How To Approach and Pet a Dog
All Dogs Need Personal Space
This weekend, I went to a fun Cavalier King Charles Spaniel gathering. It’s always so much fun to meet other dog parents who are spending quality time with their dogs. Group dog events or gatherings ideally consist of dogs who are social and friendly with other people and dogs. This, however, does not mean that the dogs at the dog event don’t deserve the same courtesy as a dog you have not met before, and should be greeted the same way.
First, I will say that this group of Cavaliers and their doggie Moms and Dads are a wonderful group of people and dogs. There weren’t any issues, everyone had a fun day, and nothing went wrong – no dog fights, biting, etc. But it just reminds me to continue talking about dogs and their need of space, and what we can do as dog parents and dog lovers to help all dogs with their space needs.
Dog professionals often suggest you shouldn’t be anthropomorphic when trying to figure out what your dog is doing or communicating. Wikipedia defines anthropomorphism as the attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities. It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology. I get it – dogs are not humans. However, dogs do have emotions, and I believe we certainly can consider an action and reaction and run it through our own thought process on how we would feel if that happened to us.
So let’s consider our personal space in a few scenarios. Think about how you would react in these situations.
- You are walking down the street and your best friend comes running up to you and gives you a big hug.
- You just were released from the hospital with 12 stitches on your chest and your friend comes running up to you and gives you a big hug.
- You are walking down the street and a person of the opposite sex you were introduced to five years ago comes running up to you and gives you a big hug.
- You are walking down the street and a person you do not know comes running up to you and gives you a big hug.
As you can see from the few scenarios above, you are likely to respond differently to each situation, and you are likely to have different emotions attached to those responses. Now, think about how your child, spouse, or best friend would react to the situations above. I bet they would be different reactions. Ah, see? People have different ways of coping with situations, and have different comfort levels.
Everyone has a different-sized bubble of space they feel comfortable with, and the same holds true for our dogs. Some people and some dogs are extroverts and enjoy the fast-paced interactions of other people or dogs, while others need a little more space and time to warm up to a situation.
Just because your dog may not enjoy another dog or person rushing him, jumping at his face, or barking at him does not mean your dog is unfriendly, it just means your dog is normal and has normal emotions. So the next time you greet a dog, with or without your personal dog, remember to offer both dogs plenty of space and allow the more reserved dog to make the first move. If at any time a dog looks uncomfortable (read fearful dogs), back off. When in doubt, give more space.
What kind of bubble do YOU have? Tell me in the comments.
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