I’ve seen just about every puppy-parenting style out there over the years, from doting dog moms and dog dads, to those who’d probably be better off with a chia pet. What I see more and more of these days is the equivalent of what are called “helicopter parents” in the human world.
People who quite literally hover over their child’s every activity. The result often being children who have trouble becoming independent when it’s time, not trusting their own judgment, because they’ve never been allowed to exercise it.
Some of us with four-legged, furry children seem to have developed similar tendencies. At the dog park, for example, they can be heard continually repeating their dog’s name or commanding him to “come,” though they’ve just arrived at a place where the purpose is presumably for their pup to run around. These people become anxious and agitated when their dogs attempt to romp with others.
Some with good reason. Perhaps their dogs have become aggressive in the past, or have even bitten. If that is the case, the dog park is not the place to be until that dog has been rehabilitated. But many are nervous something could go wrong, or misread dogs’ body language and decide that something terrible might happen.
Nervous People = Nervous Dogs
Always remember how important your level of confidence or anxiety is to your dog: Nervous People = Nervous Dogs. You give off a different scent when you’re anxious than when you are in a calm, relaxed state. So how do we become more peaceful, more confident dog parents? Educate yourself on canine body language and behavior, not just what you think it means, but what it means.
For example, a wagging tail doesn’t necessarily mean all is well. Growling and baring teeth don’t always signal real aggression. An excellent book I’d recommend is “PetSpeak,” by the editors of Pets: Part of the Family. The better we understand our dogs’ behavior, the better off we’ll all be. So read up, then relax!
Don’t hug dogs!
You can’t resist. You meet an adorable new dog, and the first thing you want to do is give him a big hug and kiss! While we all know of plenty of dogs who accept this form of attention wholeheartedly, there are those who would really rather you didn’t. When meeting a dog for the first time, it’s wiser to restrain yourself. Why? We primates love a good hug. We crave what’s called ventral-ventral, or heart to heart contact.
It’s what we do. Such displays of affection have been observed by behaviorists studying baboons and other primate species. But to a dog, this type of greeting is the equivalent of putting someone you’ve just met into a headlock. It’s extremely rude behavior, particularly when that dog doesn’t even know you. To put your arms around a dog’s body is to restrict his ability to remove himself from a situation he may find threatening.
The dog may or may not like a hug
If he is comfortable with you and trusts you, he may be just fine with it, even learn to love it. But try that with an unfamiliar dog, and may get yourself bitten. Here’s a far more polite way to introduce yourself that will put a dog at ease: Avoid staring into the dog’s eyes, bending over at the waist, hovering, or extending your hand or fist. These are all very threatening postures.
Instead, squat down and angle your body off toward the side, let the dog sniff you before you reach out, or attempt to pet him. When we humans meet someone new, we want to know, “what’s your name?” When dogs meet someone new, they want to know, “what’s your smell?” Stroke gently, don’t pat.
Many dogs prefer to be petted around the chest area, neck, or under the chin, not on top of their heads. We expect dogs to fit nicely into our human world, to adjust themselves to our ways, our lifestyle. The very least we can do for them is to learn what we can about what the world is like to them. Don’t you think?
Read more about different toy dog breeds here.