My last four Patterson Irrigator columns have described why and when DINOS (Dogs In Need Of Space) react the way they do when their space is invaded. I also shared how I anticipate reactions by reading a dog’s body language. Soon we will be ready to put all this knowledge about DINOS to practice.
Before examining how we humans should act, however, I’d like to establish some ground rules for our interaction with dogs in general. Having these as a standard part of a relationship between people and dogs will make life easier for DINOS and their owners.
Ground Rules For Dog Lovers:
You do not have a right to pet someone’s dog without asking for permission. As a dog lover it may seem odd or impolite not to reach out and pet a dog, but as an educated dog lover you will find that it becomes a habit to ask for permission. I never try to pet a dog that indicates it’s not ready. It goes without saying that children need to be taught never to pet a dog without asking for permission.
Conversely, as owner you have a right to ask someone not to pet your dog. Your job is to keep your dog feeling safe. Have a plan in place if a person refuses to listen to you or a child comes running. Read your dog.
Don’t assume all dogs love being petted. Some dogs love it; some do not. Mutual happiness will come from asking what the dog wants. If the dog wants petting, you can make both of yourselves happy by doing so. If it doesn’t want petting, it would be selfish to take your pleasure but leave the dog, and perhaps owner, miserable by doing so. Read the dog.
Not all dogs love to play with other dogs. The same rule applies for petting someone’s dog. Ask permission of the owner before letting your dog approach another dog. As a DINOS owner you can ask a person to keep her dog away from your dog. Be prepared if the request isn’t understood. Read your dogs.
Don’t assume the owner of a DINOS understands his dog is stressed, or that she knows how to help her dog. You may have to modify your actions to meet the needs of the DINOS if the owner needs help.
As the owner of a DINOS, assume most dog lovers don’t understand DINOS. If you know your dog might go over threshold, don’t feel embarrassed if you need to move away from the area to avoid a doggie meltdown. If luck prevails, ask a dog-friendly person to give you time to set up a training opportunity so your DINOS leaves the encounter on a positive note.
Both DINOS owners and the dog loving public have in their power to improve a dog’s emotional and social behavior ... or not. Because dogs are increasingly perceived as part of our families, we expect them to negotiate our social and physical world politely and confidently. Polite, happy and secure dogs are more likely to be cherished by families in forever homes. Aggressive, reactive and terrified dogs often cause distress for the owners and public and, sadly, sometimes a broken bond.
As with children, “it takes a village” to raise a good canine citizen. We all can be part of the village.
In the next column I’ll offer some handling suggestions that will help a DINOS feel safe.