“My dog would never bite.”
I hear this a lot, and I wonder why anyone would think that.
I had traveled through Atlanta to North Carolina with two children under 5 for a week without my husband for a family funeral. Total, I spent 8 hours in a car with them and 4 hours in an airplane. With part of the time in a hotel, and part of it in a relative’s home, the sleeping experience had left me tired, to say the least. Walking through the airport on the return trip, I had the little one strapped to my chest, the other in the stroller, both overtired, everyone had a backpack that they were supposedly going to carry, and I had a giant backpack on my back with all of our “essentials”.
Are you getting the picture? I’m tired, sweating, my back hurts from carrying people and bags and, to top it off, both kids are whining. It wasn’t pretty. It’s like the cheapest form of birth control, right?
Anyway, United has a policy that you are charged $25 to check a bag under 50 pounds. When I got to the counter, my bag which had weighed 45 pounds on the way there, now weighed 55 pounds. (Just for reference, I bought nothing and added nothing to the bag.)
When the gentleman at the desk told me that my bag was 5 pounds over and they would have to charge me $100 for those 5 pounds, so it would be a total of $125 to check my bag, I flipped my lid. I yelled at him. I cried. I even used a few words that might come back to get me if my 4-year-old was paying attention.
I’m not proud of this behavior, nor is it how I would have dealt with the situation under normal circumstances, however, I was what we dog trainers refer to as “over-threshold”. That means I was spent, and this insanity of a $100 penalty just tipped me over the edge.
Picture a family dog who has endured children hanging on him, getting in his face, loving him in a way that only a kid would for all of his life. He’s never really reacted except for one situation: he’s always been a little snarky at being surprised from behind, but “he would only growl. He’d never actually bite.”
BUT, on this day, his tummy doesn’t feel very well because he ate something last night that he shouldn’t have, his ears are slightly infected because he was swimming at a boarding facility all weekend while the family was gone, he’s exhausted from the constant activity of other dogs for the past three days and, on top of it, his human mom just spent 10 minutes getting mats out of his coat.
Out of the blue, the youngest of the kids in his family comes up behind the family dog where he is resting and recuperating, and lays her stomach on his haunches. The previously saintly dog turns around with amazing swiftness to deliver a bite to the kid’s side that, thank goodness, makes no mark, but scares the bejeezus out of the kid, of course.
Now, is that dog a bad dog? Has something changed in him? Well, not really, he was just having a supremely bad day and reacted inappropriately.
I also reacted inappropriately. I would have, perhaps, had more luck asking the man to watch my kids while I sorted through my bag taking things out to make the bag lighter. That certainly would have made him rethink making a fuss over five pounds, huh? Wink, wink.
My point is that dogs are living beings that can be affected by internal and external stressors just like us, but where we yell, cry, hit, punch or shoot at our worst, dogs growl, snap, bite, tear and dissect. Why would we expect them to be more durable than us?
20 years ago, people knew dogs could bite and that was part of being a dog, and therefore respected them. Today, we expect them to be more human than dog and in that, do them a huge disservice.