Dog owners have quite a few things in common.
Among the infinite love they have for their pooch, a disposition to love long walks and a stubborn amount of dog hair in their wardrobe, dog owners have a multitude of similar thoughts about their beloved furry companions.
There are a few key things that dog owners would like you, non dog owners, to know.
1. Please, don't feed my dog.
You don't know if he has a food allergy, or what he gets fed at home. Sure, I might sneak him a morsel of chicken every once in awhile, but I would prefer if you didn't let him clean your plate.
Some dogs display food aggression and some dogs are beggars- you don't know what training we're working on surrounding food or if he has a specific feeding schedule.
If you would like to give him a treat, ask. I'll let you give him one of the treats he's used to, or give you the green light on whatever you wanted to give him in the first place.
2. Let him come to you.
Obviously, upon seeing your wonderful canine, people want to interact. But it's important to do this on the dog's terms, especially when meeting a new dog. They don't know you and might be hesitant.
Get on their level and let them take the lead.
Some dogs approach any and every one with a friendly kiss and a wagging tail, while other dogs may be rescues that are still getting used to the the fact that people are nice.
Don't bombard any dog with excessive attention. Get down on their level and let them get to know you, before you wrap them in a bear hug and smother them with love.
3. Respect our training.
Every dog, and dog owner, is different in their training. If we use a certain command to get him to drop something or calm down, respect that.
Some people are fine with their dogs sitting patiently next to the table at dinner time, others are not. Do not encourage behavior that I'm working hard do discourage.
If you're unsure, ask. It's fine that you had a dog when you were a kid and he did X, Y, or Z but that's not how we run our ship, and when it comes to training dogs, we can use all the help we can get.
The key to training is consistency, and as dog owners, we're doing our best to get our dog to be on his best behavior.
4. He lives here, you don't.
If you come over to my house, do not complain that he is on the couch, getting hair on your shirt, or isn't doing something that meets your standards. This is his home, not yours.
I will not make him get off the couch because you don't want him there. That couch belongs to him more than it does to you.
I totally understand that having dog hair all over your clothes isn't convenient, but by some magical force, it does come off. I promise. If you're that concerned- I'll send you home with a complementary lint roller. Trust me, I have plenty.
5. You don't know his history.
You don't know if he has lived his entire life in the lap of luxury, or if he has been severely abused and neglected. You don't know where we're at in the training or socializing process.
Dog owners collectively LOVE to tell you about their dogs, and we won't be offended if you ask.
All you have to do is ask before approaching. As the mom of a rescue Chihuahua that came to me from an abusive home, I'm more than happy to let you interact with my little dude.
Interacting with people is a big part of the socialization process, but it has to be done on his terms to ensure it's a positive experience for him.
6. Teach your kids how to interact with dogs.
Most kids love dogs, and approach with gusto! Make sure they know how to appropriately approach a dog, and have them ask the owner before petting a dog.
Most dogs that are in public areas with children don't pose a problem, but dogs can get overwhelmed by little hands and faces in their bubble.
Teach your kids that they have to ask first and be gentle. No pulling on tails or ears or putting their face in a dogs face.
It's one thing that your dog at home might tolerate those things, or a dog you had growing up, but it doesn't hurt to teach your kids to be gentle with dogs they don't know.
7. Don't discipline my dog.
Unless my dog knows you very well or I've given you specific permission, please do not discipline my dog. Once again, you don't know his history and what he reacts to, or how.
In my case, swatting at my little guy to discipline him or giving him a swift tap on the nose does not work. It sends him into panic mode and he spends the next two days cowering in fear.
If someone says, "Hey, he jumps and you just have to push him off and say 'down'," that's one thing, but if you're unhappy with something my dog did, let me know. I'll discipline him how I see appropriate.
8. Giving advice I didn't ask for.
I don't care if you don't like that my dog sleeps in my bed. You don't sleep in my bed, so your opinion isn't relevant. I also don't care that you think I spoil him too much. He does in fact need all those toys.
I don't care how your sister trained her dog or how well behaved her dog is. I don't care what your opinion is on any of the ways I treat or train my dog.
Also, in this category is telling me he's "just a dog..." I'm fully aware of his species, thank you. I'm still going to treat him like family.
9. Don't approach small dogs from above.
Having had small dogs most of my life, yes they are like perma-puppies and very adorable. Yes, I understand that you want to snuggle them, but please do not approach them from above.
Crouch down, get on their level. You are much less scary when you aren't towering above them.
Also, every small dog is different, so please ask. New people can be overwhelming for little dogs especially if there are a lot of people and they're all directly above them.
If you want to interact with a little dog, have their owner pick them up, or ask how to best interact. As small dog owners, we've been in this situation before, we'll tell you exactly what our pooch will like.
10. We will post an absurd amount of pictures.
If you look at the photos on our phones, they're 98% pictures of our dogs. We'll post most of them, and the majority of us don't care if you don't like it.
They're just so cute when they do that thing, so we're going to post multiple shots of them doing said cute thing, just so you can see how cute they are, too.
If you make sure to respect these 10 courtesies when it comes to other people's dogs it will be very much appreciated. And they will appreciate it too!