What does your dog want from life?

Silas is not a social butterfly. I have a sincere and, I think, not unfounded hope that he can exist peacefully in the world, but I don’t think he’ll ever love crowds.

When he was a puppy, I spent a lot of time dreaming about taking him places. Shopping in dog-friendly stores, hanging out at dog-friendly coffee shops, meeting up with other dog-owning friends. If I just did everything that Ian Dunbar and the instructor for our puppy kindergarten told me, I was sure I could do those things.

I was wrong, and I’m okay with that.

Puppy Hates the Beach

Baby Silas was not fond of the beach.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned, going to all those dog-friendly places without my dog. A good portion of the dogs there aren’t wild about it. I mean, they usually behave themselves. Some of them obviously enjoy hanging out with their people no matter what, and some of them do genuinely solicit attention from strangers. But a lot of them are also either very stressed themselves or causing a lot of stress to someone else.

Take the miniature poodle I saw at PetCo last week. It’s hard for me to tell with small dogs, but I’m guessing he was adolescent. After he tangled his owners legs in his leash, because he was so excited he ran around like a crazy, she put him in the shopping cart. He promptly stood on his hind legs and put his feet on the edge of the cart. “Oh, I hope he doesn’t try to jump out!” she said. “Sit! Sit! Sit!” He did not sit. He was too excited to listen, and his owner’s anxiety was palpable from the next checkout lane over. Who was gaining what from putting him in that environment?

I’m not saying don’t take your dog out, by any stretch. I certainly do take Silas out, albeit with a keen eye to his anxiety threshold. I just wish people would think a little more about it first. Would your dog want to go with you to the store or the cafe? Or do you want to take your dog?

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11 thoughts on “What does your dog want from life?

  1. Baby Silas is stinking cute!!!! That’s so unusual that he didn’t like the beach. I love how you are so sensitive to his likes and dislikes and don’t force anything on him just to please yourself.

    Blueberry loves going with me wherever I take her. Although I do try to avoid most crowded places because of my own issues, Blueberry will go into a crowded pet supply store and wag her tail at everyone and she loves “cleaning up” the treats that she always seems to find in every single aisle we go down. But if there are a lot of little kids around in certain areas of the park – I tend to avoid those areas. She’s very sweet – but most kids haven’t been properly trained on how to approach a dog. I did take her to a farmer’s market once and the aisles were very narrow and I could see that Blueberry was a little uneasy about so many people crowding her so we don’t do that anymore. I think crowds are fine for her – as long as we can stay on the fringes or the people are spread out enough that she isn’t overwhelmed.

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    1. Dogs are expressly forbidden in the farmer’s markets here, but I can see how that environment would be hard. Good job keeping an eye on her, too.

      Baby Silas *hated* the beach. In his defense, this was before he learned to use the bathroom in public and it was a little chilly. We went back when he was older and he had a blast, but I don’t have any pictures of that trip. We need to go again, before it gets warm enough that the beaches crowd up.

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  2. I agree. I see so many stressed dogs in situations where they are not comfortable. Guide dogs and service dogs take many months of careful, intelligent training before they are comfortable in social settings. It’s too much just to expect all dogs to be happy with crowds around.

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    1. I am *amazed* at what I’ve seen guide dogs do. I used to live near a school for the blind, and I watched dogs calmly sit on loud city buses, then navigate down the bus stairs and through a crowd on the sidewalk.

      But, yeah, that’s not just a lot of training, but also extensive temperament testing.

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  3. Gizmo does shopping and running errands and dog-centric events where’s there’s room to spread out…but i’ve found that he’s not comfortable at street events like parades where folks & dogs are packed together…he doesn’t protest, but i can tell he’s not happy and so have stopped taking him places like this…if we’re going somewhere together it needs to be fun for both of us

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  4. I too was bummed when my new pup, Kaya, was not the dog I imagined taking everywhere with me. She’s not shy like Silas, but too excited and impatient to enjoy drinking coffee with. Though I love running errands with Norman. He’s calm and patient about it but loves any attention he gets which is usually a lot. I took him to American Apparel to try on dog hoodies and he didn’t want to leave because there were a few more people he didn’t get to say hi to. So far they’ve been fine in crowds. People are funny with small dogs. They are easy to cart around but often the most nervous. And owners always pick them up which can amplify nerves. Oh well…

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    1. Silas has grown out of being too hyper to take places, but he gets overwhelmed faster than I can really do anything. I take him out on days when I don’t need to actually buy anything at the store, and we can just leave whenever he starts to get manic.

      Silly Norman! I can imagine him loving a crowd.

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  5. Some of the pack love going places, some hate it and therefore don’t go. Blind Hiker is the most social and is just about bomb proof. She can handle crowds, kids, the vet’s – anywhere that she might get attention! I know that Callie easily gets agitated and hates children, Forest loves the wilderness but doesn’t like meeting people. Bill just wants to show off his (former) bad leg and get sympathy! Deaf Azule is a total love bug and will crawl up on any available lap as will blind puppy Breeze (but she’s too big now!) Blind and partly deaf Brook gets confused with all the sounds but in a quieter setting (like the bank lady’s office) she’s very happy. It’s all about knowing your dog and his/her limits, I think.

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  6. I think it is totally dependent upon each unique situation compared to the dog. While I would LOVE to take my dogs many places with me, Sampson MUST get to all the people and get attention and Delilah MUST get to food, so it’s really not enjoyable for me! It is far easier to leave them home and then spend time doing something we ALL enjoy. 🙂

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  7. Great post.
    No. Most of the time my dogs don’t want to go everywhere with me, which is why I don’t take them everywhere with me. I made the mistake of taking all 3 of my dogs on an outing to the pet store a little over a year ago and ended up having a nightmare of an incident happen and as a result my dog Cupcake was lost for 12 days. I would rather have peace of mind knowing they are safe and knowing that I am not subjecting them to a stressful situation than bringing them with for my ego to assuaged.

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