I recently had coffee with a friend and his 2yr old chocolate lab Oscar. I just love Mr Oscar, he is absolutely adorable, goofy and knows no rules. He still has the mentality of a puppy with ADD. All that aside he is a good boy and when he REALLY gets told, he listens (for a short time anyway). We sat in the coffee shop for an hour or so with Oscar coming in and out.
If he saw another dog outside he would run out and be social – the size of a full grown lab with the social skills of an adolescent puppy. He means no harm but isn’t (or has been taught) to display ‘doggie’ social etiquette. Another friend came down with her spoodle (Oscar’s girlfriend Twiggy) and they started to get rambunctious. You could slowly see the other coffee dwellers raising their eyebrows, getting annoyed as they played and bumped into everything and everyone. Twiggy’s mum notes this and decides to take her home, leaving Oscar to calm down for a while.
As we’re inside the coffee shop at the first table, Oscar comes in and is starting to get bored when his dad asks ‘what does he want, is he going to calm down? I’ve just taken him for a 3hr walk in the park’. I respond by telling his dad to get Oscar to calm down and sit by him. In frustration, his dad does this but Oscar doesn’t stay for very long. Then his dad throws the ultimate question at me ‘when is he going to grow up?’
Now this is a big question that people often ask, and it got me thinking. Why are you making it the responsibility of your pet to decide when it’s time to grow up? Understandably in the baby and maturing stage it’s acceptable for them to be silly, have bouts of energy and go crazy, then calm down and repeat this cycle all over again. Cats, dogs, birds etc express this just like us humans. As babies and toddlers, that type of behaviour is fine but when we start to expect our pet’s demeanour to change and our behaviour towards them doesn’t, well I say you’re sending mixed signals to your pet – would you want to grow up if someone did the same to you?
Going back to Oscar, he is very much loved like the only child. I don’t blame his owner at all as I’ve looked after him and indulged him also, however there comes a time where rules and boundaries are needed for doggy social etiquette. Indulging your pet is fine if they fully understand that you as the pet owner are in charge. Having to repeatedly do the same command over and over is not managing your dog well when out socially. So where does it begin?
It begins at home. Commands, rules and boundaries are best taught from a young age in the home. For your pet to respect you as the leader of the pack or especially for a dog, the master of the pack, this must start from the packs domain. Some people call this training, I call it teaching.
If you want your pet to mature as it grows, then teaching them to follow your set of rules WILL teach them respect for you thus making social etiquette much easier when you’re out and about.
As for Oscar, everyone loves him however I have told his dad he needs to learn some rules and this will help him be calmer when socialising. Effort and consistency are the only requirements for changing your pet from being the baby of the family to growing up.
Whose responsibility do you think it is for a pet to grow up?
Is it the pet or the owners?
What experiences have you had where social etiquette isn’t happening by your pet or someone else’s?