Best Advice I can Possibly Give…
“Be your dog’s advocate.”
That is, I think, the best advice I can give to people with dogs.
“Be your dog’s advocate!”
That is, I think, the best advice I can give to people who are handling dogs with a variety of behavioral issues or special needs.
Being your dog’s advocate will not, alone, rehabilitate a dog. What it will do is protect him/her, keep others safe (if the dog is fearful/aggressive/reactive/etc) and really give your dog a reason to trust you.
We must be our dogs’ voices. I see it so frequently in my everyday life where dogs are screaming that they are uncomfortable, fearful, or otherwise concerned in a situation and their humans do nothing positive about it. They just let the dog suffer through an uncomfortable situation. Equally as concerning is that the owners don’t just ignore the dog who is uncomfortable, they don’t even realized the dog is uncomfortable. Depending on the situation, this could be potentially very dangerous.
This phrase rings in my ears every single time that I see a dog who is fearful during a dog/dog interaction and gets hard corrections or alpha rolled by an ignorant owner. I struggle not to yell, “HEY! Instead of body slamming your dog into the ground, how about advocate for him and keep him safe!” When a dog is barking and backing away from another dog, he does not need alpha rolled. He needs his handler to step forward and make the scary thing go away or get the dog out of the situation ASAP (whatever the situation warrants).
HOW I ADVOCATE FOR MY DOGS:
I do not knowingly put my dogs in situations where there is a good chance that they will fail–when Shayne was very fearful of people and new places, I didn’t bring her to the pet store on Saturday afternoons to shop.
If an off-leash dog is approaching us, I try any number of things to get the dog to go away and leave us alone. I do not just watch awe-struck as bad things happen
If someone is letting an on-leash dog invade my dogs’ space, I can be blunt and rude if I have to be to get my message across that my dogs aren’t friendly (which isn’t completely true but it is more effective in getting the other dog’s owner to listen).
I don’t let just anyone pet my dogs. If the person seems drunk or high or something’s just off… I say no. I don’t want to risk making my dogs feel uncomfortable enough to bark/lunge/snap or practice other unwanted behaviors
I base my decisions of “pet or not to pet” solely on my what my dogs are telling me. If they are indicating that they would like to interact with a person, then I let people pet but, if my pups don’t seem into it, I say no.
If I find my dogs in a situation that is making them overly uncomfortable I do everything I can to get them the heck out of Dodge.
On the occasion there is a breakdown and one of my dogs has a reaction, I take responsibility for failing to manage the situation well enough to allow my dogs to succeed and do my best to learn from the mistake.
It may be a stretch, but I think nutrition and vet care are just two more ways that I can advocate for my dogs. Dogs eat what we feed them and have to accept the medical care offered by the people and I think making educated decisions regarding these two things is an important part of my dogs’ well-being.
(Repost of a blog originally published 10/25/11)