Those words represent the sounds emanating from the head of the smiling Labrador and were accompanied by Good Boy!, Good Boy! as his owner continued the pounding. Labradors are usually good spirited dogs and definitely have a high threshold for pain but it didn’t take a genius to observe the dog’s discomfort. Yes – discomfort in spite of the “smiling”, tail wagging picture.
So, what’s the problem? Well, just think about that dog’s head. There are the eyes and ears, for example, and clearly they are important to the survival of the animal. A smart animal does his or her best to protect those vital organs. Now, along comes Sr, Luvadawga, filled with nothing but kindness for his buddy and doing his best to show it each time Buddy does something asked of him. Buddy, sit! Buddy sits and as a reward gets his head pounded on. Swell.
Buddy knows Sr. L. well enough to not really feel as though that hand coming down hard on the top of his head is at the very least, discomfort, and probably confusing. He cannot help but flinch, close his eyes to avoid having them injured and in general simply endure the treatment. Sr. Luvadawga is saying all the right words, and with a big smile, but his hand carries a different message. Is it any wonder that our poor canine companions get confused and seem to disobey?
Breeds with less tolerance for pain, with temperaments less accepting of people and their foolishness often do not accept such “loving” care and may leave the scene, or if prevented from doing so may growl or snap. In turn they may well be punished or be termed aggressive and find themselves seeking a new home.
Learn how to praise your dog and learn how to greet dogs you do not know. That same outreaching hand going towards the top of the head just to give a gentle pat is often viewed as threatening and certainly that is true if done to the dog by a stranger. The best places to give a dog a physical form of reward are to the chest area and, for dogs you know, gently behind the ears and on the cheeks. Rather than pats the motion should be tips of fingers in a back and forth or circular action. Long stroking motions are fine if you know the dog but, please, don’t make a career out of it! To introduce yourself to a dog offer the top of your hand, palm held down, and allow the dog to move towards you – do not move towards the dog. If the dog sniffs, fine. If not, accept the message being offered and go no further with your actions. If you see strangers approaching your dog try to teach them the proper way to meet your dog and that is especially true where children are concerned!
Children often move in fast, jerky motions and have high pitched voices and these are things that can make dogs very uncomfortable and even aggressive. The dogs give signals that they are uncomfortable but, children do not read those signals, which in turn allows a dog to believe it is proper to “discipline” the offender. Not a good thing!
For dogs that have been under-socialized and/or abused it is extremely important to move slowly, use a quiet voice and carefully condition the dog to the gentle, loving touch of the human hand. And, of course, the hand is never, never used to punish a dog.