"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

I think most of us have heard it a time or two and it makes perfect sense.  I was raised with this ingrained in my head.  Most of us are capable of self control and can live up to this in daily interaction with people, but too many times I don't see this same basic respect paid to the pets we come into contact with.  Here is the article that sparked this blog post, it is a fantastic article with a lot of good points that I feel very strongly about. 

Dogs are amazing creatures who put up with so much from us.  So often I see people not communicating well with their pets and yet the dogs roll with it when I know if it was me in their position I'd be so frustrated and either lash out or shut down.  Working with animals for over 15 years has taught me a lot and I consider myself to be quite fluent in "dog" and "cat", moderately conversational in "horse" and "reptile" and completely dumbfounded when it comes to "bird", "rodent", or "cow".  Dogs and cats are very communicative and you can easily read what a pet is saying, not to say there aren't exceptions and there can be miscommunications, but for the most part if you can really start to understand what your pet's body language is saying then I feel safe to say that 97% of bites or negative interactions would be avoided.  

Put yourself in their paws for a minute.  You live with 2 people who don't speak your language but you've managed to create a working and caring relationship with them.  You can communicate your needs and they know when you need your space or are hungry and can help you when necessary.  Then a baby comes along, but you didn't know this except that one of them started smelling and acting funny.  Ok, you can get along with the baby, it doesn't move too much, a little smelly, a little noisey, but it's workable.  Next thing you know it's moving and coming at you.  You're a nice person so you don't cause a fuss, but now it's in your face, pulling your hair and gnawing on your chin.  Hello, little thing?!? Ever hear of personal space?!?  And finally you say, Hey! Get this drooly thing off me, but the 2 people you live with just stand there smiling at you both.  Gross!  So you pick up the baby and move it away from you.  Problem is, dogs and cats can't pick up your baby to escape.  Plus dogs have an overwhelming urge to please you so they want you to be happy and they'll put up with the baby's antics.  It's not fair to our dogs to assume they have to just take it.  I'm not a baby person and while yes, I think they're cute from the safety of their parent's arms, for the most part I am ok with minimal interaction.  Dogs are the same way, some love babies and couldn't be happier, some avoid them like the plague and some are just being polite so they don't hurt your feelings.  Don't assume your dog is always the former.  Don't be upset if your pet decides to avoid excessive contact from kids, it's not an insult, they're just not so sure what this strange miniature person is doing or saying since they don't communicate like adults do.  Show your dog as much respect as you would a child or another adult.  

I think there's a lot more to this article and I will discuss my take on dog bites in another blog, but I wanted to keep this one to strictly teaching your kids and yourself safety with your own dogs and with other people's dogs.  Be respectful of their personal space.  Not every dog is an in your face Labrador Retriever wanting to smother you with kisses and that's not bad, it's just who they are.  I am Irish and was raised by strong Irish women, we are very aware of our personal space and when I visit with my very Italian friends their warm embrace upon greeting makes me lock up.  Different breeds are the same as different cultural norms and then inside each breed there are different personalities.  Get to know your dog and your dogs heritage and start to really pay attention to how they react in all kinds of situations.  It's quite exciting to really be able to bond and understand such a complex individual.  Dogs are not all surface creatures, there are a lot of emotions inside that you can really start to understand.  Cats are much more complex but they too can be understood and need possibly even more respect when it comes to personal space cause they're less in the mood to please you and may not give a quick scratch a second thought.  

Enjoy this journey of discovery!  There's amazing rewards on the other side.

Another great read, with cute cartoons: How Kids Should and Should Not Interact With Dogs