Essential manners all people should have around dogs

There is a lot of talk about how dogs should behave, proper training methods, required manners and the dire consequences when they step out of line, including summary execution.

But there is very little written about how people should behave around dogs – specifically how people should behave around dogs they do not know.

1) Respect Their Personal Space

Just like humans, dogs have a need for “personal space” – kind of an invisible no-mans-land around them – and if you encroach, they may become uncomfortable enough to snap or bite. This space differers for every dog, just as it differs for every human – some dogs will want to rush to you, greeting you immediately, others won’t want you anywhere near them, ever.

Respect a dog’s space by coming only as near as you need to until the dog (and/or their handler) lets you know how comfortable they feel.

This also includes petting dogs, even if they appear to be friendly. DO NOT reach to pet a dog you don’t know, unless you ask the handler or the dog pushes up under your hand. DO NOT reach for that cute little darling being held by an owner – even little dogs can have sharp teeth and are often very protective and possessive.

2) Use a Normal, Calm Tone of Voice

Some dogs really don’t care for that high-pitched, baby-talk many people use when trying to talk them. High-pitched enough, and it’s hard on the ears – the dog’s and the the owner’s. Use a calm, normal tone of voice when you speak to any dog – conversational. Remember it isn’t WHAT you say as much as HOW you say it.

3) Don’t Force Eye Contact

Especially if the dog appears to be growing wary or nervous (quivering, tail up, hair along the spine coming up, eyes hard and fixed and/or whites showing, body held stiff or attempting to pull away) break eye contact. Dogs perceive strong eye contact as a challenge, and you don’t want or need to challenge a dog that is unsure or becoming defensive.

Do however, keep the dog in your peripheral vision – watch them out of the corner of your eye – encase they do decide to make a move. And by all means, if in doubt, step back.

4) Respect the Handler’s Directions

Especially if the owner or handler asks you not to pet the dog, asks you not to let the dog jump up, or asks you to keep your children back, respect their judgment and their request. In many cases, especially with service dogs or rescue dogs, a great deal of time and patience has been spent in training. When the dog is naughty because you’ve encouraged bad behavior (whether you agree with training dogs or not), it’s the dogs that will suffer in the end.

5) Mind the Children

Your children are your responsibility – just as our dogs are our responsibility. Therefore, if you’re going to be around strange dogs – at a park, a dog show or a dog adoption day, instruct them on the rules of engagement.

Adoption days, when rescue groups gather to try to find homes for their charges, are not petting zoos, and children should not be allowed to touch dogs or stick their fingers into cages ESPECIALLY if the handlers ask them not to.

We blame dogs for all of their bad behavior, but watching people and dogs together, quite often the poor dogs are being sabotaged by humans – they don’t have a chance. Give all dogs the chance to be good dogs – mind your manners.

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