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Give Me Space!

With lead in hand you and your puppy head off for your daily walk. All your training is paying off and puppy is bouncing along beside you, head in the air, eyes bright, tail in a constant wag. Life is great.

You are approached by a person, child or adult, who takes it upon themselves to bend down to pat your puppy. This is a regular event as people are drawn to how cute your puppy is and want to share in touching the glory of his beautiful coat.

OK time to stop and think this through.

Why is it ok for an unknown person to put their hands on your puppy?
How do you know those hands will be gentle and kind?
Do you know what those hands may have been touching prior to patting your dog? other dogs, drugs, alcohol…..

Just because a puppy or adult dog for that matter, looks cute and kind, what makes people think that said dog wants them to touch it. Not all dogs are interested in strangers and not all dogs wish to be handled by them.

An example many woman can relate to is being pregnant and a stranger taking it upon themselves to touch the stomach of the pregnant woman and asking how long have you got to go!
Talk about an invasion of privacy!
Why then isn’t this considered the same when strangers touch your puppy.

Not all children understand gentle.
Not all adults action gentle, as in their mind a ‘scruffy pat’ or pulling on an ear is ok for your puppy.

Your puppy is still learning what strangers are about and learning different smells of the people around them.
You may have heard of dogs being ‘head shy’. this simple means they move their head away from hands as they don’t like their head touched, or in the past hands have been cruel to them so they veer away.
In time this could become such a fear factor with your dog that they will actually snap at the hand coming toward them.

Guess what, you are then at fault and blamed if your dog, in stress mode, bites that hand.
You are the alpha leader of your Pack and it is on you to ensure the safety of your puppy/dog AND the safety of the person assuming your puppy/dog won’t bite them. Don’t set your puppy up to fail. Be confident that the hands that reach for your puppy are ones that will do so with respect.

Please consider putting into practice that YOU decide how and when your puppy is patted and by whom.
Never be afraid to simply tell the person ‘please don’t touch my dog – he is in training’.

A great way to do this is for your puppy/dog to wear a simple –


vest so people can see your puppy should not be petted. Guide and Assistance Dogs wear similar vests for exactly the same reason.

As a footnote I want to share a story from Kay, owner of Trixie, her Assistance Havanese. (you can read some of Trixie’s story on her own page on the website).

“I know many of you have problems with members of the public wanting to pat your cute dog, so I thought I would share how I now handle it. Remember all those cute tricks you have taught your dog? Well, instead of letting people pat her (which she hates), I suggest she will show them a trick. Hearing this, her ears prick and she’ll offer either a dance or hi5.

It was my ACAD trainer who suggested this tactic as a win/win. Instead of me acting like the ‘pat police’, I can be friendly and at the same time keep her attention firmly on me (and the treat bag). Her adoring audience think she’s lovely, cute and sweet and are blissfully unaware she has no interest or regard for them at all, thus making her the perfect little Havanese ambassador!”