Dog Walking and Behaviour Issue – Follow My Lead

Please don’t pet me over my head because it makes me nervous!

When we greet dogs we instantly go to pet their heads.  While it seems that some dogs have become okay with this in reality dogs don’t like it and are very uncomfortable.  Even the family pet will express his dismay by turning or leaning away but allowing you to pet him as he trusts you.  I am sure we have all at one time or another experienced the dog that dodges the head pet, squirms or ducks down low away from your hand.  Have you ever wondered why this is?

In a nutshell, in the natural world the head and neck are the most vulnerable parts of any animal.  If you have ever watched any nature shows where the lion is chasing the deer their instincts have them go for the jugular, back of the neck.  So when we go to pat their heads the dog cannot see where or what our intention is. To go over top of the dog puts him in a vulnerable state and the fight or flight reaction happens.  He needs to get away from perceived potential danger.

If you want to pet a dog, first ask the owner if you can approach.  If yes, then stand sideways to the body of the dog.  If you stand straight on, head to head, this is also seen, from the dog’s perspective, as a challenging position.  A sideways stance is non threatening.

Don’t bend over the dog as in hovering.  Again this message is received by the dog as dominance and can insight the fight or flight reaction.  Stand sideways, crouch down sideways and let the dog come to smell you.  Don’t put your hand out.  This too can make the dog nervous.  Don’t talk or look directly at the dog.  Too much talking and looking straight into his eyes is chaotic and adds tension in the dog.  After all they don’t speak words to each other.  They speak energy, body language and smell!

Let the dog approach on his own time.  We always try to rush them and say “Goldie say hi” and pull them towards the person greeting.  This often times makes dogs nervous again.  They are having a conversation with you with every move.  We have to look and pay attention to the conversation and what the dog is saying.

If the dog allows you pet him then do so either on his side, his back or at his tail.  Always make your movements slowly.  Quick gestures can frighten the dog.

If the dog does not want to be approached that is okay!!!!  Like people, dogs come in all shapes, sizes and personality types!  Some are shy and reserved and prefer the company of a few and some like being the centre of attention.  Just like people right!  Don’t take it personal….because it’s not!  It’s just animal instincts in action, living in the moment!

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