Fireworks!

For most of us the 4th of July is a time to celebrate our Countries freedom. But, for our dog’s it can be a day and night filled with terror. So, right now, before the festivities begin, is the time to make sure you can help your K9 Kompanion’s make it safely and comfortably through the holiday.

If your dog has a fenced in yard, do a walk around to make absolutely sure that there are no holes or gaps where he can escape through the fence. I would also look for anything that he might be able to climb on to escape over the top of the fence as well.

Once you’re sure your yard is secure, check the windows and doors in the house. Keep in mind that a even a small dog can escape through a screen if she’s frightened enough. The safest thing to do is to make sure that all windows are closed and locked. If you must keep windows open, keep your dog from having access to those rooms by using a baby gate or closing the door.

Now let’s look at some ways to comfort your dog during the actual fireworks display or thunderstorm. Some dogs do really well with some kind of body wrap, such as a Thundershirt. A Thundershirt is a tight fitting wrap that applies pressure to your dog’s body and has a calming physiologic effect. I’ve found that I get better results by putting the wrap on about a half hour before the event starts. In conjunction with the wrap, I also give a calming supplement. I like Quiet Moments chews. They’re short acting and my girl was always awake and back to herself after about a half hour. For some dog’s, a pheromone spray on a bandana around their neck, their Thundershirt, or bedding is helpful too. If your dog/cat is extremely petrified of fireworks and thunder, please talk to your Vet about some meds to help them cope.

One other thing that you can do for your beloved kompanion is, create a “safe zone” somewhere in your house, in a bedroom closet or under the cellar stairs, where they can go to hide. Setting it up with their favorite blankets and some doggie music will comfort them and help drown out the noise. There are recordings on the market designed specifically for dogs. I have used Through A Dog’s Ear for phobias and to help my dog’s relax when there’s a lot of people visiting. It just sounds like classical music to us, but it’s calming to them. I would suggest practicing with these products ahead of time so that your dog knows what to expect during the actual event. That, in itself will be comforting to him. Take him to his safe zone when there is no noise and hang out there with him. Let him enjoy a bone or stuffed Kong there so that he can build a positive association with the area. Order or download the music now and start playing it for her. That will help her to remember that it’s a comforting thing when it plays during the fireworks. The same holds true for the Thundershirt. Put it on during an average day so that it won’t denote any scary things about to happen. Our Molly used to stand in front of the drawer where I kept hers as soon as she heard a rumble of thunder!

Whatever you decide to use, please make sure that it’s do-able before you actually need it. With a little advance planing and preparation, Rover can be safely riding out the 4th calmly by your side.

Attention

One of the most important behaviors that every dog should have is Attention. In other words, “Look at me”. I see so many dogs totally ignoring their human when they’re out on a walk. And, I see so many humans ignoring their dogs because they’re on their phone or chatting with someone else while their dog sniffs around and maybe eats stuff on the ground, or barks at other dogs, etc. dogs are dogs and will resort to what comes naturally to them unless we teach them how we want them to behave. They are not born with an innate sense of what is polite in human society, nor do they know what we expect from them unless we teach them.

Getting your dog to focus on you is fairly easy, if you start early such as in puppyhood or as soon as your new adult dog comes home. If your dog or pup is giving you direct eye contact, even when you haven’t asked for it, acknowledge them with praise and a happy smile. Call them to you for some pets or maybe a fun game of tug. While training for attention, you’ll want to use some high value food rewards and pay them when you get that nice eye contact. You’re teaching them that looking you in the eye is safe and fun. I prefer to wait my dog out and when they look at me without being lured or asked to I mark their behavior with a clicker and feed them some great stuff. All of these exercises work well at home or in low distraction areas. But, how do you get that attention in the face of all of the distractions out in the big world? Well, you start with baby steps, first at home, then on walks and hikes. If someone, dog or human comes into your dog’s environment, lure or ask for attention from him. And pay him when you get it. It’s helpful if you ask for a sit with him facing you. I talk him through it as well. I use my verbal cue for “Look” and I praise as he keeps looking at me and eating his treats. And depending upon your dog, those treats may need to come every second at first. Don’t expect that he’ll sit there calmly if he’s only getting rewarded every 10 seconds. You’ll need a high rate of reinforcement, especially in the beginning. You’ve also got to be proactive. Don’t wait for your dog to see the distraction and start to become interested in it. If you see it first, start asking for attention immediately, and hand out those treats. If you wait, you will have already lost her attention and once that happens, you can’t be sure that she even hears you yelling at her, because she’s hyper-focused on whoever just happened along. You might also find it helpful to put yourself between your dog and the other being that has come along to act as a barrier so she finds it easier to look at you.

At first, you might not be able to hold his attention the entire time it takes for the distraction to pass by or go away, but with lots of practice and high payouts, your dog will soon be looking directly at you anytime he spots someone coming his way.

He's so Protective...

Most of us have seen it, you're trying to walk past a lunging, barking dog and the owner explains that he/she is very protective. And to the non dog owning public, maybe it does look like a protective dog. In the very least, it probably looks like a dangerous dog. 

At some point in the last four or five decades things have changed for our pet dogs. I grew up in the 70's in our rural area with a protective dog. Our dog was hardly ever leashed or tied out. She went with my sister and me when we rode our bikes, played in the woods or at our neighbor's houses. There were no dog fights, there were no dog bites. She was a Shepherd mix and I've come to realize that we were her herd. She was never far from us as we romped through the woods or fields and if we felt like we were lost, she would lead us home. She was happy and fulfilled. She had a "job" and she was great at it. In all that time, not once did I see her bark and lunge at anyone. So how do I know she was protective? She would place herself between us and any perceived danger. When we went sledding she would grab us by our boots to keep us from going down the hill. When we managed to get free of her grip, she would chase us all the way down, barking and grabbing at us. If we pretended we were hurt, she would come to our aid. My sister once tunneled into a snowbank and built a little fort. When she started calling to me to come see it, the dog jumped on top and frantically began digging to get to her. Of course, there were a few people, usually men, that she didn't seem to care for. But if they came near our house, she would just sit by their vehicle and keep an eye on them. I suppose, if they had tried to exit their vehicle, she probably would have been compelled to do something about it. 

Click on the below link to see a great example of an actual protective dog.

https://laughingsquid.com/dog-protects-girl-in-ocean/

Fast forward from 1970 something to the new millennium, And for some reason people now believe that their dog's are being protective because they put on an aggressive display when someone approaches them while they're on leash. This is simply not the case. A larger than life display of aggression is a dog trying to scare or chase away a perceived threat. Dog's, like most mammals, including humans, will have a fight or flight response to something that frightens them. And also like other mammals, given a choice would almost always choose flight. But, if a dog is leashed to his human he can't run away, so now his only choice is to fight, but because fighting is dangerous and can get you killed, they put on a big, aggressive display in an attempt to scare the other dog, person, etc away from them. Purely "Self" preservation! You may have even witnessed your dog responding to a similar situation off leash, having a completely different outcome, especially if they are free to put some distance between them and the scary thing. 

Let's compare the dog in the photo at the beginning of this article to the dog in the video. Notice the body language of the Doodle in the photo. She's on her back legs because the tension on the leash is lifting her off the ground. Her teeth are showing, her tail and ears are erect, and I would bet that she's barking. Her body language is screaming, "Get Away From Me, or I'll rip your head off!" There's none of that behavior from the dog in the video. He's focused on his little girl, trying to keep her from going into the dangerous water. He couldn't care less about anything else going on around him, protecting her is his only concern. See how completely different the scenarios are? 

So, the next time you're out and about and you notice a dog in a reactive episode, try putting more space between you and them. And if you are the owner of a so called protective(reactive) dog, please seek the help of a force free, positive reinforcement trainer. There's so much that we can do to help your dog overcome his/her reactivity and help you live a more peaceful life with your K9 Kompanion. 

Over Vaccinated and Over Medicated

I think it’s very important to do your research before vaccinating your pets. Do they really need a distemper booster every year? Do they need a Lyme vaccination? What about all these newer shots that your vet might be suggesting, like Lepto? Well, maybe they do and maybe they don’t. A lot depends on your dog and his or her lifestyle. Here’s what the American Veterinary Medical Association has to say about Lepto.

Dogs are most commonly affected. Leptospirosis in cats is rare and appears to be mild although very little is known about the disease in this species. Common risk factors for leptospirosis in dogs residing in the United States include exposure to or drinking from rivers, lakes or streams; roaming on rural properties (because of exposure to potentially infected wildlife, farm animals, or water sources); exposure to wild animal or farm animal species, even if in the backyard; and contact with rodents or other dogs. – AVMA.

 I have a family member whose dog just underwent surgery to remove a rather large mass that was probably, according to the pathologist, caused by an inflammatory response to his most recent vaccine. What was the vaccine? It was for Leptospirosis! There are of course dogs that do need to be vaccinated against Leptospirosis due to their risk of exposure. Hers however, does not! He’s a six lb Yorkie that barely ventures outside of the house. His risk of contracting this disease is slim to none. The risk of injury from the vaccine was obviously much higher! And in my opinion, her Veterinarian should have asked about his lifestyle and risk of exposure before giving the shot. But, more than that, if she was aware of what the shot was for, she could have refused since her dog is at such a low risk. 

The Lyme vaccine is another thing to think seriously about. What is your dog’s exposure to ticks and tick borne disease? The Yorkie I mentioned above probably has about the same risk of exposure to Lyme as he had to Lepto. Learning how to identify ticks and how the disease is transmitted will help ease your concern a bit.  Also, please realize that there are ways to prevent ticks and Lyme that don’t involve exposing your pets to the chemicals and poisons in the spot on flea & tick treatments. The manufacturers of these drugs count on us believing the hysteria of the news media regarding ticks and Lyme disease so they can sell more of their products. The same holds true for Heart Worm Disease. Is your dog on a Heart Worm regimen? Do you give them the meds year round? Did you know that only adult female mosquito’s can transmit heart worm disease? And their life cycle is very short here in the Northeast. In  fact, they only live a couple of months and since they’re cold blooded if the temps drop below 50 degrees, even for one day or overnight, they hibernate or lay their eggs in cold water and die off and the cycle starts all over. In the southern states Heartworm is much more prevelent since the temps are warmer, humidity is higher and it’s a great breeding ground for Mosquito’s. Dog’s that come here from the south that may be carrying the disease CAN pose a risk to our pets since if a mosquito bites an infected dog and then bite’s your dog, they can spread the disease, but again, what are the odds?  If you don't want to have your dog's blood tested every year for Heart Worm, you can keep them on the meds all year, but is it necessary to give your dog heart guard in the middle of January? I don’t think so. Besides, the blood test is probably less expensive than buying Heartguard 12 months out of the year. but that decision is up to you and what you feel is best for your own dog.

 I no longer give my dogs Heart worm meds at all. I use other safer topical repellents instead and limit their exposure during peak season and have them tested each summer.  I know, I’m a rebel. It’s not that I don’t think my Vet’s have my dogs good health and best interest at heart. I truly believe they do. However, their knowledge is limited to what they were taught in school and what they choose to pursue in the way of continuing ed. Most people don't realize that in general, Veterinarian's have very limited knowledge in nutrition and behavior. Unless they specialize in these areas. In which case, they would have a title stating so, such as Veterinary Behaviorist or Veterinary Nutritionist. As some of you may know, I lost 2 dogs to cancer within 6 months of each other that were only middle aged. Both for whom I followed the protocols put out by their vet. Vaccines, flea/tick treatments, heart worm prevention, early spay/neuter, etc. Plus, my Gus had serious health issues throughout his life, seizures, allergies, torn ACL’s, food sensitivities,  the list goes on. And Mike has suffered from Hypothyroidism since he was two! I always say I’m four for four. Four dog's, all 4 with life threatening illnesses.  So, I’ve taken a new approach. I question EVERYTHING. Following Dr. Jean Dodd’s vaccine protocols (http://www.dogs4dogs.com/puppy-shots.htm) I’ve done only puppy vaccinations for Walker, my 18 month old Lab, and will have the vet run titer’s [1]to make sure he’s got amunity to Distemper, Parvo, etc, if he doesn’t we’ll have another round of shots and go from there.  That goes for Mike too. He’s now 8 ½ and since Molly (His littermate) died at 7, I’m very cautious with his health and wellness too.  In addition to all of this, I’ve taken them both completely off Kibble and feed them a balanced homemade raw diet. (But that's a story for another time)

Please keep in mind that this is only my opinion and what I’ve discovered through my own research and quest for better health for my dogs. Information and misinformation abounds these days. All I’m suggesting is that you research your options  when it comes to your dog’s healthcare and nutrition and don’t let yourself be bullied into choices that you’re not comfortable with.

 

[1] A titer test (pronounced TIGHT er) is a laboratory test measuring the existence and level of antibodies to disease in blood.

Fear Period or Fearful Dog

Most dogs will experience a couple of fear periods during their development. One in puppyhood shortly after you bring them home between the age of 9 & 16 weeks. The other during adolescence at around 18 months old. For some dogs, it's not really a big deal. I barely noticed it for two of my past puppies. However, my dog Walker's secondary fear period has been quite noticable. Which sets me to wondering if it's just a fear period. I was laid up last year during most of his early developmental stages and he didn't get as much socialization as I would have liked. He tends to be skittish around some new people we meet in public. Since he's nearing the 18 month mark, he should be on his way out of the short fear period, which makes me think it's more a lack of early experiences that is causing some of his fear. In any case, no matter which is to blame, we are working on spending a lot of time around new people and places in positive ways to help him overcome whichever thing he's experiencing. 

Here's the how to, if you've found yourself in the same situation.  First, don't force your dog to greet anyone that he's shy around. Ask the person to stand still ( I say stand because some people will want to kneel down to the dog's level. A big no no in my opinion), keeping their hands at their sides so that your dog can choose whether or not she wants to sniff them. If she does approach them, they should just stand still until it's evident that she is comfortable being near them. In other words, she relaxes her body, licks their hands, maybe wags her tail. You can give them a treat to feed to her or if she won't take it from their hand ask them to just drop it on the ground for her to find. Don't make her linger there all day. Once the treat has been given, thank them and walk away. Keeping the interaction short after her initial shyness will help her bounce back more quickly. You may notice that she does a whole body shake off after. That's a good indication to you that the greeting was a bit stressful for her. Follow up any greetings of stranger's with lots of food rewards and time to sniff around in her environment. Lowering her head to sniff the gound will have a calming effect on her. Notice how many times she shakes off. She's pressing her "re-set" button to get herself back to a more comfortable state of mind. Don't be affraid to talk people through how you'd like the meeting to go. It's your dog after all. Furthermore, you don't have to let anyone greet your dog if you don't think it will go well. My dog Mike is never allowed to greet people that he doesn't know because he's affraid of new people and in the past has nipped at outstretched fingers. My stratedgy for a non greeting is to start working with my dog as people approach. Talking to him, asking him to heel and watch me as we pass. And not making eye contact with the would be greeter as they approach. People are pretty good at taking social cues from other humans.

How do you get your fearful dog to the point of wanting to greet people? Slowly, in his own time, in small doses. Take your dog to a place where you can see lots of people from a distance. Use the car as your safe place. Sit in the car with your dog in a supermarket parking lot. Reward him for watching people come and go. If he barks or reacts negetively to passing people, move your car further away so that he can still see but not react to passersby. I would only spend about 5 - 10 minutes doing this the first time out. If you're dog is less fearful, you can take him/her on foot to a moderatley busy area or street or park and just sit with them someplace where he can see the goings on but not be forced to interact with anyone. Lots of high value rewards and he will start to think...people = yummy food, and his fear should slowly change to tolerance to comfort around new people. Don't rush him. Patience now, will pay off later when he understands that you've got his back and he can choose whether or not he wants to greet someone.

This information barely scratches the surface and should be considered just a starting point to helping your dog deal with uncomfortable situations. It should be helpful if your dog in going through a normal developmental fear period. However, if your dog is already an adult or has a strong negetive reaction to people or other dogs everytime they see them, please contact me for further help and instruction. There's a lot that happens to our dogs internally as they experience really frighenting situations that may take a lot of counterconditioning and desensitizing to fix. 

Ode to Gus

From the time that little yellow bundle arrived home in July of 2005, my fate was sealed. He took my heart and my soul and made them his. Our days were blissful. We played and snuggled and he filled a hole in me that I never knew existed. We took classes together and I discovered such joy in working with him and was thrilled at all the things we could do, how we two seperate beings could both reach the same destination together almost as one. 

We had our ups and downs though. Just before his first birthday he started having seziures. It was horrible and gut wrenching to watch. I was so scared. I thought I was going to loose him. But, we both survived. I blissfully thought it was just a one time thing. The vet said maybe he had gotten into something. Sadly, that was not the case. He begain having them on a pretty regular basis and after a year or so he started taking meds to help control them. It worked well, he was seziure free for years at a time but would have one once in a while. During all of this he also had other health issues, like vomiting all of his food about eight hours after he ate. After numerous tests and lots of worry it was determined that he had sensitivities to grains. Once we elminiated them from his diet he was fine. Next up was the torn ACL which resulted in surgery when he was four years old. By the time he was five, we had most of the kinks ironed out and it was pretty smooth sailing for quite a while. Aside from the occasional lump or yeasty ears things went along well. As he got really old he dealt with dry eye, which caused a very painful ulcer in his eye, arthritis (from the ACL repair), and near the end, Sundowners Syndrome, which was probably the hardest for us to deal with. With all of his health issues, I seriously thought he'd never make it past ten years old. But, ten came and went as did eleven and twelve. In his last six months, I knew we were on borrowed time. I made sure he got whatever he wanted. Food, toys, car rides, walks, perferred space on beds, rugs, etc. Extra bones and bully sticks and all the love I could give.  In the end, I think the best gift he gave me was a very clear sign that it was time for him to have his last adventure. The one I could only silently watch and not join him on. I stayed by his side and carassed his beautiful body until there was only stillness. Until the only sounds were my sobs. 

Throughout his life, he remained the eternal puppy. He was always happy to see everyone, human, feline or canine. He especailly loved kids and puppies. He was my demo dog for classes, my puppy socializer, my partner in Rally Obedience and since I also have arthritis, my companion on slow strolls on the days that my knee was bothering me. He never told me no. He was always willing to do what I asked of him. He was twelve years old when we brought Walker home and on his first night here the two of them played until they were too exhausted to move and then they both feel alseep side by side. 

We've had more than our share of losses in the last year and a half. We lost our chocolate lab Woodrow, and our girl Molly, both to cancer. Loosing them both so close together was heart breaking, but Gus was there to help me get through. From his very first seziure, I knew that I would loose him someday and just the thought of it would make me teary eyed. But I would push those feelings aside and go about my life with him by my side. Working in my business, raising puppies, training client's dogs and through it all, Gus was there. He greeted me at the door every afternoon with a ball or a toy or someone's shoe in his mouth. He always brought a gift to whomever he greeted at the front door. He was truly one of a kind. 

I know this isn't my usual helpful article, but if you've stayed with me this far I do have some end of life tips. First of all, while your dog(s) is still healthy, prepare yourself a little by asking your vet what their procedures are concerning end of life decisions. Will they come to your home to provide your dog with a peaceful death? If not, how will they handle it? Can your other dogs (if you have more than one) be present during the process if it's at their office?  Personally, I wanted all of my other dogs to be there during euthanasia so that they could have some closure. I think it's hearbreaking when one dog passes and his housemates are left searching for him because he went to the vet and never came back. Your Vet will offer to take care of final care/cremation for you. Is that what you'd like? I didn't want my vet to take my dogs away. Since I had to take Gus to their office on that day, I wanted to bring him back home so that Mike and Walker could get their closure. (I say closure for lack of a better word. They both sniffed him and went about their business like nothing had changed. Perhaps they knew when we left what was happening).  We opted to have him cremated ourselves. For that, there is a wonderful place in Brattleboro, VT called White Rose Pet Memorial Services. It's litterally a funeral home for pets. It's beautiful and peaceful, and the staff are so kind and understanding. Just like funeral director's for humans, they will guide you through those difficult decisions, help you select which services and momento's you'd like, if any. Once your pet has been cremated, you can choose to bring their remains back home or you can arrange to have them laid to rest on the lovely grounds at White Rose. 

Just a final word...our dogs give us so much. All of themselves, unconditionally. Savor every moment because they don't live forever. 

 

Why does my dog eat grass?

            Why does my dog eat grass? That’s an age-old question with almost as many answers are there are dog breeds. While doing research for this article I came across several viable answers. And if you have a dog that eats grass, you’ve probably heard most of these.

            It’s a popular belief that dogs eat grass because they are experiencing nausea. This theory doesn’t really hold up because not every dog that eats grass vomits afterwards. In the studies that I read, it seems that only about 25 % of dogs showed signs of nausea before eating grass and vomited after they ate it. So, it would seem, for them, eating grass does help them get rid of whatever is upsetting their stomach. A poor diet is another popularly held myth as to why Fido eats grass. But, not every dog that eats grass is consuming a diet that is lacking in quality nutrients. Pica, a condition that causes dogs to eat non-food items also makes the list. But, who says that grass is a non-food item?  It is also thought that dogs may eat grass to aid in digestion because it’s high in fiber. This theory assumes that dogs can make the connection between how they’re feeling and which plants to eat to feel better. I’ve also heard that dogs have no way of clearing mucous from their throats and eating grass helps move it along. I would add boredom to the list as well. If a dog has little to no enrichment in their environment they will play with or chew whatever is available to them. This could lead to grass eating, poop eating, and a host of other OCD behaviors.

            The above are probably true for some dogs, but your dog may have her own reasons for eating grass. Of my five most resent dogs there were two grass eaters. One, a yellow lab, which I suspect is part goat, has eaten grass all his life. Not the type used as lawns, but rather the kind that you would find growing in pastures and on road sides. The kind cows and horses like. he only vomits when his stomach can’t digest it completely. But, usually it will pass through his digestive tract within a couple of days. He is fed a high quality commercial diet supplemented with dehydrated raw food. I think he eats grass because he loves the way it tastes! Have you ever chewed on a piece of hay? It has a sweet green taste that I suspect he likes.

My other grass eater, a chocolate lab, only ate grass if the older dog was eating it. If I was out with just him, he never went near it. For him, eating grass was a learned behavior that he picked up from watching his big brother. He only nibbled a piece here and there and never vomited after. None of my dogs have ever eaten the lawn[1]. As puppies, they would pull up clumps of grass, but spit it out or run around playing with it. They didn’t actually consume it. I’ve also seen dogs just slide grass through their teeth as if trying to pull it up, but not biting onto it hard enough to remove it from the ground…maybe they’re using it to floss? Dogs have evolved to be omnivores. And like most omnivores they like many different foods, including meat, dairy, grains, fruits, and veggies. Grass technically falls under the grain category, but we always refer to it as a “veggie snack” in our house.

 So, why do I think dogs eat grass? Mostly because they find it rewarding in some way. Dogs live by very simple rules. And number one on the list of rules is, ”If it taste’s good, eat it!” They don’t stop to rationalize whether it’s going to make them vomit or if it’s bad for them. Long before there was commercial food, dogs ate what they could scavenge or whatever scraps their owners tossed their way. It was very common for these things to make them vomit, hence that old saying, “Sick as a dog”. I believe that a lot of dogs eat grass just because they like it. For other dogs, it might be an OCD[2] behavior or a symptom of a deeper issue. If your dog’s grass habit is extreme, an everyday occurrence causing him to vomit or have digestive issues, or if you suspect that it’s due to some dietary deficiencies, please discuss it with your vet or a pet nutritionist so they can help you rule out any underlying health problems. Also, please be aware that consuming large amounts of grass can cause a blockage in their gut which left untreated could be life threatening.  For most dogs though, a little grass in moderation is fine…        

 

[1] Eating the grass on lawns should always be discouraged because of the chemicals that may have been used in fertilizers and pesticides.

[2] If you suspect your dog has some uncontrollable OCD behaviors, please contact a trainer that uses force free positive reinforcement methods.

How to greet a dog

Where on earth did we humans ever get the idea that dogs like our hands shoved in their faces as a way of greeting? To us, a hand extended toward us for a hand shake is a polite and friendly gesture. But what if we all started walking up to strangers and sticking our fingers in their faces for them to sniff? I'm guessing we'd get lots of shocked and maybe even some annoyed responses. Now imagine if someone much taller than you did the same thing. How would you feel? Surprised, dismayed, angry, frightened? All perfectly normal responses to such a rude gesture. 

I was down town last week helping a client work with her dog reactive dog. (meaning he has an emotional and usually loud/aggressive looking reaction to seeing another dog when he's on leash). Even though he's mostly comfortable with humans, I noticed right away that when strangers offered their hands for him to sniff, he chose instead to sit down and look at his mom. It was clear to me that he became increasingly uncomfortable the longer the extended hand was held near his face. At one point, I had an almost overwhelming urge to slap one persons hand away. In fact, there have been other times when I've done just that. I had a long time dog walking client that was so great with other dogs that I could put him in just about any group for walks. However, he did not like new people. While walking his group one day I met two women that loved dogs. He was already barking at them, but one of them stuck her hand toward his face. I instinctively pushed it away and said, ratherly loudly, "he doesn't like new people". To which she replied, "I could see that so I thought I'd let him sniff me so he could see that I'm okay". I was flabbergasted!  You'd risk loosing your fingers to show a dog that you're "okay"! 

I often think about this subject. Even the Doggone Safe program for kids teaches them to extend a fist for the dog to sniff if they are approached by an off leash dog. Albeit, not until after they've let the dog sniff them everywhere else while they're "being a Tree". Which is one of the safest things to do, but can't we just skip the extended hand all together? Especially since it's up to us to keep our children and our dogs safe. 

So, now you know what NOT to do, let's discuss how to greet a dog. There's an amazing graphic artist named Lili Chin that perfectly captures the emotions that her dog Boogie is showing in certain situations. Click this link or copy and paste to your browser and you'll be taken to the Educational page of her website and you'll actually see her illustration of How NOT to Greet A Dog!

 https://www.doggiedrawings.net/educational

My advice to folks of all ages when they want to greet or are greeted by an unfamiliar dog, is stand still and let the dog sniff you. If they're comfortable, they will probably start at your feet and work their way up. This way, it's up to said dog if they want to greet you or not. And don't think that just because you love dogs that all dogs will love you. They may love you eventually, but if they are frightened they will probably respond defensively, especially if they are attached to a leash and can't run away. If and only IF, the dog seems happy about greeting you, (Signs of being okay with the greeting include a relaxed happy face with an open mouth, licking your hands, a loose wiggly body, maybe some dancing around you. (ignore the tail wag, or see Wagging the Dog), you're probably okay to pet the dog. However, reaching over her head to pet her is not the preferred way in which a dog likes to be touched. Yet, isn't that the way that we all do it? If you disagree, go back to the top of this article and re-read the part about hands in faces. 

Believe it or not, the safest way for you to pet the dog and a more comfortable way for the dog, is to either reach under their chin and pet them on the neck/chest or pet them on the shoulder area of their side. It's very easy for a dog to bite your arm if your hand is extended over the top of their head. I don't recommend getting down to the dog's level at first because if things go south you'll want to be able to move away quickly.

This feeling of needing to greet every dog we see is pretty much an American phenomena. In most of the rest of the developed world, people ignore dogs that are out and about with their owners. Children are actually taught not to approach or bother someone else's dog. And, dogs are allowed in a lot more public spaces in other countries than they are here. Having a dog that doesn't get overly excited when he sees other people or dogs has been my goal for my newest pup. I've been teaching him since the age of 8 weeks, that when someone comes into his environment, he needs to look at me. If I stop walking he should sit, If I keep walking he should heel along beside me all the while giving me direct eye contact. This works great at sending the message to well meaning people that my dog is busy working and doesn't need to be greeted. And my dog thinks people are wonderful because they mean he's going to get lots of yummy treats whenever they walk by!