For some reason, we humans think that all dogs want to be petted any time day or night. We think that we can just walk right up to them, even from behind, bend over them, and start petting. This is not the case. Sometimes we dog owners actually force our dogs over to people to be petted.
When we come directly up to Wolfie or force him to a person, we are unknowingly putting Wolfie on the receiving end of a possibly aggressive act. The issue that we have to address is Wolfie's perspective of aggression and his feeling of safety.
The bottom line is that we always must allow Wolfie to approach the person who wants to pet him. If Wolfie feels unsafe or unsure about that individual, he will hold back, letting us know that he doesn't feel safe in the situation. If this is the case, that person will not be petting Wolfie today. If we force Wolfie into the situation where he feels unsafe, the "fight" side of his fight or flight instinct might kick in and he might nip the person who wants to pet him. And you know what? It would all be our fault for not watching what Wolfie was telling us.
Let's say that Wolfie walks up to the person who wants to pet him. How should that person proceed in order to make Wolfie feel safe and comfortable in that situation? Here are some tips:
- Never bend over a dog to pet them. This could be construed as an aggressive move from the dog's perspective.
- Never move your hand directly towards the dog's face. Again, this can be viewed as an aggressive act. All the dog sees is a big hand coming directly towards him. If he was ever abused, punched, or hit in the past, the last thing the dog saw before that traumatic act was a human hand coming directly towards him.
- Let the dog first sniff you and sniff the back of your hands. Your hands should be motionless at your side. If the dog continues to sniff and acts submissive, it is your sign to proceed.
- Lower yourself down slowly, never moving or bending towards the dog. Outstretch your hand, with the back of your hand towards the dog. Move your hand to his chest below his head. This will assure that you can watch the dog to see if any agitation is taking place.
- Pet him calmly on his chest and then slowly proceed up and around his neck to the back lower portion of his head. Praise him for being such a good dog by using a high pitched voice.
- Slowly stroke him from the back of his head to the middle part of his back. This emulates the grooming that all dogs perform on each other and will provide the dog with a calming experience.
- When you are done, stand up by moving away from the dog.