It’s almost dog bite prevention week, so I want to talk to you guys about one of the keys to reducing dog bites (as well as making life better for your dogs all around):
You need to stop caring what anyone else thinks about you and your dog.
If you do this, you will free yourself up to make better choices on behalf of your dogs. When you make better choices, you are setting your dogs up for success in our crazy world. And when you do that, they are less likely to get into trouble which they will wind up paying for big time.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Stand up for your dogs. Be assertive in protecting your dog’s physical and mental health, as well as the safety of those around them.
2. When you’re not sure if your dog can handle something, always err on the side of caution.Choose management over “I don’t know, so let’s find out!”
Dogs need us to do both of these things more often, so that they don’t feel like they need to take matters into their own hands teeth.
Obviously, dogs need lots of other things from us to: socialization, training, proper management, and a never ending supply of peanut butter that they can roll around in like it’s a canine version of that scene in Indecent Proposal. People also need to learn how to read their dog’s body language, understand stress and fear, and not screw their dogs up in general. But we’ve covered that before, here and all over the web.
What I’m talking about now doesn’t really have all that much to do with the dogs. It’s about us humans and how uncomfortable many of us are with being forceful, direct, and making unpopular choices that we’re afraid will make people not like us. This is causing some problems for our dogs.
Too often we choose not to speak up for our dogs, even as things take a weird turn. We recognize that our dog is uncomfortable with the hyper kids running circles around them. We suspect that the unfamiliar dog approaching our dog isn’t as friendly as their owner is claiming. We don’t know if our dog is ok with the cleaning lady entering the house while we’re gone. But we allow it anyway.
We allow our desire to be perceived as friendly or nice or easy going to override our own gut instincts or what our dog is trying to tell us. Our desire to be liked – to avoid being seen as unfriendly or rude or “bitchy” - is powerful stuff.
It’s so powerful, that humans will choose to ignore their own instincts and proceed into potentially dangerous scenarios, just so they don’t make a bad impression.
Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear, says that unlike other living creatures, humans will sense danger, yet still walk right into it. “You’re in a hallway waiting for an elevator late at night. Elevator door opens, and there’s a guy inside, and he makes you afraid. You don’t know why, you don’t know what it is. Some memory of this building—whatever it may be. And many women will stand there and look at that guy and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to think like that. I don’t want to be the kind of person who lets the door close in his face. I’ve got to be nice. I don’t want him to think I’m not nice’.” More on that here.
If we’re willing to walk right into a metal box with a stranger that totally scares us just so we won’t be seen as rude, imagine how difficult it is for many people to be assertive on behalf of their dogs with nice folks at the park, their neighbors, visitors, family, and friends. We’re willing to deny our fear around murderers. It’s no wonder we’re not comfortable speaking up for ourselves around people we pass on a dog walk.
The problem with our discomfort is that dog bites often happen when we are:
1. In denial about our dog’s limitations and/or their behavior issues. To be.....................READ MORE