Here are seven things that people enjoy to do to dogs and despite dogs disliking them people seem to think the dog is enjoying it too. And because so many people do these things to dogs I always work to desensitize my dogs to parts of them and protect my dog from them and suggest that members of my classes do too, but I don’t suggest they use these as supposed rewards for their dog’s good behavior.
1. Taking a hold of the dog’s collar or cheeks on both sides of their face and pulling them forward for a kiss (frequently includes baby talk) or just leaning in to kiss the dog eye-to-eye. This is a great way to get bitten in the face as it is very aggressive in dog culture. Desensitize this very carefully starting with one handed collar grabs with food rewards, and separately lateral face closeness with the dog doing the approach (find my face game). Don’t let people or kids do this to your dog because if they get bitten they will blame your dog.
2. Patting the dog on the top of the head. Dogs like hands to come from below their eye level, reaching under the ear or under the chin is best.
3. Bear hugging around the neck or rear. Strangers and kids shouldn’t do any hugging, but loosely draping your arm around their chest is a good desensitization.
4. Grabbing at feet, ears, tail or face. Play games-shake, vet visit, to desensitize these and do slow massage to desensitize, but don’t let 2-year-olds or teens teach biting games to your dog.
5. Strangers acting like they have best friend privileges. Some people seem to think that dogs like everybody and so should be their immediate best friend, not so. Protect your dog.
6. Being picked up. Instinct would inform them of impending doom, as predators pick up prey. Let them be cued to jump up into laps or into arms or to prepare for elevation.
7. Being climbed on, ridden on or jumped on. Parents too often think this is fun for kids and don’t notice the dog’s distress. In fact there was a study with photos of kids and dogs, if the kid was smiling the observers thought the dog was having fun, if the kid was cut out of the photo they then could perceive anxiety or upset in the dog. For other ridden animals – horses, to avoid injury and pain the max appropriate weight for a well balanced rider and gear is 20% of the horse’s weight, so if the kid weighed 20# the dog would have to have a fit weight of 100#, 50# the dog would have to be a 250# dog to carry him and kids aren’t well balanced … so keep them off the dog.
Does your dog enjoy what you enjoy doing to them? Do it very briefly and stop, don’t say anything, remain still and see if they come back into you (lean into you, nose into your hand, cheek against you) to get some more. If they do, then they like it.