Can I Touch You ?

Below is the link to a great post from a dog trainer in the USA. We’ve all seen, or even been in, those situations where someone is expected to hug someone else but its clear they don’t want to.  I recently saw a young girl being forced not only to hug her uncle, who clearly made her feel uncomfortable, but her gran also lifted her up so for her to kiss him as well.  I watched this in amazement wondering why the ‘responsible adults’ in this little girls life  missed all the signs that she really, really, really did not want to do this.  I thought they were so obvious, but apparently they weren’t obvious to everyone.

And there was the incident in the local feed merchants when they had an open day.  The local micro-chipping group were there to chip dogs for free so the place was not only heaving with people, it was heaving with dogs….dogs showing all manner and means of stress behaviours as they were approached from all sides by people and dog alike.  A border collie was in the line up for the tills (with his person), clearly showing clear ‘get me out of here’ behaviours (the noise must have been so overwhelming for a collie!), when the man behind the dog decided to pet it.  He got his hand away just in time and I was devastated to see who got punished for their behaviour.  Yup, it was the dog.

With horses, I see people approach and stand in their space without getting permission from the horse, hug them around their necks (the same hug a lion would bring them down with!) and when the horse tries to back away they are made to stay and endure it, slap the horse on the neck as a sign of affection (the louder the slap noise the more affection we just showed them!).  We need to get really good at spotting when our horses are not ok with touch and respond appropriately.  They don’t really like to be ‘hugged’, petted or slapped on the neck.

That is not to say we can’t teach them to be ok with it, but that takes time and careful training.  Brody loves to get kisses on his eye, nose and so on, I’ve actively taught him that it brings positive reinforcers afterwards.  He draws the line at being hugged (lion style)…no positive reinforcer is powerful enough for him to put up with that, so I don’t persevere.

Its so important that we ask a question and we wait for a response.  And its even more important to remember that everyone, and every animal has the right to say no…and that ‘no’ should be respected.  Sometimes its a ‘NO, not now not ever’, other times its a ‘no, not right now’.  Either way, its a ‘no’ and we have to listen.

To read the article….




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