Karen Wild is an APBC registered behaviourist and qualified dog trainer with 20 years experience. Her practice ‘Pawprint’ offers behaviour referrals for vet practices and puppy classes in the local area. Karen is a training and behaviour contributor for Dogs Today magazine and author of ‘What your Dog Wants’. To find out more visit www.karenwild.co.uk or call 01778 560465.
Working with owners every day brings lots of stories about their problems with their dogs, but also their experiences in the community, too. The two main complaints a dog owner has are pretty much the same. One is the insistence from other dog owners in allowing their dogs to run up, off lead, to their own ‘safely on-lead and minding their own business’ dogs. The other is children not asking first if they can stroke their dog, or worse being encouraged to do so by their parents.
As a parent myself I know that we want our kids to be friendly and kind. Whilst we want this for our dogs too, there are risks. A child that a dog does not know, going over to ‘pat’ it on the head, is rarely a welcome experience. It not friendly, even though the child thinks it is. There are dogs who enjoy the attention, but more often I witness dogs simply putting up with it. I also meet owners that are too embarrassed to say no. Imagine if a stranger came up and suddenly put their hands on you? If your child was in a playground and an unfamiliar child started patting yours on the head, would you order your child to not move away?
The biggest problem our poor dogs have is that they don’t talk using words, but their body language speaks for itself. Dogs draw back from unwanted contact – their ears pull back, their heads lower, they try to move away. If they are stopped from doing this, because you feel they should put up with it, remember that being patted on top of the head is right over their eyes. Rarely a welcome place to be touched.
The more we take note that children often get bitten when they are being friendly, by a known dog, the sooner we can act positively towards prevention. Let’s be proactive by learning how we can all work together to teach our kids and dogs the better way to behave.