to respect that. The world is just a happier place when we respect the space and rights of each other.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 06:27 pm   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
I never (NEVER) approach a strange animal (dog OR horse) without asking permission first. If the animal approaches me, that's ok......but it's on ITS terms, not mine. I never feel bad if the handler says no....
Posted by Diane I. on 08/20/2013 - 12:00 PM
Love, love your blog!! "I do not rush up to your husband, pet his head and gush about how handsome he is, so please don't push your attentions onto my dog. Rude is rude, whether it is a human or a dog." Priceless!!! I used to have a toy poodle. People have no respect for small dogs . . .small dogs in the arms of its owner. A lot of people were educated right quick. The hard way. Then looked at me like it was my fault. I'd usually ask, "If I was holding a Rottweiler, would you have reached out to pet it without asking?"
Posted by Shelly Castille on 08/20/2013 - 02:28 PM

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