It may surprise some of you to hear this, but I’m not a people person. I don’t like being approached by people I don’t know. God forbid they should enter my personal space or attempt to touch me. I’ve been told my non-verbal communication skills are outstanding. Sadly, most humans these days lack the ability to read non-verbal cues.
I know I’m not alone in my stand-offish attitude. There are many people like me. My question is; why is it okay for me to be that way, but not my dog? Why is it assumed by a great portion of the general populace that all dogs are friendly? Some dogs are. Take Quinn, for example. Someone he doesn’t know can surprise him by appearing out of seeming nowhere, throw their arms around his neck, hug him tightly, and then belatedly ask if it’s okay to pet my dog, and he won’t even bat an eye. It’s happened. It’s nothing I trained him to do. Not a matter of socialization. He’s a generally laid back, friendly dog without a mean bone in his body.
Other dogs would have reacted differently. If I were a dog…well, let’s not go there.
This past weekend we went camping, and Jig got to go along as the Camp Dog. A Camp Dog has limited responsibilities. Basically their job is to hang out around the camp fire, go on walks, and keep an eye out for intruders.
There are generally a lot of dogs at state parks. Most are well-behaved. Some have owners that allow them to be obnoxious and rude (but that’s a whole different soapbox). It’s the same as anywhere, and same as anywhere, a dog on a leash going for a walk is often a magnet for attention. Most folk are good about asking if they can pet your dog, or just smiling and going on their way. With most of my dogs, when asked if they can be pet, I say sure. Although with Lace there was always the caveat to not stare at her. People loved to do that because of her eyes. While Lace was indifferent about being pet, she was not good about being stared at. She was really not good at having her head held by a stranger while being stared at. I knew that, and not-so-subtly discouraged it.
Jig is a lot like me—well, except that I like to play more than she does. As far as people are concerned she embraces the part of the breed standard that reads “reserved with strangers.” I know this. I’m fine with it. The general public, however, doesn’t seem to be. When I answer no to the question “Can I pet your dog?” I’m met with the inevitable dark scowl and condemning glare along with the next question, “Does she bite?”
For the record, no, and that’s not the reason I’m not going to allow you to pet her. The fact is, Jig is not comfortable with strangers touching her any more than I am with strangers touching me. She prefers to meet people in her own time and manner. Just because she’s a dog doesn’t mean I should force her to acquiesce to a stranger’s request to violate her personal space. It has nothing to do with any lack of training. Nothing to do with not socializing her properly. It’s her personality. Yet it’s frowned upon by those who have the mindset that dogs are social creatures that should graciously and gladly put up with being pet by whomever feels the urge.
News flash: Dog’s are individuals, with individual characteristics and personalities, they are not cookie-cutter beings covered in frosting and rainbow sprinkles put upon earth to serve as tactile outlets for humans.
Okay, I’m done now. More training updates in the next post. I promise.