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.
 

  1.  “Don’t worry, my dog is friendly.”
You’ll often find yourself saying this as your dog is approaching or charging up to people, or another person’s dog.  What you’re trying to do is calm potential fears the other person may have regarding an unknown dog approaching.  You may sense they seem nervous, and just want to ease their concerns. 
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.
 
  1.  "My dog would never bite."
Well, first of all, never say never.  These could be your famous last words as your precious pet takes a bite out of the UPS man’s behind!  Besides, it is naïve and dangerous to assume your pet would never bite.  Perhaps they have a very friendly and passive nature, but remember they are animals, and if unknowingly pushed into certain situations they may react instinctually and unusual to their normal character. 
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.
 
  1.  "It's not my dog's fault."
The problem with this phrase is many people are simply too inexperienced reading dog’s body language and understanding signals sent out by dogs to really know who’s at fault for causing the fight.  So maybe it was your dog’s fault, or maybe it wasn’t.  Chances are you really don’t know.  If you find yourself saying this often, try paying more attention.  It may be your dog that’s starting the mischief. 
 
  1.  "Let them work it out themselves."
If you’re saying this statement, you’re making a lot of assumptions that may not be true.  Many owners think that all dogs have a natural “pack savviness” that will guide them in tense situations.  This simply isn’t true.  Just like humans dog come in all personality types.  Some are bullies, some are timid, some are leaders, and some are followers.  Just ignoring an escalating situation isn’t the answer.
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.
 
  1.  "There was no warning."
The truth is, there’s always a warning.  You may not see the warning, but it’s there.  Dogs have subtle body language in everything they do.  It’s how they communicate with humans and other dogs.  Sometimes dogs give signal after signal before they finally lash out.
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.
 
  1.  "He just wants to play."
True, in many cases dogs love to play and have fun.  The problem with this statement, is many times it’s said when your pet is being overly energetic, being a bully, or pushing the boundaries of acceptable social behavior. And often, the owner that says this doesn’t understand enough about dog body language and social cues to understand when another dog is getting fed up.  And even worse, you may not be picking up human body language to understand when other people are fed up as well.
 
  1.  "My dog is great with kids."
If your dog is a great family pet and great with all the neighborhood kids, then that’s great!  But a dog that is great with ALL kids and ALL situations is rare.  It’s important to remember that every kid is different.  Is your dog great with small infants, but maybe gets a little riled up when a seven year old is erratically running around pulling his tail? 
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.”
 
  1.  "He's a rescue so [insert excuse for behavior here]."
To other people, your dog is an unfamiliar dog, no matter his past.  Yes, many rescued dogs come from terrible situations and pasts.  Neglect and abuse may have embedded certain issues or bad habits into your pet’s personality.  However, this doesn’t mean they can’t learn, and be required to exhibit proper social behavior.  Next time your pet acts poorly, don’t excuse his bad behavior just because he is a rescue. 
 
  1.  "He's doing that to try and be dominant."
Now days, dog owners seem to throw this statement out there as a way to explain practically any misbehavior from jumping on people to urinating on the corner of the couch.  If your dog jumps on you or other visitors, it's most likely out of excitement and lack of training than because he's trying to show you who’s the boss. Even growling isn't necessarily a matter of dominance.  Your dog simply doesn't want to lose what he considers valuable, like a toy or a bowl of food.  Assertiveness, confidence, lack of confidence, pain or illness, excitement, exuberance, fear, mistrust, a lack of training... These would be more likely explanations for certain behavior as opposed to the, “He’s trying to be dominant” excuse. 
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.
 
  1.  "He knows better than that."
When owners say this statement, the question that comes to mind is, “Does he really?”  Maybe you haven’t truly trained your pet how to act in all situations.  For example, a dog that has been taught to sit politely and away from the table at dinnertime probably won't translate that to sitting politely at the neighborhood barbeque.  Unless you've gone through that specific exercise many times to provide consistent training in all situations, your dog doesn’t “know better”.  
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!


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