Isn't She Cute?
Several times during our short conversation Skippy came up to her owner, nudged her arm and awaited the oncoming pats and scratches. Her owner very absentmindedly, it seemed to me, reached over to Skippy, never missing a beat in the conversation, and performed as commanded. With great restraint, unusual for me, I might add, I said nothing.
When the owner said, Isn’t she cute?, more a statement than a question, I bit my lip.
A couple of weeks later I got a phone call from Skippy’s mom and all of a sudden the “cute” behavior had caused a very expensive problem and what could I do about it. It seems that while sitting and reviewing something on the monitor, cup of hot coffee in hand, Skippy came for her ration of pats and scratches. Nudge, over goes the coffee, and now say goodbye to what had been a perfectly good keyboard.
When I suggested that some basic training was in order I was advised that she didn’t give a ?&%$# if Skippy ever sat, stayed, or any other ?&%$# thing. All she wanted was to put a stop to the nudging. I told her I was sorry but that I couldn’t help her, in that case. It is not my job to punish a dog for doing something her person has so carefully nurtured! Skippy needed some basics in her behavior program.
So, what is the problem? Respect! Respect on the part of Skippy’s owner for Skippy and the other way around. It is not appropriate for a dog to control everyone’s life. It is not appropriate for Skippy to just be around so her owner can give strokes when it is convenient. Skippy needs manners, “work” to do in the form of various obedience exercises such as sitting before being pet and waiting rather than demanding that petting! Those basic exercises create a life for the dog. Teaching them (to the owner) creates awareness in the mind of the owner just how dogs think and what their (the dogs’!) needs are and that becomes the beginning of a real connection between them.
There is another behavior that people think is so “cute” and that is when their dog is sitting or standing next to them and rests a foot on top of the person’s shoe. That, my good readers, is a bit of control and management of the scene. Leaning on the person is very similar and both actions should be discouraged so that the dog must watch the person for what may take place rather than feel the person and be able to observe any interesting things going on around the scene.
Teaching a dog good manners so it learns to earn the important things in life has a lot of benefits - including a happier dog! Being unruly, even demanding can extend beyond just bothersome - it can result in that damaged keyboard, a ruined skirt from the coffee spilling on it, maybe even a burn from very hot coffee. And, sad to say, all too often the dog may pay with her life!
If you have a dog you have the responsibility to understand how to treat them appropriately. Become partners! Then everyone comes out a winner.
And, no! I am not advocating that you not continue to pet and stroke your dog! That is important for both of you.