You are your dog’s advocate. Remember this. I think a lot of us forget it sometimes, or are nervous about that role.
You are the one thing that stands between your dog and the outside world. That can seem like a big responsibility, but it’s also pretty empowering too.
Let me give you an example:
Our terrier Georgie is great with other dogs – if he’s off leash. On the leash, Georgie is fine with other dogs, as long as they don’t get in his face. He doesn’t lunge or snarl at dogs, but if they come up to sniff him, he will snap. I recognize his limits and know my role as his advocate. I’ve had many, many people come up to me on walks and say, “It’s okay, my dog is friendly.” Without hesitation, I step in between the dogs, pull Georgie away, and say, “That’s great, but my dog is uncomfortable with that.” Usually it’s taken pretty well. Sometimes people will have a snarky comment, but that’s okay. It’s not my job to please everyone – but it is my job to be the voice for my dogs.
You may be in a position where you think that those around you might know more, or have more experience, or might think differently of you. Just remember, no one knows your dog as well as you. Trust your instincts. If something feels off or makes you uncomfortable about a situation, take a second, remove your dog from it, ask questions, do whatever is necessary to stand up for your dog. This can happen at the dog park, the vet’s office, while playing with friends’ dogs, or while training. If a group of dogs is playing at the park and all the owners are smiling, but your dog seems overwhelmed, jump in and grab your dog for a break. If your vet wants to do a procedure that makes you uncomfortable or doesn’t seem right to you, ask questions or get a second opinion. If your friend swears her dog is friendly but you just get a weird vibe, pass on the puppy play date, or just go for an on leash walk instead. If your trainer suggests methods that make you uncomfortable, like a shock collar or harsh corrections, stand up for your dog, and find a trainer that uses methods that feel right to you.
I think everyone struggles with this at times. I know I do. And, almost without exception, every time I’ve failed to speak up when I feel that something isn’t right, I regret it. Just remember, you may not know everything when it comes to dogs; that’s okay, you don’t need to. You know your dog better than anyone else, and that’s all you need to be his perfect advocate.