Am I friendly?, I’ll let you know

Even though they look happy, keep your face from harm

It’s an all too familiar story, a person approaches your dog. They crouch down to pet your dog, they put their face near the dog and BAM, the dog bites. What do you do now. At that exact moment, life changes drastically.  It becomes a sad day for both you and your guilty dog, or is it?.

Humans have the innate ability to humanize animals, all sorts of them. We see story after story about accidents with animals and humans, we want to pet them, we want to hug them, we want them to be gentle. We have this grandiose idea that if we are nice to them they will love us, even though they are wild and undomesticated.

We think they know our language and every word is comprehended.  Sometimes we do get blessed by adopting a dog that really understands what we are thinking and feeling, they get us right?.  Well, usually it is the exact opposite, they don’t have an elaborate vocabulary, actually they understand about 200 words and what they mean.  So, that topic is for another day, another story indeed.

Humans try so hard to make animals their friends. We try and try to make them huggable, loveable and engaged with us.  The problem is that the people posting videos on You Tube that are closely interacting with exotic animals have been trained to know the temperament of the animal.  It takes years and years of intense training and they have been apart of the animals life since birth.  So, keep that in mind when wishing and longing for the intimate connection with these exotics.  Most likely they have been bit a time or two.

Take the story about the selfie and the panther. Getting that close to a wild animal is very dangerous and gutsy. it didn’t go quite as she wanted it to and she got away easy. It could have been a much different outcome. Thank goodness she wasn’t more injured than she was.

The rule is “just because your dog is friendly does not mean other dogs are


I love my animals. They are my solace and my joy. They make me laugh and they make me cry. At times they frustrate me, just like children frustrate their parents. I am a parent, a pet parent. My children have four legs and fur.

Coco at 7 month

Like humans, they also have a God-given ability to sense danger. It can be in the form of an approaching vehicle, another dog in the vicinity that is mean and humans that want to hurt another. Though the person may seem harmless, our animals have that sixth sense to sense danger where we don’t think it is.

Animals, dogs, in particular, are very good at assessing the situation before it even gets to you. They can also sense when something is getting into their space. They have that six sense just like humans do. I have my space and I get uptight when someone invades it or crosses into it. My mood changes and my protection mechanism engages. The same goes for our dogs. If something is invading their territory, their demeanor changes. It might be that their fur stands up straight, they may show their teeth, they might back up and freeze in the spot they are standing. Whatever they are thinking, we need to be able to see the signals.

We need to respect in two ways, canines need for space and what demeanor the next dog approaching has.   Just because my Coco is friendly, it should never be assumed that Fluffy coming down the sidewalk has the same demeanor as mine. Humans are Bio-Individual, meaning we are unique onto ourselves, it’s the same thing within the animal world. No two breeds are alike as well as no dog within the specific breed is alike as well. Get that?. Just because a pit bull has been labeled as scary and dangerous, it does not mean every pit bull is going to be scary and dangerous.

Don’t assume they want to engage with you

Watch the signs of greetings. Stay clear of the introduction and let them do their thing

The rule is “just because your dog is friendly does not mean other dogs are” Some may be nervous, both around humans and other dogs, reactive, fearful, in training or owned by people that want to be left alone. I remember a potentially serious situation during the yearly festival I attend. We were at the VFW and sitting on the patio. A very kind gentleman wanted to pet Max. He began to approach our table and Max’s hair began to stand up and he started to show his teeth. He growled quietly and came by me, in fact he crawled under my chair. I told the gentleman that he is nervous and wants to be left alone. The gentleman didn’t heed my warning and attempted to pet Max again.   He tried up to three times and no time was better than the first. In fact, it became worse each time he tried.

Cocker showing agression

What’s important to note is that his friend who was a wheelchair-bound veteran approached Max and he gave that man lots of positive attention. What happened next is the guy that initially wanted to pet Max tried again, and guess what, that same thing happened, but the situation had intensified.   He began to growl, showed his teeth and then started snapping. In the eleven years he has been with me he has never snapped that way. Sensing a serious situation was brewing, and quickly I might add, it was then that I had to put a stop to it. I finally said “I have no idea what he sees or senses, but I need for you to not come over here and stay away from him, thank you”. As soon as I said that, he went to another table and started bothering someone else. It was only after that did Max calm down the ears and tail relaxed and he began engaging with others once again. So, don’t assume they want to interact with you or your children. In understanding my dog, I saved myself the heartache and grief of losing my dog or being involved in a lawsuit.

Tips on being a smart dog owner

Think about the connection between humans and animals. Humans sense negative and positive behavior. I am one of those sensitive people that read people and my intuition is extremely high. I know immediately if someone is a good person or one that takes advantage of a situation. My guard goes up, my stomach starts to roll and I keep to myself. The same goes for animals. They feel something similar but in a slightly different way. So, knowing this, how do we go about being a smart pet owner, one that is both reactive and proactive? Well, you need to know your dog.

See your dog. When I say that I am referring to actually seeing your dog for the first time as not just a pet member of the family, but actually seeing him as a very important part of your life. He is your warning siren. When there is imminent danger approaching he will be the first to pick up on it. Remember my VFW story?. Max knew there was something not safe about the guy that came over to us and he started the warning siren and boy did it go off. He let us know loud and clear that he didn’t like the man and he was protecting me. Who knows what that guy was thinking. I took his lead and paid attention. The danger left and he was back to his happy and kissy self.

Pay attention to the message they send you. It is so vitally important to pay attention to messages your dog sends you. They are constantly sending them wherever you are, be it at home, out for a walk, in the car, it is constant. they are on high alert twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.   So, learn to pay attention to the signs they are sharing with you. It can mean a safe exit or a very painful outcome like handing over your dog to the authorities or a hospital stay, including a tetanus shot.

Seek out the advice of experts and a trainer. If you haven’t yet, it is a good idea to seek the advice of an expert that has not only personal experience but formal training added to the expertise. I sure do not want my dog in the hands of someone who thinks they have experience because they already have a dog. Just because someone has a dog and offers to help with advice, make sure they have outside training and certification. I hate to see someone get bit because they THINK they know what they are doing. It becomes a true mess. Let’s avoid the mess by being responsible dog owners. Admitting you are asking for assistance with your pet is not a bad thing, it actually is a very good thing and you are doing your family member a favor. So ask, it’s ok.

Remember, with the right understanding of your pet, sign specific you will have the best experience, lots of memories and tons of aha moments!.