I've come to the conclusion that I'm just a bitch when it comes to listening to other people about their dogs. Or maybe I'm just impatient. Either way I have no tolerance for ignorant people who try to tell me about dog training when they clearly have no clue.
I came to this realization the other day while in Petco. Alex and I had brought Luna, a delicate little pitty mix that was needing a new home. A friend of a friend had lost his house and needed a place for her to go. My friend had contacted me to see if I was interested. After a bit of discussion, Alex and I decided to keep her for a little bit to evaluate her in our home to see if she was an ideal candidate for my next Diabetes Alert Dog in training.
At the tail end of the trip, I was standing at the dog tag engraving machine. I had purchased a couple generic tags to have available for foster dogs to wear (such as Luna) and I wanted to make sure she had identification on her in case she escaped the yard as she was not microchipped. Alex was standing next to me holding her leash while I typed in the contact information for the dog tag.
Just then a gentlemen with a filthy bull terrier came strolling through the door. His dog was pulling, lunging and vocalizing to get to Luna. My first reaction, even though I was not physically holding onto the leash was to say "I'm sorry she's a service dog, please don't distract her." With a jolt though, I realized that this situation was different. Luna wasn't a service dog and I was in a pet store where pet dogs (albeit how obnoxious they were) were absolutely allowed.
Alex, like a pro, moved her to the side (I hate that the engraving machine is RIGHT by the entrance and is SUPER slow) and was offering her hot dog bits as she looked a bit overwhelmed by the bull terrier's displays of frustration at night being able to get to her. The gentleman, completely oblivious that his dog was being inappropriate, strolled right by Alex and Luna yammering away about how beautiful she was. Alex physically but his body between the two dogs in an obvious display of not wanting the two to interact. The man dragged his reactive dog to the cookie bar and while picking up handfuls of cookies to give to his dog continued to go on and on about his dog, how beautiful Luna was, and how cool it was that Petco had cookies available for the dogs. As rude as it felt, Alex and I both chose to ignore him, and after a few moments he ambled off, still talking, down the aisle and away from us. I breathed a sigh of relief and inserted the next tag to be engraved. A quick glance at Alex and Luna told me that they both were relieved that the situation hadn't escalated.
A few moments later it all started up again. This time an older woman pushing one of those walkers where you can sit in it too, came strolling through the door. She immediately commented about Luna and how cute she was. Alex responded with the standard "thanks" but clearly was trying not to engage her. She looked like she was going to amble by us, but, stopped again and started talking about the dog's she'd had in her life. Luna glanced at her briefly then quickly looked to Alex for direction. Like any good dog trainer, he responded immediately with a tiny treat to reward her checking in...and that's where it all started.
"You know she's going to get fat with all of that," she said with a chuckle.
"This is her breakfast, so, she's not getting any extra calories," Alex responded smoothly and breezily. Even though my back was turned, I tuned into the conversation. Rolling my eyes, I couldn't help but get a little bugged at her blatant comment. "It's really none of your business." I thought to myself. Luna wasn't fat, in fact, she was incredibly lean and slightly underweight where her ribs showed a bit.
The woman yammered on a bit about dogs and how wonderful they are as I glanced with longing at the engraver, it was taking FOREVER. Just then, a dog walked in the door and turned to go towards the grooming department door which was a few feet away from us. I immediately went into trainer mode and was rewarding Luna like a pez dispenser every time she looked away from the dog and checked in with me. Within a few moments Luna as responding beautifully and didn't even care about the other dog. I was happy to see she wasn't reactive.
Again the woman commented snarkily, "boy she's enjoying those free handouts."
"I'm creating a positive association to other dogs to avoid reactivity," I replied calmly, "I'm rewarding her choosing me over the other dog." As soon as the words came out of my mouth I thought man why are you even trying, this woman clearly thinks she knows everything.
"Oh dear," the woman said almost sadly, "that's awfully intellectual of you, and this dog isn't intellectual. She's just enjoying all the free food she's getting."
I forced myself not to tell her to keep her mouth shut and swallowed my building anger and annoyance. "I don't have a problem with that," I said instead, "if it keeps her attention on me I don't mind feeding her."
With a simpering smile, she cut me off with a "I'm just joking, I'm just joking."
Oh but you're not joking I thought to myself. I looked back at the engraver. Surely it was almost done by now! I knew that I didn't have much left before I would tell this entitled woman off.
"You don't need treats honey," she continued on, "just putting your hand down there does the same thing and she just wants to be with you..."
I tuned the rest out, pulled the tag clip out of the machine as soon as it was done, and Alex and I quickly broke off. I walked out the door with steam practically coming out of my ears.
Still, now, a couple days later, if I even think about it I get steamed. It really disappoints me that on a daily basis when out and about I run into people like this. Our society has turned into this group of people who are anthropomorphizing our dogs! Dogs do not process information like we do, they do not have the same motivations that we do, and they do not speak the same language. It's incredibly frustrating to see how little the general public really knows about dogs that share so much of our lives. We are doing them such a disservice by not familiarizing ourselves with their ways of living.
This latest experience has taught me one thing; to have a separate schpiel (other than my service dog one) in order to dissuade ignorant people away from me when I'm training in dog friendly venues.
I know, I know it's about making sure I'm educating in a professional manner whenever I can. After all, it's not their fault that they've talked to a self proclaimed "dog trainer" who has no formal education like I do, but yet, sometimes I just can't. Do you guys sometimes find yourself in this position where you get so frustrated that you can barely function?