The reason why I related this story is because when someone asks you not to approach their dog, there is a reason that you are not aware of. So when asked please don’t approach, better yet ask for permission first.
June 8, 2013 at the Union County Animal Control Fund Raiser “Raise the Woof” in the afternoon, I kept watching two women working with a frightened dog. After watching a while I went out to talk with the ladies. They had recently adopted Dutch and as I slowly approached they said the dog was afraid of everyone and pretty much everything. He had been abused with fishing poles and a broom by a man.
So Dutch was even more afraid of men and even more so when they had a hat on. It also appeared to me he was of afraid of young boys as well. I asked for permission to approach the dog and I told the ladies what I was going to do at each step. First I said I am not going to look the dog in the eyes, I don’t want Dutch to feel threatened. So I gazed at the ground talking to Dutch all happy and knelt down in front of him, after a few moments of talking all happy he reached out for my hand to touch me.
After a few touches from Dutch, I proceeded to reach my hand out open palm and he placed is paw in my hand. His people then gave me some treats to work with him for a few minutes. The ladies were surprised as to Dutch’s positive behavior with me and we continued to talk and they asked if I would be willing to come to their home to work with Dutch and I said yes and gave them my rates.
While I was working with Dutch a large man approached with his dog and I clearly asked him not to approach us. He totally ignored me and I watched Dutch’s body language and facial attributes change to fear. So I kept engaging Dutch so that he would ignore the ignorant man. This particular man made it clear that no one could touch is service dog in training because it was in training especially when folks asked to pet his dog. He didn’t feel he had to ask to approach another person’s dog and even when told not to he would totally ignore the requests of stay back.
I later found him and politely told him when someone tells you to stay back you stay back from their dog. That particular dog I was working with that you felt was OK to approach and do your own things was AFRAID of you and actually afraid of men. Just like you don’t want someone touching your service dog when it’s in training and you made that clear. You have to honor the requests of others about not approaching their dog. I walked away at that moment to let him think about it.
The ladies and Dutch visited several times so they he could have good interactions with a stranger. I know that I got caught in the act of dog whispering and a picture had been taken when I was talking and working with the Dutch. Fear base dogs can be worked with and trained though it’s at a slower pace and when they are opened to it.
Were these women doing the right thing for the dog, yes they were. They were trying to desensitize their dog to help it overcome its fears in a positive manner. They were not there long and knew when it was time to take their dog back to the safety of its home.
Joyce Rheal is based in Southern Illinois and is a nationally certified pet care consultant, trainer, and the author of “Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters” and “Disaster Plan: Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies and Disasters.”