I have been professionally training dogs for about 15 years now. Now my clients can range from 12 week old Yorkshire Terriers, to 4 year old Great Danes. Working breeds, hounds, companion dogs and of course the herding group. You name it; I have pretty much trained it. But regardless of the breed or mix of my canine client, I am constantly astounded by their human counterpart.
Yep. The human client is the one I am usually left speechless with. And you would think that after all these years I would have seen and heard it all, but nope. I am still floored by what some people say. Ok. To be fair, I realize that not everyone researches canine behaviour as much as those that are working with dogs every day. I will give them that. However, as an owner, you should be aware and know what signals your dog is giving you so you can either praise or correct any good or inappropriate behaviour before it become a habit.
I have to say the biggest myth I constantly hear is that your dog loves everyone and would never hurt a fly. Please people, use your heads.
My rules are simple to remember:
1) Your dog is an animal first
2) Your dog is your pet second
As for the question often asked when I take my guys out is if they bite. My answer may sound glib but in all honesty, it is the truth. ‘They haven’t yet, but they have the tools to do so’. This answer is not to project some sort of macho stereotype to any particular breed of dog because, quite frankly, having a dog that bites is not something anyone should be proud of or want in our households. The answer is to make all of us aware that they are animals and we as a society tend to humanize them and forget that fact. Most cases of dog bites are through neglect. Yes, neglect.
WE neglect to see the signs THEY are giving us!
We approach THEM with direct eye contact and usually smiling which means we are baring our teeth. Now stop and think about that for a minute. Picture how we must look to the dog: we are coming right at them, usually directly in front of them and then reach over their heads. Each and every one of these steps every owner should yell NO!! when they see it. Not as a response to their dog, but to the stranger approaching their dog in such an aggressive manner.
Approaching a dog in this manner may get you bitten by even the gentlest old soul out there. Approaching a strange dog for the first time should always be done towards the side of the dog and not head-on or from behind. Second, never maintain direct eye contact as the dog will perceive that as an act of aggression as you are asserting your authority over him and he will feel threatened and may act accordingly. Thirdly, when you do reach out to pet him, present the back of your hand, let him sniff and usually most dogs step in to get more. DO NOT pet the top of their heads. After he has sniffed your hand, turn it and scratch him under his chin and neck, and then you can travel up to the ears and head. To reach over the top of their heads is also an aggressive move. If he were approached by another dog and the dog laid his head across his shoulders or tried to stand over him, the other dog is telling the first that he is boss and the first dog must submit. This can be followed by a scuffle between the two.
This is just a small taste of the different things that WE do every day to provoke a dog to bite. One of the best ways to learn dog behaviour is just to watch them interact. You will learn so much when you take the time to simply watch their behaviour when in the company of another dog(s).
And please remember that dogs don’t see our intentions any different than if we were another dog approaching. We are not special in the fact that we are human and our ignorance will all be forgiven. We must learn how to read what our dogs are telling use. And they always tell us something, every time we see and/or interact with them. The majority of us just don’t take the time to figure out what they are saying.
Copyright © 2012 Sandy Allen/Shadowlands/FireAndIce Reg’d Doberman Pinschers & Alaskan Malamutes/Unleashthehounds blog/Unleash the Hounds Grooming Spa & Training Center/ Sandysvoicebox blog. All rights reserved. Revised: ALL PICTURES AND CONTENT ON THIS BLOG ~ UNLEASHTHEHOUNDS/SANDYSVOICEBOX ~ ARE THE SOLE PROPERTY OF Sandy Allen/Shadowlands/FireAndIce Reg’d Dobermans and Alaskan Malamutes/Unleash the Hounds Grooming Spa & Training Center/Sandysvoicebox, and may not be used, copied or reprinted without express permission from the owner. Copyrighted 2012