Dr. Doolittle was a Fictional Character

My Australian Shepherd, Gavin, has always been a bit leery of meeting new people. He prefers to meet and investigate them on his own terms and in his own time. We always advise unfamiliar (to him) visitors to our home to follow some simple rules. Ignore him and his barking and allow him to come to you in his own time. When he does come over don’t look directly at him; offer him a treat and a nice chest scratch and talk to him in a calm, even voice and you will soon be fast friends.

For his part, Gavin has always kept his end of the bargain when approached this way. It’s people who often can’t follow instructions, imagining themselves a Dr. Doolittle universally understood by all animals.

Like the time we met our new neighbor the local animal control officer. He insisted that dogs “just loved him.” He couldn’t understand why Gavin growled and ran away as he made a beeline straight for him; speaking in a loud excited voice staring straight at him with arms extended as if he were a two year old that had just seen his first real life doggie.

Or the real estate agent I had to physically restrain after I told her to ignore the dog. I guess she didn’t understand that leaning directly over top of a growling/teeth baring dog you were told not to approach could get you snapped at. An incident by the way that has since caused me to never trust anyone I don’t know to follow my instructions around my dog.

Dogs have their own way of meeting and greeting both their two legged and four legged friends and it’s not the way we hairless apes prefer. So for some help with the do’s and don’ts of doggy greetings, I offer another insightful work of art from Lili Chin of DoggieDrawings.net. Links to the original images can be found at http://doggiedrawings.net/post/842176625.

Remember that there is no Dr. Doolittle gene and if we want our dogs to understand us as friendly and benign then we need to greet them using their language, not ours.


8 thoughts on “Dr. Doolittle was a Fictional Character

  1. Pingback: How NOT to Greet a Dog | A Pet's Life Blog

  2. An unfortunate trait many of us humans have is that we are quite willing to relate to others, on our own terms. It is possible through attention to understand the terms of others. Konrad Lorenz wrote about observation and those who chose to do it—-

    “…those… whose gaze, through a wholly irrational delight in the beauty of the object, stays riveted to it.”

    This along with the maturity and accompanying impulse control, accept that the needs and reality of others is as important to them as ours is to us. The decision to impose our needs on others must always be done with consideration and thought, and perhaps most importantly, a respect for those needs.

    Hope springs eternal.

    • Thanks for sharing that Debbie. I agree that there are those who become enraptured in the beauty of animals and “forget themselves” for lack of a better word. The real estate agent in my story definitely fell into that category. But then there are others like my animal control officer who are just blustering their way through willfully ignoring information and actions they know they should poses.

  3. How many times have I gently instructed guests to our home to just ignore our dog, don’t look at her, she’ll stop barking very soon? But, no. Another Dr. Dolittle persona emerges from otherwise intelligent people who you would think might respect the gently given dierections. After all, who knows our dog better than we? Apparently, THEY do.
    It’s almost an insult to the training, time, and patience we’ve put into our fearful dog to get her to where she is now. But Dr. Dolittle was invited to dinner chez nous so we grit our teeth with a tight little smile and stick a little treat in the Dr.’s hand to at least give our dog something to consider less frightening.
    As usual, said dog quickly settles under the coffee table where hors d’oeurvres are being served and later retreats to crate, or not, depending.
    I love cats but I consider myself a dog person. I love the partnership, eye contact, hugability, sense of humor, and challenge of learning together, working as a team, and actually have the ability to take it out to the broader world. But it’s an intimate, hard won relationship. The “world” has often witnessed the difficult times when our dog can’t stop barking during a 40 minute walk in the park. Those same people have no idea that a year later she can walk attentively and even sit when asked with a deer 20 feet in front of her.
    I used to think I was needy when it came to my love for dogs but I’ve come to believe it’s the Dr. Dolittle’s of the world who are the needy ones. They need to make a miraculous connection with a dog they never met, have no knowledge of its history, have not put any energy into its assimilation with society, but for all to see will come to him/her, Dr. Dolittle. Of course it only happens 5 hours later when it’s time for them to leave.

  4. Debbie Jacobs, you’re my hero. Without your eloquent, sensitive, insightful blog, we never have got to where we are now with our fearful dog and that includes learning that using medications that ease the fear is not a failure but a blessing dogs and the people who want desperately to keep them, protect them, and share that all too short path together.

  5. Thank you for expressing much of my frustration with people. I have 2 fearful dogs, and although Daisy has progressed far enough now to greet people pretty quickly, Lady has not. I cannot count how many times I have had to tell people that they need to stop chasing and just let them come on their own terms (if they choose to do so). It’s very frustrating that people don’t get it. I guess that’s why they say listening and hearing are two different things.

    BTW – kids at the dog park are the most difficult. They don’t listen unless I am really stern, I wish people could let the dog parks be for dogs, or if they do choose to bring their kids, teach them not to run, carry sticks or chase a dog.

  6. Pingback: How NOT to Greet a Dog | A Pet’s Life Blog

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