What a wonderful ski I had this morning with one of my best friends and my old dog Duke trotting at my side.  Our pets are our constant companions.  The local Nordic areas all recognize this and have designated areas for people to ski with their dogs.  This separation is needed because many dogs are not trained to be around skis and other people on skis.  Pet owners can always work to socialize their pets and, the more socialization they receive, the better the animals react.  Not only is the socialization important to be around other people and other pets, but getting them used to every type of situation possible so they don’t defend themselves violently by incessant barking or even biting from fear.

Fear is often transmitted by the pet owner.  Owners are often afraid of the reaction the pet will have or some don’t care.  They let the pet take control of the situation when they need to call the pet to their side, take Alpha control by calming down the animal, and letting the animal know that there is no danger in the situation.  It may take a few tries or a few moments to get the pet’s attention refocused or for you to calm yourself down sufficiently to project calmness.  This is often very difficult to achieve when an animal has assumed this dominant role before.  Perhaps the best way to handle this role assignment is practice in a situation less difficult until the animal and you respond more positively.  

Another problem is that many owners do not keep track of their pet enough in encounter situations and, when left on his/her own, the pet may become aggressive.  This happened recently at Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center when a dog, not under proper supervision or restraint, went around the service counter and bit one of the staff in the leg going all the way to the bone.  And she was even doing her work – not paying attention to the animal as this should not have been a concern. This immediately provoked a justified reaction to ban all dogs from inside the Nordic Center and ask them to be tied up outside.   Even outside, dogs have been known to approach people from behind and project domination and make people very nervous about the situation as happened to Jeff Russell.

How many dogs have been in that Nordic Center over the 30 or so years that have been well behaved, friendly to all staff and customers alike, and a pleasure to be around?  Why does someone who does not believe their animal is capable of such behavior ruin a good situation for everyone?  Owners must take responsibility and manage a pet appropriately or not put the pet into such a situation.  

Think about your pet…  What reaction do you see when the animal is scared or unfamiliar?  Keep them with you, assert your calm Alpha to take control and you pet will respond better and better with each encounter.  I always try to teach kids (and adults too) to ask first before approaching a dog.  I remind them that an owner may respond that the pet should not be touched and request that you stay away.  That is advised for a reason.  Heed the warning!  Or if you get a positive response, let the owner introduce you to the dog and you can show love as appropriate.  Happy ending for all – the oxytocin produced is a calming hormone that produces warm feelings and bonding effects for both the pet and the person.