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Home / Articles / Columnists / Dog World with Tina /  Canine Common Sense
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Thursday, May 3,2012

Canine Common Sense

By Tina Valant-Siebelts  
Canine Common Sense

So, you think you know dogs?

Just as we would consider it rude to walk up to someone and sniff their backside, many common things we people do, are considered less than courteous to dogs! People and dogs have significantly different sets of rules and behaviors.

Which dog should you be more respectful/fearful of? A golden retriever inside a fence, a pit bull running loose, a maltese barking from her stroller, or an injured mixed breed dog? Animals are unpredictable. Scared, protective, stressed or provoked animals may bite. Breed or size does not matter.

W h i l e w a l k i n g i n y o u r neighborhood, you see a cute dog with its owner. As you calmly approach, what two questions should you FIRST ask? Some dogs may become nervous as a stranger approaches, others with children/ men. Even a familiar dog can be a potential hazard if they aren´t feeling well. Asking the owner for

permission gives the dog time to interpret your intent, and net you any information needed for a safe encounter. So, you would want to ask: Is your dog friendly? Followed by, May I pet him/her?

After you have received permission from owner. What next? The "doggy handshake". It is non-threatening to the dog, while protecting your thumb and fingers. Tuck your thumb into your palm, cover it with your fingers; then present your fist (fingers to the ground), under the dog´s nose, to sniff. Humans tend to want to pet on the head. Not a good idea. Pet the dog’s back or sides, after letting them sniff as described above. Pay attention to, and respect their body language!

You and your dog are playing, you get down on all fours, growling, staring him/her in the eyes. Is this ok? Rough play is a way of establishing status in the dog world. By staring and being on the same level, you are challenging your dog instead of reassuring him/her that this is just play. When playing with your dog, this way, slightly turn your head and look at your dog from the side of your eyes. Staring any dog in the eyes, and/or being on the same level can be perceived as threatening.

Your dog is eating. Your young daughter wants to play with him. Is it ok to let her go bother the dog? Or, your large breed dog is lying on the floor. Your adorable toddler goes over to climb on her back, for a ride. Or, your young nephew is visiting. He really wants to see your elderly dog, peacefully napping under your bed….what do you do? Dogs that are eating/playing with dogs/ sleeping should be left alone. If you must make contact with a dog doing the above, first get their attention. Calmly call them, by name, when they acknowledge your presence, then approach them. Young children should never be left unsupervised with a family pet (or any other animal).

You arrive at the dog park/ dog beach.

Through the initial gate, getting ready to enter the proper side (or after you sign in, with the ranger at dog beach). What do you do, next ? A dog on lead is at a disadvantage (less choice on movement). As you enter the secure area of the dog park, on the appropriate side (small or large), unclip your dog´s lead.

Congratulations, you adopted a rescued/shelter dog! A friend comes over with a thoughtful "to welcome your new dog" gift basket. She then launches into high pitched baby talk, directed to your new addition. Why should you ask her to refrain? High pitched sound can hurt the dog´s ears and make them anxious and/or agitated. Animals need time to adjust to their new surroundings, people, and situations. Always use a calm tone when interacting with pets.

By educating ourselves on canine behaviors, we can prevent accidental bites and improve the health and wellbeing of our pets!


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