When Rumpy and I are out and about, we see all sorts of reactions in people.
Some people get a look of surprise on their face, as though they’re not quite sure what to make of him.
Others turn in fear of Rumpy. If walking, they head away from us, but often look to make sure he doesn’t jerk away from me and attack them.
And then some people immediately have a smile on their face. They stop and ask about the Rumpster, and perhaps give him a head rub.
Those who are attracted to Rumpy invariably tell me of their own dog. I’ve heard stories of all sorts of beloved animals while Rumpy makes new friends.
A recent study conducted in Sweden found that our empathy toward dogs impacts how we perceive their behavior. The researchers asked vet students about their experiences with and empathy toward dogs, then showed them videos of dogs, and asked them to describe if the dog’s behavior was dangerous. Not surprising, the less empathy the student had toward dogs, the more aggressive they labeled the dog’s behavior.
How is this relevant for those of us who share our home with a dog of a “dangerous breed”? It simply reinforces what we already know- we must be sure to take steps to make others not feel unsafe around our dogs.
Earlier this week when two people were working across the street and Rumpy was eyeing them, I explained to them that Rumpy likes to watch people, but he’s not aggressive.
When people walk nearby, I have Rumpy stop until they pass, so he won’t nudge them or try to engage them in play. The dog lovers will invariably stop, while the rest will quickly go on their way.
I do not try to lecture people about my dog. Instead, I let people learn by watching us that, at least with Rumpy, they are in no danger.
What do you do to make others feel safe around your dog?
The study? Factors Affecting the Human Interpretation of Dog Behavior, by Meyer, Iben; Forkman, Björn; Paul, Elizabeth S., published in Bloomsbury Journals. I accesssed the study through HumaneSpot.org.