I cannot tell you how many times Boogie and I have been approached (or even CHASED) by dogs whose super enthusiastic owners call out: “My dog is friendly!” Or have MIDFs roll their eyes at me when they insist that their dog is friendly.
Take for example, yesterday at the vet’s office when a lady and her large-sized dog walked in. “My dog is friendly!” she said.
I had Boogie on my lap, in my arms, and I replied “My dog isn’t”. We remained on opposite sides of the waiting room and there were no incidents. Her dog was laying down turned away; Boogie was at my feet hypnotizing me to take him home.
Several minutes later when the lady wasn’t paying attention and I was busy talking to the vet tech, the dog walked on over and nosed Boogie in the butt. Boogie, who was facing the other way unaware that there was a dog approaching him, freaked out, turned around and snarled. The dog’s owner called out – “Sorry! I wasn’t looking” She pulled her dog away, then said in a very loud high-pitched voice so that the whole room could hear: “Mommy loves you very much! Even if the other dog doesn’t love you, mommy loves you!”
I tried to explain that Boogie reacted because he was startled by her dog. Another lady in the waiting room offered some moral support – “The dogs weren’t formally introduced”.
Well, it was still awkward to be the only person in the room with a growly dog. Suddenly Boogie was made to look like an asshole.
And then there are the MDIFs who – even after I tell them that my dog ISN’T friendly – continue to believe that everything will be OK because their dog is “friendly” or is “good with dogs”. Or that they themselves are god’s gift to dogs, all dogs love them, and I’m just uptight or something.
Sure, Boogie is a sweet and friendly dog, but he is sensitive, extremely discriminating and does not instantly become friends with every dog and person that he meets. Boogie needs some space and time away from the new person/dog at first. If the person/dog is large, he needs even MORE space to make up his mind.
For a long time, before I saw the Turid Rugaas DVD and learned about BAT, I had no idea that when dogs reacted it was because they needed SPACE (or distance from the trigger). Space, as a functional reward and training tool is so underrated! I don’t think a lot of people know this. And MDIFs especially, need to know this.