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...

3 comments:

Violet said...

I can very much relate to this. I want a vest for Violet that says, "Do not approach. In training." Violet is the rare case where I allow jumping up on strangers. I don't allow it with my other dogs. Just as you said, the training is modified to fit the needs of the dogs. Since Violet has demonstrated fear aggression toward people, any time she offers a happy-dog greeting to a stranger, I tell her how wonderful she is, even if that means she put her paws up on them. Eventually, when she starts approaching every stranger with wagging tale and enthusiasm, I'll correct the jumping, but for now, I'm trying to help her develop the constant positive and happy mindset.

As for strangers approaching and trying to pet without asking, it's a huge concern of mine. Like Abbey, Anubis is the party-boy. He once broke the nose of a very sweet woman who leaned over him just as he was jumping up. I won't make him sit because that's just too darn awkward for a greyhound, but I do ask that people wait to approach until he is calm. With Violet, it's very important that people allow her to approach them. If they do that, then she will most likely adore them, but if they invade her comfort zone before giving her a chance to check them out, she gives a warning bark, and I assume it could lead to a dangerous situation of not heeded.

All this to say, YES. If people would just ask before petting and approaching the dogs, everyone will have a better and safer experience. :-)

Sirius Republic said...

Guinness behaves like Jake and Violet combined when meeting strangers. He would back away first then if the stranger ignored his signal and continue to approach to pet him, he would let out a warning bark. But if the person gave him time and some space, he would warm up and eventually end up doing the "drillies", which is his way to show affection for the person by first resting his head on the person and then begin "drilling" with his long snout into the person (funny he needs personal space but doesn't give others any).

Chilly is more aloof with strangers, she's fine with people trying to pet her, but unless that person has treats for her, she doesn't care much for the petting.

So we definitely appreciate people who take the time to learn about our dogs when meeting them. But if they don't, Guinness usually is the first to tell them off.

Two Pitties in the City said...

Abbey sounds just like our Miss M! I have a problem where I'm walking the two of them together and they look really nice and calm so people think it's ok to pet them. Then, Miss M freaks out because it's so exciting that someone pets her, and she will turn and try to play with Mr. B and they stand up like bears and it looks like they're fighting. When I'm with the 2 of them together, I just try to avoid people. But E did make a good point, is it better that people do want to try and get to know our pitbulls rather than walking away and thinking poorly about them? It's just trying to find a good balance between training the people about how to act. I do like your 'drug fix' comparison.