Dog’s Eye View: Are you feeling lucky today?
August 22, 2013
Steamboat Springs — I helped out at a pet adoption event held in a nearby town quite a few years ago. It was well-attended and several pets were adopted out that day. I was put in charge of a large dog that could not be handled on leash by anyone else at the event. I spent quite a bit of time helping him to learn that good things happened when the leash stayed loose. He also was overly excited with all the distractions he'd never been exposed to before. So I took the time to let him become accustomed to the sights and sounds in small doses. This dog weighed about 80 pounds.
I was approached by a young man with a very young child strapped in a stroller. They were coming right toward us. He was ready to come right up to this shelter dog with his child right at face level with the dog I'd been training. Yikes!
I stopped him and told him that he should not bring his baby face to face with an unknown dog. He got insulted and left the event. I think he just assumed that the dogs from the shelter would be alright with strangers. That's a big assumption to make under any circumstances.
Are you feeling lucky? Are you willing to sacrifice the face of your child to find out whether a dog you don't know is friendly? I can't believe how many times I've watched people let their toddlers walk up to a strange dog who doesn't know the child. They must be feeling lucky.
At a barbecue I attended, I sat next to a lovely young lady with a 6-month-old baby. There were a couple of loose dogs running around playing in the yard, and one was a young, French bulldog. As the puppy approached, the lady lifted her daughter off her lap and held her down to say hello to the pup.
I casually said, "You must be feeling lucky today." When she questioned why I said that, I told her that putting a child in the face of an unfamiliar dog is like rolling the dice. Are you willing to roll the dice with your child? She was quite surprised at what I said until I explained how the dog might interpret that particular behavior as a threat or a tease. How often do we hold out the toy to start a game of tug? Those chubby little baby legs might offer the same picture, don't you think?
We've all had encounters that left us thinking about handling the situation a bit differently. And we don't want to be plagued with the regret having set up a situation that makes us say, "If only I'd known that dog was not raised or socialized with children."
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with more than 25 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training.