The dog owner’s guide on what NOT to say
As dog owners, we often get caught up in the moment and say some interesting phrases that if you really stop and think about it… shouldn’t be said at all. When your dog is around other people, it’s important to actually understand the situation as a whole and not focus entirely on your pet’s actions. As dog owners, we often get tunnel vision, seeing the world only from the perspective of your own pet. Whether it’s excusing our dog’s behavior, or dismissing other people’s social cues, we need to not only train our dogs, but train ourselves how to act.
Here are 10 phrases that if you hear yourself saying, should trigger a red flag. If you catch yourself saying one of the phrases below, it may be time to ask yourself why you’re saying it, and use it as a training opportunity to fine-tune how you and your dog react in certain situations.
- “Don’t worry, my dog is friendly.”
As noble as your intentions are, this is ultimately an excuse for poor behavior on your dog’s part, and perhaps even a signal that you don’t have proper control over your pet.
Just because your dog is "friendly" doesn't mean he or she has permission to approach another dog or a person, And your dog’s unlikeliness to bite or pick a fight should not be an excuse for poor manners. Remember, you don’t know the fears, thoughts, and past experiences of other people, and not providing the proper space and control of your pet in their presence is frankly inconsiderate. If you find yourself assuring people that your dog is friendly, it may be a good time to evaluate the bigger picture, and consider that perhaps your dog is being TOO friendly.
- "My dog would never bite."
It’s better to know this and respect your dog’s capabilities to actually bite someone. Hopefully that situation never arises, but there’s no sense in providing visitors or passers by a false sense of security; even if the odds are in their favor. Simply keep your pet at a safe distance and there will be no need for such a statement.
- "It's not my dog's fault."
- "Let them work it out themselves."
Additionally, you are reinforcing bad behavior. If your dog gets in a fight and you do nothing, they will think it’s tolerated behavior. “I did it last time, and my owner did nothing. I can do it again.” Is they thought process you may be embedding in your dog.
And last, it may lead to an erosion of trust that your dog has in you as an owner. They may feel you put them into the stressful situation, and weren’t there to step in and protect them either. This lack of trust again may lead to additional behavior problems down the road.
- "There was no warning."
When someone’s dog attacks your dog and says, "There was no warning," what that person is really saying is, "I wasn't paying enough attention or didn't know enough to see the signals my dog and the other dog were sending each other and step in before things escalated."
Yes, signals may be hard to notice, but don't say there was no warning. Instead, ask how you missed the warning and how you might catch it next time.
- "He just wants to play."
- "My dog is great with kids."
The truth is your dog will react to different situations, and for you to guarantee he or she is always great with kids is an unsafe assumption to make. Next time, be sure to properly access the situation before reassure those around you. A better phrase may be something along the lines of, “If you feel comfortable, I’d be glad to let your kids play with (Insert your pet’s name here). She is very good natured, and has always been friendly in situations like this.”
- "He's a rescue so [insert excuse for behavior here]."
- "He's doing that to try and be dominant."
Writing everything off as the dominance excuse means losing sight of the complexity of social interactions and is essentially just turning a blind eye to actually understanding your pet’s behaviors. Don’t let this phrase cloud all the real reasons your dog is acting the way he acts.
- "He knows better than that."
So before you get upset with your dog because "she knows better" or "she knows how to do that", take a look at how you have actually trained her, and ask yourself, “Does she really know better?”
We are all probably guilty of saying a few of these phrases at least once or twice. And saying these phrases should “NEVER” be uttered isn’t necessarily the case. The key takeaway from this, is to be aware of what you are saying, and more importantly, be aware of how other people might perceive what you are saying.
Training yourself is the most productive strategy for improving the behavior of your dog. Training yourself can become easier once you consistently evaluate your thought process in regard to your own dog’s behavior and the behavior of other people and dogs you pass on the street. And once you have this down, better interactions will soon follow!