I have a small group that I meet up with once a week to walk and socialize our dogs. This is also a social time for us, so we talk about all sorts of things much of which is dog-related. This week we were talking about the Denver news anchor, Kyle Dyer, who was bitten by a dog on air last week which I discussed in my last post.
Toward the end of our walk, a man approached one person with a German Shepherd. The man said he trained German Shepherds and Dobermans for five years and asked to greet her dog. She said yes. You would think that if this man had trained dogs for several years, he would know better than to do what he did. He came straight at the German Shepherd, grabbed the dog’s face and leaned over to kiss the dog. The owner was caught off guard; fortunately nothing bad happened.
So here is a perfect example of a potentially bad situation. This person gave the owner information that would lead her to believe he has some clue about how to properly approach an unknown dog. Clearly, he did not. What should the owner have done? What would YOU have done?
I would take the lesson learned here and guide people to approach properly. To his credit, the guy did ask to greet the dog. However, instead of simply saying “yes” to the guy, she would have been better off saying something like this: “Yes, you may say hello, but please approach and pet from the side. He can get uncomfortable with people getting too close in his face or leaning over his head.” I want to let people know if it is OK to pet my dog, but I also want to help them understand the best way to do so. This is true in all cases, but especially so if you know certain things that will stress your dog. Even if your dog loves everyone and you think he would never bite, keep in mind that the next dog might not be that way. Let’s take the lead and help people understand how to approach ANY unknown dog.
We, as primates, enjoy showing our affection for others through hugs and kisses. Unfortunately, most canines do not share that same desire. Earlier this week, I saw a few photos posted on Facebook of dog kissing booths for Valentine’s Day. Some organizations use a doggie kissing booth as a fundraiser at events. While I’m sure they select very friendly dogs to participate in these events, this is another case of presenting the wrong idea to the public. We send the message that dogs love us leaning into their faces and kissing them. While some dogs do like this, we should not be perpetuating the myth that ALL dogs enjoy this. We should teach people to NEVER lean in to kiss a dog you do not know.
So, the next time you are out with your dog and someone wants to pet your dog, help them understand the proper way to do so. As I have said many times, the vast majority of bites are entirely preventable if we take a few precautions and listen to our dogs!