As someone who studies the behavior of dogs and people, I am a very keen observer when it comes to humans with dogs. I see things sometimes that are down right disturbing that the average person wouldn’t give notice to. Just like if you are a house painter you can see discrepancies all over the place.
What doe it mean to “advocate for your dog”?
I always tell people when we are “talking dog” to be the parent, and always, always advocate for your dog. So what does that mean? Let’s dig in.
Dogs are emotional intelligent animals. They have many, many feelings and emotions that we have. This has been studied and proven. So, of course, they just “don’t like” certain situations, people, dogs, food and more. They have made associations with many things and if one time a big black dog scared your dog, then they might now bark at all big black dogs to keep them away. So while you could work on this issue with positive reinforcement and counter-conditioning training, you can also just avoid big, black dogs, right? And it’s not that big of deal, is it? But doing nothing in the presence of big black dogs will make the fear in your dog possibly worse and also your dog might develop a mistrust for you in those situations.
Harnesses – the oh so important piece of equipment
One topic that I seem to cover daily in the RV world is harnesses. Why they are so important. Well here’s one reason that plays into the topic of advocating for your dog. If you have a small dog, you should always be prepared to be able to lift them in the air if a dangerous situation arises. If you are on a collar, you can hurt the dog doing so. If you have a harness on your dog, you can basically fling your dog into the air safely away from harm. I’ve done it with my previous Jack Russell Terrier and saved her life from a dog that intended to tear her apart.
Why are humans embarrassed to say “no my dog doesn’t like X”, and just leave it at that? I saw a situation recently where a dog who was clearly very uncomfortable with other humans was pushed into almost biting the other human because the owner did nothing. Now I’m very sure that his owner knew that her dog did not like strangers approaching her. But for whatever reason, the owner just stood there while the dog backed up and lunged with air snaps as a man tried to pet the dog 4 times. Then the man finally stepped back and the dog ran around to his back side and nipped at his calves. The dog was so stressed at this point. The man tried once again to pet the dog, at that point, I had been walking with my dogs toward this situation, I yelled “hey, hey” and the man stopped and walked away. My heart was racing, I was worried that I was going to witness a bite to the face of the man. In this situation, the appropriate behavior for the owner of the dog would have been to say “no my dog does not enjoy being petted by new people”. And if the other person persists with “all dogs love me”, say “NO thank you” firmly or just walk away. Don’t give in to the social pressure, you know in your heart what is right for your dog.
Should my dog like everyone and everything?
Why is it that some people believe that their dog should like every dog and human and every situation? You don’t like everyone, or talk to every person you pass each day while, neither should your dog have to endure meeting total strangers and new dogs all the time.
Please don’t pet my dog!
I witnessed a lady at dog park recently where the dog was so miserable and trying her best to get away from the other dogs. The dog owner was more interested in talking with the other human beings. Her dog would go up to her person and “say please, can we leave”. I said something like “hey your dog is trying to get away from all the other dogs, really uncomfortable”. The owner said, “she’s fine”. So what might happen in this situation is that the dog will become dog aggressive and up the ante and start growling, barking and eventually fighting other dogs off. The dog is giving very clear signals, but no one is paying attention. So this is a good example of no one is “advocating for this dog”.
When you are out and about on a leash walk, not meeting dogs is the best course of action for some. Many dogs feel compromised by the leash and sometimes it’s just best to not meet other dogs and it’s OK to do this. Just say something like “sorry, my dog is not up for meeting new dogs today”.
An example of advocating for your dog:
Let’s say you have an older dog. In this scenario, you probably know the dog really well, so you know that they don’t see as well, or maybe they can’t hear very well, or maybe the dog dislikes puppies. So helping this senior dog so that they can navigate the walk, letting them know when there is another dog approaching and steering them in a different direction when a puppy is approaching would be the charitable thing to do right? What’s not appropriate is letting the puppy maul the older dog. That’s just not humane and the older dog might snap at the puppy, creating a negative association for the pup.
Putting a dog in a situation where the dog feels they have to defend themselves creates a loss of trust with you and also the other person or dog. Many dogs get pushed into the situation of saying “I’ve been telling you that I don’t like “X”, but no one listens to me, so now I will have to really show them I’m serious.
Dog body language, important to know.
Dogs use their body language to communicate and learning basic body language is key to understanding your dog. Check out this chart created by Lili Chin of www.doggiedrawings.net
This website and App Dog Decoder is a great way to learn some body language of your dog and also others that approach you.
You know your dog’s quirks and fears, so help them navigate the world so that they can feel safe and protected by you but also make good decisions and positive associations.
I once had to hoist my dog in the air to “save” her from a scary dog approaching fast. I could have broken her neck if that had been her collar. Things can be very unpredictable on the road, it pays to stay alert. Thanks for some good reminders.
Juliet Whitfield says
Thanks for visiting Carolyn, it truly is important to stay alert.
What a really great post! We should all be advocates for those we love and who cannot verbally or mentally express their wishes. This means we have to be in tune to the non-verbal communications. I have recently been adopted by a neighbor’s (neighbor is in agreement) 16 year-old cat who was trying to get away from the other cats and dogs of the home. This meant that my planned adoption of a dog would be put on hold. Whether my choice, or not, I have become this sweetheart’s advocate. Thanks for the advice.
Good advice for everyone. But especially for those of us constantly traveling to new places. We don’t have the benefit of knowing the history of every person and dog we meet.
Just yesterday a dock introduction turned sour when I thought my husband was supervising. I think he felt that a greeting between golden retrievers could not be anything but peaceful.
I’ve learned my lesson: be the primary advocate for my dog even when other family members are nearby.
Juliet Whitfield says
Yes, you are so right! Everyone needs to know their dogs needs, likes and dislikes and help our dogs be successful in the world. I get caught off guard too and miss things between the dogs because I talking with the people. I’ve learned my lesson that I need to make sure the dogs are separate when meeting new people and chatting. Thanks so much for visiting and the story.
Great post….being an advocate for one’s dog is so important. When people, especially with their dogs, insist on “meeting” my dogs i start with a polite “please don’t come close” if that does not work I tell them my dogs bite. A bit over the top but it works. I usually get a stare and sometimes an unkind remark but that’s OK.
Juliet Whitfield says
Hey Sandy, I think it’s totally ok to be over the top, some people have a hard time hearing “please don’t pet my dog”. I have to do it daily with Mick. They think I’m crazy until he then growls at their dog, which is what I was trying to prevent in the first place. Oh well, we’ll just go down as the crazy dog ladies!
Great read! Thanks for writing! I shared it! My dogs are BIG and there is no picking them up so I have to stay aware when others are around. They aren’t aggressive but they are not fans of being forced to be social or being caught off guard.
Juliet Whitfield says
.Hey Hendrix’s Mom, a great example of advocating for your dog. Big dogs need protecting too! Thanks for stopping by.