I sat in the grass, fully engrossed in my new book while the dogs explored as far as their leashes would let them. It was a pretty day, not the best day, but pretty nonetheless. The sun played peek-a-boo with the clouds and the wind blew a little too hard for my liking but the temperature was warm and I was just thankful for a few minutes of peace and quiet.
My zen was quickly interrupted by a rambunctious toddler on a tricycle. She was attracted to the dogs, as most kids are, and rode towards them with determination. And as I quickly corralled my two Chihuahuas away from her tiny grasp, I couldn’t help but wish more parents taught their kids the importance of care in approaching dogs. Heck, I wish more adults knew the proper way to approach dogs.
Now, I understand this child was young, very young, probably too young to understand this concept. But the fact that her mother and grandmother watched nearby really irked me. My boys don’t care for kids. This is a trait that is typical in little dogs. People fail to realize that their size does not determine their attitude and that small breed dogs should be treated the same as large breed dogs. I mean, would you walk up uninvited and invade the personal space of a Rottweiler or Pitt Bull? Probably not.
My boys have two distinct personalities. Bean is mostly outgoing and friendly. Lima is shy and reserved, fully comfortable around only a few people. Neither of them are too keen on children and I always have to be cautious when introducing them to strangers. They’re not mean or vicious; they’re dogs.
I’m fortunate that I can bring my boys to work on a regular basis. This has helped immensely with their fear of strangers. But they’re still wary. Lima typically hides in the office and barks when someone gets too close. However, Bean likes to explore the showroom and interact with customers. Through these interactions, I have seen the best and worst of my boys and have created some pointers for approaching dogs, especially small breeds.
This is the number one rule in approaching dogs. This is especially important for my dogs if I’m carrying them or if they’re walking on leash. Plus, it’s just the polite thing to do. Maybe I’m in a hurry or maybe the boys are cranky that day or maybe we just don’t want to be bothered. It’s my right as a dog owner to say no, though I am more apt to oblige when asked instead of assumed. And it also gives us a chance to give the two of you a proper introduction. And speaking of introductions…
Do not put your hand in the dogs face so they can “get to know” you.
This is not the “proper” way to approach the dog. I don’t even know where this false information came from. I know you mean well but even the smallest humans are still HUGE to my four-pound canines. Squat down and let the dog come to you. After he’s had a chance to sniff you, carefully pet him on the side. How would you like it if someone you didn’t know came up and stuck their hand in your face or tried to grab your head? You’d get defensive too! (This is a great infographic for approaching a dog the correct way.)
Do not attempt to pick the dog up or grab him.
A girl tried to pick Bean up one day as he followed me through the store. Needless to say, it startled him and he snapped and squealed at her in defense. She wasn’t hurt but it definitely scared her.
Avoid high pitched or loud noises.
It’s human nature to talk baby talk to dogs and that’s fine. But don’t squeal, whistle, or create any other high-pitched or startling noise. Remember, he’s already a little wary of you; don’t worsen it with LOUD NOISES.
Remember that not all dogs are overly personable or “people” dogs.
Dogs have distinct personalities just like people do and some dogs just don’t like strangers. It’s important to remember that dogs aren’t necessarily mean or viscous because they’re nervous around humans. It just means they need a little extra patience and understanding. Forcing yourself on them isn’t going to help your case. (This is especially true with my little neurotic Lima.)
Pssst! Have you heard of The Yellow Dog Project? Basically it’s an effort to notify others of dogs who need a little more space and educate appropriate ways to approach or make contact with a dog. Yellow Dogs are denoted with yellow ribbons tied to their leashes or collars. These ribbons serve as a warning that these dogs need extra care around others. Keep an eye out for Yellow Dogs!
I feel like most of these rules should be common sense but unfortunately they’re not. Basically, treat strange dogs as you would treat strange humans. Be aware of their body language, do not be forceful, and give them some space. I promise my boys aren’t aggressive. They’re just tiny dogs trying to navigate this big ol’ human world and beg some table scraps in the process.
PS. Do you give your dogs voices or am I the only weirdo that does that? If Bean had a voice, he would sound like Tito from Oliver & Company and if Lima had a voice he’d sound like Slowpoke Rodriguez. You’re welcome.