A few days ago my good friend Lauren from ZoePhee wrote a great post about Dogs Not Liking Hugs, and it - along with a truly awful experence at the beach on Friday that I will get to shortly - inspired today's post. I wanted to talk a bit about what it's like to have a small dog that people tend to treat as a free for all when it comes to touching, and why I no longer allow strangers to interact with my dogs.
As a whole, people are absolutely terrible about interacting with dogs, both their own and strange ones. Joe Blow does not give a damn if a dog is uncomfortable, so long as he can paw at the dog to his heart's content. And people wonder why there's such an epidemic of dog bites....
It happens to all dogs, of all breeds and sizes. However, in my experience it is so much worse with a small dog. When I had Roxie, our foster pit bull, almost no one came up to us and NEVER touched her without permission, even though you couldn't find a sweeter dog than Rox. Similarly, when Layla (Mastiff) was still with us no one tried to pet her, and usually gave us a wide berth, even though she was a puppy and very friendly.
On the other hand, everyone makes grabby hands at my small dogs, no matter what I say to them. It doesn't matter if they're not engaging with the person, if they're behind me, if I'm blocking them, or they're being carried. People see small dog and instantly think that they're allowed to manhandle it as much as they please.
I've had people try and pick my dogs up, grab their leash and try and tug the dog towards them, tug at their ears or lift up their feet, try and lift them onto their back legs, ect and it makes me so furious. It's dangerous and stupid.
Any dog can bite. A small dog is still a dog, and dogs are not robots. Any dog can have an off day, even if they're well trained, well bred, and well socialized. Not all dogs like being pet by strangers, and many don't enjoy the way most people pet dogs (right on top of the head, ect). When a dog is throwing so many signals that she's uncomfortable, the person needs to respect that and back off, not continue to push the dog into something she doesn't want to do.
After Friday's incident, I'm no longer allowing strangers to interact with my dogs. No petting, no holding, trying to call them away from me. Nothing. It's not because my dogs are unfriendly. They're stable, sweet, and easygoing for the most part (Pike...it depends on the day). It's not because not because I'm scared they'll bite, for their risk is minimal. However, it's important to remember all dogs can and will bite if pushed far enough.
It's not even because I don't like people (well....;)). It's simply the fact that my dog is my priority, not total strangers.
Here are 5 reasons why:
- I'm not running a petting zoo. It's not my job to fulfill someone's asinine need to touch things that don't belong to them, and my dog doesn't need to be on constant display.
- I know my dog...but I don't know the person. I know my dog well enough to gauge how she'll react to most situations at any given time. I know when she'll be okay with someone and when she really won't be. However, I don't know this stranger wanting to get their hands on my dog. I don't know how they'll react, and that's not a gamble I'm willing to take. Just because they tolerate it doesn't mean they should have to.
- I'm covering my own ass, even though there's almost no risk of anything happening.
- Most strangers make my skin crawl when they touch my dogs. It's the strangest and most uncomfortable situation, and I hate it.
- As mentioned early, Joe Blow Public has no idea on proper dog handling and body language. I'm not putting my dog in an uncomfortable situation when it's not necessary. My duty is to my dog's safety and comfort, not someone else's enjoyment.
Of course there are exceptions, like when my dogs genuinely want to interact with someone and that person is agreeable (the pups are the best judgers of character, I swear), or when we're around dog savvy people (like BlogPaws, which Nola enjoyed and made several friends). Family and our vet team of course have full access, if the dogs are agreeable - and they always are.
Another worthwhile reason is injury prevention. When strangers roughly grab at my dogs legs or ears, yank at her leash as hard as possible to pull her to them, or god forbid try and pick her up, there's a risk of injury to my dog. She is 9.5lb, and her breed is prone to back issues. Pike's one front leg is weak due to his regrown dewclaw removal surgery, and the subsequent issues that happened. Lachlan is a baby, with puppy-breakability.
It is entirely possibly to still be a good breed and dog ambassador without serving my pups up on a silver platter. They are well trained, calm, quiet and focused while in public. I would personally much rather see a trained dog connecting and engaging with its owner than shoving itself at everyone for outside attention. While out and about, I need my dog's focus. Strangers do not.
So there you have it! That's why I say no when someone asks to pet my dogs, and if they do it without permission or ignore my no...well, I'm not afraid to let them have it. ;)
So what about you? Where do you stand on strangers and your dog? Do you have any stories about people ignoring your dog's cues?
- Dachshund Mommy