We’re an odd species!

Why do so many people want to pat the head of a dog, and worse … one they don’t know?

We don’t pat each others heads as greetings. I don’t recall ever seeing a cute baby’s head being patted. In fact, I don’ t think that I have even seen anybody patting a cuddly teddy’s head! So why the dog’s head patting?

As for not knowing the dog? That again is alien to our instincts, in that most of us don’t greet total strangers with physical contact, unless the circumstances are particularly unusual.  Most of us do not really form an opinion about anybody based purely on appearance, and yet this is deemed irrelevant to many people when approaching a dog (which could be equivalent to facing a loaded gun!).

I cannot write this Post without mentioning the huggers! I have never seen two dogs hug each other, and must therefore conclude they do not make contact in that way (at least not in public). Not only do so many people want to hug a dog (usually children so possible furry teddy complex?), but they try with dogs they don’t know. To all parents of such children, I would like to say “Go out an give total strangers hugs and, while one or two may appreciate it, it is likely that you will get reactions ranging from physical rejection (who are you?) to a police record (assault charge)!” All children should be made aware that dogs, just like people, are all different. None can be assumed to be receptive to touching, but  all are likely to have teeth which may be used as a self-defense reaction!

Then there are the mimics! These are the people who will “growl” or “bark” at a dog. I am pretty sure that it is done for perceived fun (?), and equally sure that Ray can tell the difference between a human growl and a canine growl, but what if he reacted anyway? How much “fun” would it be if Ray reacted aggressively to a human “growler” (usually men!)?

I have mentioned  in a number of earlier Posts, Ray’s progress from being totally averse to human contact, to now being Mr. Sociable. His final hurdle in this “program” is to be receptive to people with mobility issues. Erratic behavior, and a walking stick/cane (or similar) have been particularly sensitive issues for him. He seems to have now adjusted to people in wheel chairs.

We were out a short time ago, when we met a lady in a wheel chair. He greeted her in his usual (“I’ll probably get a treat for this!”) manner, and she was clearly pleased by all the attention he was giving her … which, for Ray, seemed a little excessive. We asked if she had a dog at home that he could perhaps scent. The answer was no, but she did have three cats.

We expressed our surprise, and explained that Ray really … REALLY … does not like cats. He becomes very aggressive and transforms into something close to an angry rhinoceros (use your imagination!). How did the lady respond? She meowed at him!

We’re an odd species!


58 thoughts on “We’re an odd species!

  1. Careful with the kids hugging strangers! But I agree – I mean I have two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, they are easily one of the cutest looking little-ish dogs and generally very sweet. However, as both a parent and a dog owner I stop children and make them ask their parents first.
    Because here’s the thing about my two, both are puppy mill rescues. Callie, as a former breeder, will duck and move away from you if you go for her head or neck, you MUST put your hand on her side and start petting her there. I instruct people on this all the time and some ignore me.
    I even explain why – in the mills, the way they move the dogs around is by grabbing the scruff of their necks and hauling them around. She’ll just walk away now and refuse to interact but it took a long time to help her get over being VERY afraid when people did this. Unless it’s kids, a bunch of kids can pile around her and she’s happy as a clam. Charlie’s a puppy and I do not want people messing with his training. He MUST sit first and I get very annoyed when people don’t ask so I don’t have the chance to make him.
    Whenever I am out and I’ve asked the owner of the dog if I can pet them, if the owner seems at all intent on training then I, too, insist that the random dog sit. I won’t pet them until they do. It’s about respect.
    Not enough people have real respect anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would generally agree with you but, in so many cases, they just don’t think. I complain about things now that I actually did before Ray (my first dog!) came into my life. I try not to reprimand now, but use the situation as an opportunity to educate.


  2. Great topic! I was recently on one of the hikes with my Rottie, and a group of youngsters carelessly strolling off the marked path came very close to me. I saw they had three smaller dogs with them, and one was off the leash. Now, my dog is friendly, although very intimidating and naturally very protective, so I was worried that the small dog may run up and I won’t be able to hold on to the 130lbs of muscle. Luckily, the person called him off, put him on the leash, but one of the passersby’s came within two feet asking if he can pat my dog. I said he better not unless he has a death wish, and struggle to pull my beast back on the trail and walk away. That was very stupid bravery on the guys part, but on seldom occasion, I encounter the same situation, where people just want to pat the Rottweiler. I think I will wear a short saying ‘Do NOT pat my dog” and have my dog wear a vest that says’ Go ahead, I’m hungry”!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It can be a very difficult situation, especially with a large dog. Our Ray was originally afraid of people and other dogs, and so if anybody asked if they could approach him, we would say no (and explain that he was a rescue with an unknown background, and really needed his space). On a couple of occasions, the person (a guy both times) said “Oh that’s okay. All dogs love me!” …. and proceeded to pat him They were both very lucky because Ray did not react. Stupidity is alive and well in our species!

      Where we, and you, have to be very careful is with young children because, if anything happened, you would be held totally responsible. It took us a few years and some professional help to convince Ray that people are not a necessarily a threat, but it was necessary and well worth the expense and the time. All the details of Ray’s first 18 months living with us are covered in my book about him, “Who Said I was up for Adoption?”. See link below:

      Liked by 1 person

      • There is a yellow “flag” that is supposed to signify “I need my space”, and can be in the form of a cloth attached to the collar, or a bandana etc. however, here in Canada, it is virtually unknown by non-dog owners due to a lack of publicity. Having anything written is only going to be effective if it can easily be read from a distance. My preferred solution is simply to stay alert to potential issues… and be prepared to say STOP, or NO as necessary.


  3. So strange that the lady would do that. Just to see Ray’s reaction I guess. I think a scratch behind the ears is s much more human greeting, once you put your hand out to make sure dogs like Ray like you. Funny enough I used to have a little chihuahua and we brought her to my Grandma’s house and when we did this dog took after this cat twice it’s size. It was hilarious. But this dog, Spunky, never liked cats eithor.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great observations on us stupid two legs! Our Ruby, golden Labrador, retired guide dog, is now very sociable, she has always had a beautiful and gentle nature. It took her a year to get over her training not to associate with other dogs and people. Now she is happy to be with both but under her terms. Now children and adults alike often shock me to the roots when they don’t ask if the dog is okay to touch. I have had tiny tots toddle up to Ruby throw their arms around her without the”responsible ” adult with them batting an eye lid! When I have observed that luckily my dog is gentle and Very tolerant not all dogs are they same they look at me and usually say “but she/ he loves dogs,” well I pray he or she never meets a nervous or miss-treated dog.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We are odd indeed. I’m one of the fussers and patters (but then you already know that), but I always ask first. Some dogs do not like to be choked by over affectionate kids or enthusiastic adults, so it’s not a hug from me as a rule. I tend to let dogs lean into me, and most times they like the spot behind their ears scratched, but I watch their body language and can tell if they don’t like it. I’ve always said I get on better with dogs than people.
    Treats by proxy for Ray. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      • Yes – and even with head pats. Charlie cringes any time someone goes to “hit” him on the head – LOL! – he much prefers an underhand coming at him for scratches under the neck or behind the ear. Poor Charlie must have been so mistreated in his life prior to here.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That would not seem unusual from a dog’s perspective. Imagine being approached by huge human; watch them tower over you, and then bend forward; you see a huge hand come directly towards you … and then it disappears out of sight over your head. An underhand is pretty much in full view most of the time! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Some people are really acting strange to our animals. Show them respect, just like you wish to get respect by others, but many don’t get that.
    My Odin is friendly, maybe too friendly, to not dangerous smelling humans. He can jump up and he weighs around 80 pounds or 40 kg, maybe more and can easily lay down people just to talk to them. He doesn’t do this to me, because I raised him not to, but other humans are for trying, it seems.
    He only has problems with other dogs, especially them without a leash, which is understandable, he was attacked several times both by small and big dogs, while he was growing up and they ran free, while he walked in the leash.
    Then I told the owners, that next time I saw their dogs free, I would set mine free too, which I found was fair, but they protested and said, no no no, he is so big. But he doesn’t just attack other dogs, but he needs his freedom to be able to defense himself, if necessary.
    I agree fully with you, always ask the dog owner, if you can talk with the dog and how.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The leash is always a sensitive issue with some people. I try to explain it like this. A dog’s reaction to a set of adverse circumstances is commonly known as “fight or flight”. So when (hypothetically) your off-leash dog, approaches my leashed dog… and if my dog is not happy about things, he has a problem. He knows that he is on a leash, so that removes the “flight” option. What does he have left?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly, I agree. The attacks have made my dog more sensitive to other dogs, no matter they are leashed or not. We have areas here, where I live, where he also has possibilities to run for free. If I see anyone, humans or other animals, I call him in and he gets his leash on. Only in cases, where a dog is out alone and come close, I release Odin, so he can react more natural to the other dog.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Great observations – had to laugh. Small grand toddler is traveling and was recently around 2 younger children. His mom said he was very gentle with the littles – and patted them on the head. Not surprising as he has 2 very large German Shepherds at home and we’ve worked very hard with pat gentle on his “siblings'”. The little kids had hair on top, so I guess he thought that was the patting gently spot. (Right now he and the 2 dogs are about at the same level- none speak the adult language and keep trying to figure out what the big people want)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You certainly have a point here!
    I was taught (and taught my kids) Never to approach or think of touching a strange dog without asking the owner first. You really have to wonder What these people are thinking to act so oddly with our dogs.
    Luckily for me, LM is fine with people. Oh she hates to be touched and still dodges away from contact with people unless they have been to my house and she has known them Years! But she doesn’t growl or bite. (Old Mr Spaghetti Legs used to growl at them – he did NOT want to be mauled by strangers!)
    I had to laugh at the lady in the wheelchair Meeowing at Ray! But well done to Ray for being so nice to her anyway! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I highly recommend the book “The Other End of the Leash” by Patricia McConnell (available as a download from Amazon). It addresses lots of these types of issues, explaining the difference between primates and canines. Of course, anyone reading this already knows, so I’m recommending (preaching) to the choir, as they say.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. On my walks, I smile at the dog walkers and purposely avoid contact with the dogs – respecting exactly what you wrote about above ‘personal space’. However, often the owners expect you to ooh-ahh and pet them at the very least, many allow their pets,tho leashed, to advance towards strangers, touching legs, dangling arms and so forth. I try to dodge that.
    I also found that my respectful attitude is often misconstrued as being non-pet friendly…geesh.
    (for the record, I’m a pet lover and have worked with animal rescue rehabbing all sorts of animals!)
    Growing up we had the sweetest German Shepard…but most strangers assumed she wasn’t so mellow…so on the other end, if I saw Ray in public, I’d be careful, too.
    Now, if you gave both of us permission (me and Ray) to meet and greet, I’d be more than willing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Given that dogs, like us humans, tend to reflect their history and react accordingly, I just shake my head at adults who approach Ray with no knowledge of his background. Five years ago he would have lunged and barked (and probably worse). Today, those people who lack some forethought are very lucky! You are right to ask permission because the only human who is likely to understand a given dog, is that dog’s owner.

      Liked by 1 person

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