I felt compelled to write this post after seeing so many people violate what should be basic rules of dog etiquette, and also hearing so many people express their opinion that dogs should basically tolerate pretty much anything short of a beating without reacting negatively. Many really do believe that they should be able to harass dogs at will without consequence. This is simply not fair to dogs and a recipe for disaster for dogs and humans.
While we claim to be a dog friendly and dog loving country, it seems like that is not quite the case. Rather it seems there are a group of people who truly care for dogs enough to understand them and incorporate them into their lives, a larger percentage that like dogs but don’t take the time to understand them, many more that are ok with dogs as long as they “stay in their place”, then those who may or may not tolerate dogs but really don’t like them.
In contrast, I spent some time living in Paris, where I did observe the ideal symbiosis between man and dog. Dogs are a fixture of Parisian life. They are in shop windows, sleeping on the floor in restaurants and bars, and hanging out in beauty salons. They stay where their owners work and are such a common sight in Paris that I never once saw anyone feel the need to go up to one and pet it. It’s like every Parisian has an understanding that you don’t go running up to a dog minding its own business and pet it anymore than you would go running up its shopkeeper owner and pat him on the head. This is the understanding I so wish people would get here. Respect their space.
Here are some basic rules, but if in doubt, if you wouldn’t do it to a strange person, don’t do it to a strange dog.
10 Dog Etiquette Rules
1. NEVER ever run up to a strange dog to pet it. Most dogs will tolerate it, but I’d say most don’t really enjoy it either. I’ve had people pop out of nowhere in front of my German Shepherd in ways that alarmed and startled me not to mention a dog. Don’t do it!
2. When you get permission to pet a dog, don’t reach your hand out OVER his head. Dogs find this intimidating and threatening. Rather, stand slightly sideways and extend your hand slowly, palm up, UNDER the dog’s chin.
3. For the love of everything holy, PLEASE never stick your face in front of any dog that you don’t have a trusting relationship with.
4. Do not blow in a dog’s face to tease it unless you really want to reshape your nose.
5. Remember to show SMALL dogs at least as much respect as you show big ones. Small dogs are cute, but they very often do not want to be petted. Small dogs tend to be too cute for their own good. Everyone wants to pet them and many of them absolutely do NOT want the attention. As with bigger dogs, the rules apply to little dogs too.
6. Ideally, don’t walk up to strange dogs at all. Let them come to you if they wish. If they don’t wish, then don’t force your company upon them.
ADDITIONAL RULES FOR CHILDREN: If you have a dog and children, you MUST teach your children to respect the dog and treat it properly. Children should always be taught how to treat dogs and should be supervised until they reach an age where they understand and can be trusted.
7. Your dog should have a kennel in a room where it can go to be left alone and rest. When the dog goes to this place, children should leave the area and let the dog have its quiet time.
8. Children must be supervised to ensure they are not playing too roughly with a dog. Make sure young children do not throw hard objects at the dog, hit the dog, etc. (I have seen it, so I’m putting it in here).
9. Teach children not to make sudden and threatening moves at a dog. This can trigger a defensive reaction and a bite.
10. Just use common sense and be observant. Watch your dog’s and other dogs’ body language. If you pay attention you can tell when a dog has really reached its limit and needs its space. Each dog is different, so learn your dog and make sure you are giving him the respect he deserves.
I really wish people would simply observe basic etiquette with dogs and respect their space. The incident of dog bites, like the one in Home Depot not too long ago would not happen. Many many people resent the presence of dogs and believe dogs should stay in the backyard “where they belong.” Many have very strong opinions that they should not have to observe any etiquette with dogs. They feel it’s an inconvenience to them and since dogs are animals, they humans should not be forced to change any habits. They strongly believe, and often express in less-then-friendly terms that if us dog owners would just keep our dogs where they belong (in the back yard locked up), their lives wouldn’t be disturbed by pesky dogs in public. Their answer to dog/human interactions gone wrong is to simply keep dogs away from any public locations. We, as dog owners who strongly feel that dogs deserve better than that, and who have dogs that are part of our lives, have to educate others and socialize our dogs well (meaning yes, taking them into public). Unfortunately, the more dogs are banned from public, the less socialized they become. It’s a vicious cycle.
In conclusion, take your dogs out as many place as you can to socialize them. Patronize as many dog friendly places as you can. We need dog friendly businesses to stay in business. And if your dog isn’t a big fan of the random petting, don’t lock him away, take him out but make sure he gets his space. Protect your dog from unwanted advances. As he gets more comfortable, let people give him a treat. Let’s work to keep dogs part of our outside society by not giving the dog haters any more ammunition and keeping it fun and safe for everybody else.