This post is part of the 12 Things I Learned From My Dogs Series.
Last night I was talking with my father-in-law Roy and he said something that I enjoyed greatly, "Well, when we had all three kids at Disneyland we didn't run around asking other families if their kids were friendly. We didn't send our kids off to meet new kids. We left them alone. They left us alone. We all did our own thing." This made me laugh for quite some time, just picturing adults in public places demanding to know if other people's kids were friendly. I just picture a mom letting her kids out of a car while hollering "THEY'RE FRIENDLY" as the kids descend upon the playground.
So why, if this is so absurd to think of, would it be OK for our dogs?
My expectation of my dogs in public is to not infringe on the rights of others. If I'm on the trail, we move off the trail to allow people to pass. If I'm in a store, we'll take another isle. I will give you lots of space, even if you have the nicest friendliest person and dog on the planet. I don't make assumptions, because it isn't fair to my dog or your dog.
My dogs are always honest about how they feel about different social situations:
Freya - "Everyone loves me, because I'm me! And I love you, and you, and especially you!" ERGO, I don't usually allow her off leash. Her recall and self control are SO much better then they used to be, BUT I don't want to set her up for failure (or set her up for a dog fight when she meets the wrong dog.) Plus letting her run up to people and other dogs is just rude.
Sissy - "Being near me is a privilege afforded to humans only. Canines need not apply. Pet me human!" ERGO, when we are out, I take extra space. Avoid dogs whenever possible to keep her comfortable, and in general we don't access trails or spaces at peak times during the day. Having dogs press into her space would set her up for failure, and I don't want other dogs harmed. Plus she is downright demanding for attention with people, and not everyone is a dog person.
McCoy - "Dog's should not stare, look, or approach me period. They mess up my orderly world." ERGO, we usually go in the boonies to walk, or I drive to empty subdivisions. We squeak into smaller agility trials and meticulously plan our walk to the ring. If he doesn't feel comfortable in an environment, we don't participate and scratch our runs. It isn't fair to risk his emotional well being or the well being of other dogs.
And you know what, I wouldn't expect any of them to be any different. I don't enjoy big parties, I have a huge space bubble, I'm a resource guarder (just try taking food away), and a fairly awkward social being. So when I'm out and about, even with Freya Dog, I dread the call "he's FRIENDLY!" as a dog comes bolting my direction. Or worse yet, when someone approaches after I have clearly avoided them and says "Is your dog friendly?" To which I always say NO, and leave immediately.
Let's rethink the social expectations for our dogs. They are living being just like us. With their own preferences and space needs. Give everyone space in public and get it in return. I live for the day that people start respecting other dogs and people while out and about.