Fluffy dogs beg to be touched, petted, and hugged. Bully breeds inspire caution, and even fear, in some people. Cropped ears create an illusion of attention, which can be intimidating to some people. And small dogs are a portable size, easily scooped up and cuddled. The simple fact is that the appearance of a dog can impact the way in which people perceive and interact with the dog. Why is this an important concept for certified professional dog trainers to understand? Clients need to be aware that bringing their dogs into public forums exposes them, and their dogs, to certain attitudes, and their professional dog trainer – that’s you! – can help them understand what those attitudes may be and how they can best prepare.
Here are a few tips:
1. Especially fluffy, attractive, cute, or exotic looking dogs can attract attention from children and other dog lovers. These dog-loving folks may or may not ask before touching. Additionally, they may not interact in ways that the dog enjoys.
TIP: Emphasize the importance of practicing and mastering polite greetings. If the client’s dog is not particularly stranger friendly, then create a strategy for handling approaches. For example, teach a “middle” cue where the dog stands in between the clients legs, or teach a hand target so the client can quickly manipulate the dog to be on the non-approaching side of the handler’s body.
2. Bully breeds are loved by many, but they are equally feared. Strangers may be leery or show signs of discomfort when greeting bully breed dogs.
TIP: Emphasize the importance of early socialization and polite “company” manners. Sell your bully breed clients on becoming bully breed ambassadors. Training to the highest level of their ability and making their pet a model citizen can be a rewarding endeavor. Also, encourage bully breed clients to attend appropriate venues for the level of their dog’s training, so that their dog shines in all of his public appearances.
3. Small dogs can be leery of feet coming too close and may not enjoy being picked up by strangers, yet they are appealing to a crowd of dog lovers that may be more hesitant to approach larger dogs.
TIP: Help small dog owners to understand what interactions their dog enjoys having with strangers. Looming over the top of their head is unlikely to be a hit, but kneeling next to the dog may win a few tail wags. Once your small dog client is armed with a number of interactions his dog typically enjoys, he can instruct friendly strangers in specific, descriptive terms how to best interact with his dog. Also, being able to interpret canine body language well enough to recognize enjoyment and stress will make all interactions smoother, since the client can interrupt when his dog shows signs of discomfort.