Client handout: 'Just say no' to dog bites
Mikkel Becker, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP, CDBC, CTC
Mikkel Becker is the lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. She is a certified behavior consultant and trainer who specializes in reward-based training thats partnered closely with the pets veterinary team. Mikkel is the co-author of six books, including From Fearful to Fear Free, and was the featured trainer on Vetstreet.com.
There are lots of ways to know a dog is frightened, anxious or stressed, but theyre all useless if your veterinary client doesnt act as voice for their dog and say 'no' to the stressful person or situation. Share this handout with dog owners to help them trust their instinct for the right kind of dog training and the wrong kind of social encounters.
A “no” that needed to be spoken on behalf of a dog in need-but was intentionally or permissively left unsaid-can result in the devastating outcome of a dog bite. Many dog-human interactions gone wrong are a direct result of a pet owner dismissing their own concerns or disregarding their dog's outward signs of stress. The pet owner may silence their own internal voice or overlook their dog's discomfort, all because of the felt social pressure or perceived obligation to say “yes,” even when the situation, their better judgement and the dog's communication signals all but begged for a no.
Too often, dog owners won't remove a stressor from a dog or a dog from a stressful environment, and dog bite prevention is largely about empowering pet owners with the responsibility and right to be their dog's personal advocate and voice. Voicing to pet owners the truth that they have permission to say if, when and how an interaction with their dog takes place is an essential piece of ensuring more mutual, safe interactions between humans and dogs.
Similar to the “Just Say No” campaign to keep kids off drugs, we need a “Don't Be Afraid to Say No” campaign so everyone knows it's OK-and sometimes necessary-for people's safety and the dog's safety.
It's time for pet owners to prioritize their dog's physical and emotional safety over felt social obligation in situations they face with their canine. Giving pet owners permission to say no is a simple act with great power in terms of protecting people and their pooches.