With Our Resident Animal Behaviourist 

Put your dog’s well-being first!

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Not every dog likes to be petted by a stranger or wants to greet every dog on a walk. Some dogs may be wary of unfamiliar people (stranger danger) while others might enjoy interactions. While every dog is unique and has their preferences, it is up to us to advocate for their welfare and to understand that saying “no” to someone is ok. As our dog’s guardians, we must learn to respect their unique boundaries, understanding that it is okay to stand up for them while working on helping them feel better. Behaviour modification, building positive associations and helping them learn to make better choices in our human world doesn’t happen overnight. However, when we pair the above with respecting individual preferences, we will help them feel safer and more comfortable.

Owner attaches leash to the dog-on-the-walk
You do not have to appease a stranger at the cost of your dog’s emotional welfare.

This means you do not have to allow a stranger to touch, pet or approach your dog (as well as with their child or their dog), for the sake of being polite.

How do we say “no” politely:

– No, MY dog needs space
– No, WE are training
– Not today, thanks
– No (this is enough)

One can also say the above and take action with the following:

– Make a U-turn with your dog to exit the interaction quickly.
– Step forward and stand in front of your dog to body-block them from an unwanted interaction.
– In situations where you cannot exit, you can gesture with your hand to indicate a “stop signal”.

Young woman walking with dog
What else can we do to put their wellbeing first?

Dogs do not need to go everywhere with us either. It is okay to leave them at home with some enrichment to keep them stimulated so that you don’t have to worry about their behaviour or them feeling overwhelmed. Tagging them along to the local pub, the restaurant, attending the noisy braai or rugby game or busy event at the local park can make their fears or anxiety worse.

IMPORTANT:

If your dog is struggling with fears and has big feelings about everyday things, people or other dogs it is important to address this with a certified or accredited companion animal behaviourist or practitionerUnfortunately, the dog training industry in South Africa is unregulated and the wrong information or training can do more harm than goodQuick fixes will almost always make the problem worse in the long run. 

Owner attaches leash to the dog-on-the-walk
Owner attaches leash to the dog-on-the-walk

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