A Nagging Thought

By Lynn –

This is v2.0. I personally liked v1.0 better, but since it got eaten in the teh intertubes, I had to retype it. Same basic message, same snark, just…not as good. Enjoy anyway.
In reading through Suzanne Clothier’s book, she has a few pages deicated to the concept of a dog pulling its owner along on a leash. She mentions, and I paraphrase…

When we see someone dragging a dog behind them, it is cause for an argument of cruelty. Yet when a dog is in front of the owner, dragging him along with a possible accompaniment of hacks, wheezes and coughs because of the tight collar, all of a sudden it becomes normal, accepted and OK.

I think a lot of people call it ‘being a dog.’ I’d go so far as to say that this is an excuse to make up for a lack of training or motivation to train the dog, but I’ll draw the line at the owner who knows differently and is actively searching on how to make ‘being a dog’ into ‘being my dog.’

It drew me to how we raise (raised?) children. We teach them society’s rules as well as how to be polite and do something like ask if they want to pet a strange dog. I have been lucky with Mallory so far, and every child who’s petted her at the park has asked my permission first. This gave me a moment to explain to them how she likes to be petted, as well as warn them that they’ll inevitably get a SLURP on their hands. There’s nothing like a dog and kid team who’s happy because they’re doing things right.

And then there are times when I take Malgal for her walk, quite deliberately close to or during off-leash hours at the park. I take advantage of the potential distractions as well as the presence of children and their toys so she not only learns to work under some distractions, but also continue to learn that all the wheely things that kids ride aren’t out to get her. (This is why summer should be a dog trainer’s dream: between the multitudes of dogs outside and the noise from urchins not in school, there are more then plenty of distractions!)

Despite our common cultural thinking that dogs are our children, they are most supremely lacking in the major manners that most people try to teach their progeny, the least of which is to simply ask before allowing their dog to come up and stick their collective nose up my dog’s butt. I know this is simply how dogs do things, but sometimes I do not WANT their dog’s nose in my dog’s butt. It is rude, and when I’m obviously walking her at a tight heel and keeping her attention on me, the least I deserve is the “Is it OK if my dog approaches yours?”

Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to have a dog that socializes with others, and Mallory does get her playtime. It’s just not the first thing on the agenda.

Unfortunately, adding this requirement will also bring upon me the stigma of having a dog that doesn’t want to interact, whether for aggression or fear or any other reason. I don’t have an aggressive dog, despite the pinch collar. My dog is most certainly confident in herself and presents herself as the queen bee when approached. I am not afraid of other dogs that might try to come up. But as usual, if their dog is denied the opportunity to interact with mine, a majority of people it seems will do some quick critical thinking that will last about a second, and as often happens, come to a conclusion that is simply wrong.

So if our dogs are indeed our children, since they cannot ask for themselves whether or not they can approach, let’s do it for them. It is not OK to approach every dog anyway, and I personally make a point to walk on by another dog no matter what, and if it looks safe and the owner is interested, I will ask if it’s OK that they sniff. It is simply etiquette and I know I’m not the only one who does it…am I? How come it is OK, even required that a child ask to approach any strange dog, yet we just let it happen when it’s between two dogs? The same outcome can still happen, and the same people will still be upset because something happened against another dog, and “Thank heavens it wasn’t a child!” That’s probably because the child ASKED and was warned of what would happen otherwise.

And as an added bonus, let’s start teaching them the manners we (or at least most people) expect out of our human children. That means no temper tantrums when things don’t go the way they want, and things to play with during downtime so they don’t run amok and destroy everything short of…well, everything.