Pet Friendly Versus Pet Smart

So until we got Gus, I couldn’t have cared less about whether a marina/store/venue was pet friendly or not- now it is one of the top items on our list when we go somewhere since we now travel EVERYWHERE with Gus until we can get him comfortable staying in his crate for a few hours while we go out. Being pet friendly means different things to different businesses though. For example: The marina here in Southport provides doggie mitts for picking up poop and the restaurant at the marina in Oriental was kind enough to seat us outside and even brought a doggie bowl full of ice water for Gus when we were there for dinner a few nights. Additionally, they were super friendly to Gus and welcomed him into their establishment as much as they welcomed us.  Nice extra touches!

But now that we have Gus, I am realizing that there is a big difference between being pet friendly and being pet smart. Here’s a recent example that describes some of my biggest pet peeves: We walked into the marina office in Bald Head Island the other day and of course Gus was being his usual rambunctious self and wanted to make friends with everyone who worked in the office. Here are the things that irritated me. When one of the guys knelt down to pet Gus, Gus started “mouthing” (gently biting) the guy’s hand. When I attempted to correct Gus so he would stop doing an unacceptable behavior, the guy kept putting his hands in Gus’ mouth and continued to reassure me that he has had puppies and doesn’t mind that he was mouthing him. Then the other woman pulls out a treat and before asking me if Gus could have it, she proceeds to give it to him. I have two issues with this behavior- one, she never confirmed with me whether Gus was on a special diet, and two, she proceeded to give him a treat when he was jumping all over her-so she did a great job rewarding bad behavior. Then as I tried to get Gus to sit in order to calm him down, the other woman was calling Gus over to her and overriding my commands. Needless to say, our 10 minute trip to the office left me very frustrated by the staff’s lack of understanding about dogs and the impact that our human behaviors have on my pet’s behaviors.

I’d like to recommend to all businesses who say that they are pet friendly, please become pet smart as well! Here are my suggestions:

  1. Please ask before petting Gus so that I can calm him down first and you will then be rewarding Gus for te good behavior.
  2. Do not give him treats without talking with me first so I can confirm what is in the treat. I also want to make sure that when he gets the treat, he is behaving in a way that deserves a treat.
  3. Please do not encourage bad behaviors like jumping up or biting. These are not puppy behaviors that should be tolerated. These are bad behaviors that will become bigger problems if they are encouraged while Gus is a puppy.
  4. Please do not override my commands while I am communicating with Gus. He needs to listen to me, not you. Gus does not need to be distracted by your desire to give him affection when I am attempting to train him.

I guess the bottom line, while people may think that they are doing harmless behaviors and simply showing affection for a cute puppy, they are actually interrupting the behavior modification strategies that go on every minute of every day with a dog in order to create a respectful and enjoyable life for us and for Gus. Please ask before just assuming that it is OK to interrupt our training rhythm. We so appreciate that you are pet friendly! Is it asking too much to want you to be pet smart as well?

I will need to find a nice way of saying, “I appreciate your affection and love of dogs, let’s make sure Gus is doing the right behaviors so we are rewarding good behaviors instead of bad ones.”