When Guests Don’t Like Dogs
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
As I write this blog, one of the human kids has a friend over who is clearly not a dog person. This is an extremely unusual occurrence in our house, perhaps happening with the frequency of a Leap Year or the recent eclipse. In fact, I think I can count on one hand the number of humans who have stepped into our home who do not like dogs.
Of course Tinkerbell has decided that this young lady is going to be her new Best Friend Forever whether the visiting human likes her or not. That’s just how Tinkerbell lives her life. Imagine if we all had that confidence in who we are!
It isn’t helping matters that our daughter made popcorn and put it into a clear Pyrex bowl and placed the bowl on the sofa. Jackson and Tinkerbell love popcorn and are accustomed to patiently sitting and waiting while we eat it and toss them occasional pieces. And no matter how good they are or how well trained they are, that bowl is in a spot where they could just reach over and grab a mouthful without any human assistance.
Jax and Tink love strangers as much as they love popcorn. Strangers with popcorn are obviously the best thing ever because the new human might not know the rule that the dogs get only an occasional piece of popcorn for every handful the humans consume. There is significant potential that the new human might dispense handfuls of popcorn to the dogs and make it the best day in all of Dogdom. In fact I will never forget the first time our dog sitter watched the dogs, she texted me and asked, “Is it ok if I give the dogs a few pieces of popcorn? They seem to think they are going to get some!” I had laughed that day as I pictured both dogs sitting straight up, their intense brown eyes willing our sitter to give them the popcorn.
Getting back to today, I was standing in the kitchen watching them beg for popcorn and saw Tinkerbell reach up and lick the friend’s arm as a little reminder that seemed to say, “Hey, don’t forget me! I’m waiting for my share!”
As I called her off, I watched as the friend wiped her slobbery arm on her shirt with a look of horror as if we had sprayed her with something acidic. I laughed inwardly a little as I headed over to remove the dogs from the room, thinking of the amounts of dog drool that I have had on me over the last forty-plus years and how the allergy test that I did several years ago did not even react one bit to the dog “allergen” that was injected under my skin after a lifetime of exposure to dog hair, dog drool, dog germs. At this point if I was exposed to gamma rays I would probably turn into some sort of Labrador/human Avenger type hero, able to use my big otter tail to knock out villains.
As an avid social media user, I see memes on a regular basis with sentiments like “I live here, you don’t” and while I agree with them in some ways, there is some etiquette that should come into play when visitors come into your home. While I am not one bit concerned if I have dog hair on my sofa and I am not going to lock them away where they cannot be seen just because guests are here, it is also our responsiblity as dog owners to make sure they aren’t climbing and jumping on guests (whether they like dogs or not) or sitting and staring intently at people and begging them for their snacks or food.
About 97% of our guests are perfectly happy with Tinkerbell crawling into their laps and sprawling all 67 pounds of herself across their legs for a tummy rub. The same percentage is ok with Jax thrusting his giant head into their personal space for a chin scratch. For the small percentage of visitors who are not overly thrilled with these things, there is the “off” command. Sometimes it takes a few times, sometimes the dogs try to sit and stare at the guests as if silently willing them to love them, but in the end I prevail and they go to lay on their beds with a big doggie sigh of disappointment.
Of course when service people come to the house the dogs are always put into their kennels for the dual purpose of keeping the dogs away from the door that is opening and closing more than usual and to keep them from pestering the workers who are trying to get done and move to their next job. Often the dog loving workers will ask to pet them when they are done and getting ready to leave, and I am always happy to oblige.
I remember one man who was here to fix our internet and TV services who had to do a lot of work sitting on the floor in our living room. He practically begged me to let the dogs out of their crates because he had grown up with black Labrador Retrievers and wanted to play with them. After a few minutes of playtime I told the dogs “off” and they laid on their beds, although every once in a while one of them would approach him out of nowhere and give his ear or neck a nuzzle or lick. He seemed quite happy with their slobbery love and we were probably his favorite house of the day, but to allow that type of activity is normally completely off-limits.
On the few occasions that we have non-dog people in our home I am grateful for the multi-purpose use of the “off” or “leave it” command that I learned when Jackson was in beginner obedience. I had known of using that command to tell a dog not to grab something off of the ground or the floor although personally I had always used an all-purpose “no” which had worked great with my previous dogs. In fact I almost did not believe the trainer when she taught us that “leave it” could be used to stop a dog from snatching up a contraband item as well as to tell them to stop looking at or focusing on something.
Thankfully the dogs and I have practiced both applications of the command on a regular basis and can tell you that your dog will in fact learn that it means both things, reaffirming my belief that every dog owner should take each and every one of their dogs through a round of obedience classes even if they are knowledgeable, life-long dog owners. In addition to a training class being an incredible bonding experience for you and your dog, you never know what tidbit of knowledge you might pick up from different trainers. We now use “off” equally if I drop a human pill or a grape on the floor or if the dogs are too interested in another dog out on our walks or for those rare instances that we have a human in our home who just isn’t that into Jackson and Tinkerbell.
Of course telling the dogs to leave our guest alone will only last for that particular visit. I’m sure that the next time our daughter’s friend comes over that Jax and Tink will begin their campaign to earn her love all over again, because although they can learn multiple uses of a training command, they will never be able to understand why someone just doesn’t love them like the rest of the humans in their life love them. I cannot fault them that; I do not understand that either, but that leaves more doggie kisses and slobber for those of us who do.