Sunday, May 29, 2011

No Petting....I'm working!

We’re currently a semi-permanent three dog family, two of the dogs are our own, we're currently fostering the third. Each of them has their own personality and responds differently to strangers. Abbey (our first dog) is the classic ‘party girl’ who loves to meet new people; but has problems controlling her excitement. Jake (our second) is shy and takes a little time to warm up to strangers. Maddie (Maddision) is our foster dog, he’s been with us for a little over a month. We’re still getting to know Maddie, but so far he appears to be confident around strangers.

We take great pride in how our dogs are seen and perceived in public, and spend considerable amount of time training ourselves, in addition to our dogs. We don’t do the typical obedience training; our training is based on making sure all our dogs behave in a socially accepted manner. One aspect of training that we find particularly difficult is making sure that all three dogs behave and control themselves when meeting strangers. 

With Abbey, training is concentrated on ensuring that Abbey stays calmly sitting when being petted by a stranger. Jake can be a little timid when meeting strangers and so training is centered around making Jake feel comfortable when a stranger approaches. We often ask if the person approaching can approach from the side and/or let Jake approach them.
With Maddie, because he’s a foster and hasn’t been with us for long, we’re a little cautious when meeting strangers. Like Abbey, Maddie can be a little excited and so we’re also training Maddie to stay calmly sitting when a stranger approaches.

When we’re out walking our dogs, we often get people sneaking up behind us trying to pet our dogs. This may not sound like a big deal. However, if Alzbeta is walking Jake and Abbey together, Jake will try and move away from the stranger and Abbey will rush towards them. There have been times when the only direction available to Jake is into the road. So this simple act of trying to pet our dogs can be very dangerous. Especially if you take in to account that Jake is 60lbs of muscle and can quite easily pull Alzbeta of her feet.

We don’t mind people wanting to pet any of our dogs; it’s just that we’d like to have control of the situation, for the safety of all involved. The simple act of asking either one of us if it’s ok to pet our dogs goes a long way. By asking, we’re able to tell them that Jake is shy and needs time to warm up, that Abbey can get over excited and jump up. We’re always trying to create an environment for success rather than failure. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get jumped on my any dog, big or small (clean or dirty). So I’m always amused when some says “it’s ok, I don’t mind” when we tell someone that Abbey can get bouncy and don’t pet her until she is sitting calmly. I wish people would listen and would appreciate what we’re telling them (it doesn't take much to undo months of training!). There are reasons, and very good reasons why we don’t want Abbey (or any of dogs) to jump on strangers. Imagine if all 50lbs of Abbey were to jump on a small child, the child would go flying (literally) and they’d be another report in the local paper of a pit bull attack on a young child.

I do wonder if petting a dog is similar to a drug addiction for some people?

I mean they want to pet your dog(s), yet aren't prepared to wait to hear or obey the ground rules that you set for them. It’s as though they want their (quick) fix and then move on. It can take Jake five minutes before he’s comfortable with someone. We find very few people who are prepared to wait five minutes before they get their dog fix. So they either rush the greeting, in which case Jake could back into road, or simple walk away.

We're interested in hearing feedback on other peoples experiences...