How to Greet a Dog
I continue to be amazed at how parents will let their children run up to a stranger’s dog and essentially shove their face near an unknown dog’s face never thinking that the dog could bite their child. I was thinking this at an event at Publix grocery store where we were collecting money for the Lion’s club and a mom had just shoved her stroller next Coach’s face so her daughter could pet him. Sigh.
It also came to mind the other day when I was on the lower division side of school which houses pre-k through 5th grade. Coach had his coat off, which hardly ever happens over in lower because I would normally be mobbed. Nicely mobbed, but mobbed all the same.
This time, the hallways were clear and I noticed that there were two girls who were standing and staring at Coach.
“Did you want to pet him?” I asked. They nodded and walked over. Southeastern Guide Dogs requires that all of our puppies sit to be greeted and that they remain calm and gentle. If they are not calm and gentle, we are to stop the greeting and remove the puppies. There are a couple of reasons for this.
- You don’t want puppies to get the idea that biting on people who are greeting them is acceptable. When the puppy goes to grab your hand or arm, the proper response is to cease all petting, to actually, “remove all affection.” I would use that phrase so much with my last puppy that when he went to be bitey the students would say in unison, “Remove all affection!” and lift their hands in the air. The absence of attention gets the puppy’s attention. That’s what you want. Biting = no petting. Licking or being sweet = lots of loving.
- You should be putting your puppy in a sit stay to greet people and getting them used to the fact that in order to have people pet them they need to be calm. Allowing them to walk up to people and then jump is unacceptable. Always make sure your dog is ready to greet and in a sit.
Which brings me to my next point which I haven’t seen written about much, but is critical.
Do not be afraid to tell people what to do and what not to do
- There have been many times when I have had the coat off of Coach and a couple of the high school girls have come in and seen him naked (which is what we call him when he has his coat off! 8-). Some of them will immediately emit a sound that only dogs can hear it is so high pitched and run squealing towards him. That is when I stand and put out my hand like a traffic cop: “STOP!” They stop in their tracks. All is quiet. “Be calm.” If it is essential for the dog to be calm, it is also essential for the person to be calm as well!. Pet the dog softly. Don’t smack them on the head. Scratch them under the chin and the chest. Concentrate on petting the body. It’s better to leave the top of the head and ears alone. You never know if a dog has dominance issues or has an ear sensitivity or might have an ear infection that day.
Back to My Story
So, my two little lower division girls came over and I put Coach into a sit. But he was being a bit of pill and he bit at the leash. The one girl said, “I’m a little afraid of dogs.” The other girl nodded. Coach was yanking at the leash and being silly. He was NOT calm.
I looked up at the girls. “Ladies, let’s do this another day. I want him to be really calm for you and he isn’t having a good day. Can we do that?”
They both nodded and ran off happy. I was happy that Coach hadn’t inadvertently cemented a child’s fear of dogs. Now we have an opportunity to try it again and get it right. When he is calm.
Last Rule: Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
- I know it sounds mean, but if your dog isn’t acting right, seems cranky or out of sorts and someone wants to pet him, say no. You are not doing anyone any favors by saying yes. And it might be a good time for a nap.