A lady is walking a small dachshund cross in a fairly busy park. The dog is showing clear signs of being uncomfortable with the environment; tail tucked, tense body with the whites of the eye showing and constantly scanning surroundings. The lady seems oblivious to her dogs experience of the park, and happily walks along sometimes dragging the dog with her.
A child walks over to the lady and politely ask if it was ok to greet the little dachshund cross. The little dog tenses up even more and tries to back away from the child as much as the lead allows. The lady happily obliges: “Of course my dog loves children!” As her little dog is doing his best to get as far away from the child as possible, the lady grabs him and lifts him up so the child can pet him. The dog is rigid with tail tucked even further between his legs, and doing his best to look away from the child. The child pets the dog with enthusiasm and the lady encourages saying: “Oh, he really likes that!” At this point the dog has started to shake. Luckily something else has now caught the child’s attention and she runs away from the dog, which ends this encounter. The lady puts her dog back on the ground and continues her walk happy as ever.
This scenario, unfortunately is an everyday occurrence for many dogs. Many dog owners are not aware or do not understand their dog’s body language. As we expect the dogs to learn at least some of our language, should we not return the favour and learn some of theirs? They share our lives and our homes, so would you not like to know how they feel?
Next time you are out for a walk with your furry friend and you are approached like the lady before, please check with your dog to see if he is happy to say hello. It just might be that he would prefer to have a good sniff from a distance and walk on without physical contact. Remember you are your dogs defense and he relies on you!