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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Forcing dogs to meet strangers

When I was a little girl, I remember going to see my grandpa in a nearby
town. He would always want a hug and kiss. I liked my grandpa but he had
very rough razor stubble; and I found the ordeal quite painful - like
hugging a thorny rose bush.

Others might not have had a stubbly relative; but I bet many can recount
memories of a great aunt who pinched their cheeks just a little too
hard, an uncle who smelled strongly of alcohol, a second cousin who
messed up their hair, etc..

We put up with it because we liked our relatives or because we were
expected to put up with it, or because our parents would punish us if we
did complain, or maybe the relative who smelled like cigars gave us a
dollar or two. But we never really enjoyed those experiences (well I

*Why do we put our shy dogs through the same type of thing?*

Actually what we do is worse.
Instead of being loved on by a pushy relative once a month or once year,
imagine if your parents took you to the grocery store several times a
week and let strangers rub you all over. And you were expected to not
complain about it at all. Or maybe you did start off complaining but
that just made your parents invite more strangers to rub you all over -
because you had to "get over it" or "get used to it."

Even gentle strangers can be very scary for a shy dog. But one big
problem of pushing our scared dogs onto strangers is that *strangers are
unpredictable *. You might ask them to give your dog a quick chest rub,
but they might grab your dog, hug and kiss your dog, even pick your dog
up. If your dog complains (growls a bit), the stranger might even hit or
kick your dog. � setting back any progress or maybe even injuring
your dog.

*Some folks let strangers touch their dogs because they don't want to be
rude to strangers*. But by being nice to strangers, we are hurting our
dogs. Besides, I'm sure the strangers could find a nearby shelter where
there are plenty of dogs who would love petting.

*Some folks feel like they have to get their dogs used to strangers for
those times that intrusive people will pet their dogs without

1. We can avoid most intrusive people by not putting ourselves in
situations where we can't move away quickly. Although it's nice when we
can bring our pets with us, it might be best to not go to farmer's
markets, pet stores, pet expos, etc.. Additionally, we sometimes have to
be rude to people to get them to move away.

*2. What about those times when someone just sneaks up on our pet and we
don't have time to get away?* Forcing our dogs to get touched by
strangers won't prepare our dogs for these intrusive people.

Back to the grocery store analogy. Imagine having to get rubbed by
strangers over and over. Pretty soon, you'd start getting concerned
about all strangers, you might even start becoming afraid of the grocery
store or even getting in the car to take a ride to the grocery store.

The same thing happens with shy dogs. *Our dogs would feel much less
apprehensive about strangers if they didn't have to worry that they
might have to interact with them*. And they might be better able to
handle those few times when an intrusive stranger does approach. But
once again, if we are careful, we can avoid most intrusive people.

*3. Some folks force their dogs to interact with strangers because they
want their dogs to not be afraid to pass by people on the street.* Once
again, our dogs will feel better about strangers if they know they
aren't required to interact. Forcing our dogs to interact just makes
them more afraid.

*Are you trying to "fix" your dog? Make him/her not shy anymore?*

If we have dogs who are afraid to live with us, just nervous being in
their own skin, then we do need to help them. But liking lots of
strangers isn't a requirement for a dog. Some dogs just aren't hard
wired to be accepting of people outside of the family. � This goes
for so called "normal" dogs and shy dogs.

More on fixing dogs here:
<> > and here:
<> >

*But my dog approaches people*

Approaching does not equal requests for pets. Some dogs approach
strangers because they are assessing a threat. Some dogs approach out of
curiosity. Some approach strangers because that is what they think they
are supposed to do � since their guardians have forced them to do

*This is also the danger in asking strangers to treat your dogs.* The
dog will go forward for food, but won't always begin to feel better
about the stranger. The dog gets too close then doesn't know how to
leave (or cant' leave because he or she is stuck on a leash)

More on that here:
<> >

*Some people feel that by not forcing dogs onto strangers we are
coddling them*. But what we are actually doing is keeping them safe. And
we are letting them know that they can count on us to protect them.
Keeping our dogs safe can help them feel less fearful not more fearful.

Forcing our dogs to interact can even cause aggression. See more about
that here:
<> >

*Keeping scary strangers away from our dog will not increase their
If we let our dog get very close then drag our dogs away by the neck
while the dog is still assessing the threat, then yes, this can create
fear, frustration, maybe even aggression. So we just have to be careful
when we out that we don't become that up close and personal with

*But I'm an extravert and I like talking to people.*
Your shy dog is not an extravert. Sometimes we just have to work with
the dog we have. We can make our social life and our time with our dogs
two separate things. When we want to socialize, we can go out alone.
When we are with our dogs, we just need to spend time with our dogs.
They would appreciate that.
Even "normal" dogs enjoy quality time alone with their pet parents.

<<Is your dog *allowing* or *tolerating* petting?>> If so why?
"Allowing" or "tolerating" is not the same as enjoying.
If the dog is not enjoying it, then why allow strangers to do it? There
are so many things that our dogs do have to tolerate (like vet visits
and thunderstorms), why push them when it is not necessary.

*Other references:*

Does your dog really want to be petted?:\


> >

Suzanne Clothier's video on safety:
<> >

Letting Our Dogs Be Individuals:
<> >

Dog are not public property:
<> >

Dogs in Need of Space:
< <> >

Leslie McDevitt's "Control Unleashed" videos and books and
her Pattern Games video:\


> >

Grisha Stewart's "Behavior Adjustment Training" <>
< <> > /

Note: some might say that we can't compare dogs and children. But
anyone who has studied psychology knows that the laws of learning apply
to all creatures.

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