How, without sounding judgemental, do I help give advice to dog owners I encounter in public?
Dog owners can picture it. Passing on a hiking trail you see another owner struggling with a young dog, struggling against the leash, strangling itself it’s pulling so hard. The owner is flush, sweaty from the wrestling match they’ve been doing with their pup the entire walk.
I’ve been on both sides of that encounter, both the passerby, and the poor soul holding onto the rambunctious pup. But as a passerby, and as someone who spends their days with dogs, I want to help! I want to offer my tiny bits of unsolicited advise and hopefully trigger some sort of action in this owner’s mind.
But as we pass, I see the will slowly fading from their face. As I smile, they flash back a desperate gaze, screaming “let’s just get home” through their eyes.
And I just smile.
Every time I wonder, is their something I could have said that would make that poor owner’s day easier? But, more importantly, if I did have something to say, how would I say it? How do I come off as being helpful, not judgemental or insincere?
Is that even possible?
I react rather quickly and critically when people try to give me advice on handling my dogs. My brain immediately goes to “this is my job, who are you to tell me how to handle a dog?”, and that’s wrong. I’ve found that once I take another owner or professional’s advice, I am able to apply way more techniques into my work. As the old saying goes, “the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again while expecting different results.”
And of course, you never know the things you don’t know.
I assume others will react with the same resistance. That alone is enough to make me hesitate and avoid conversations with owners that I could potentially offer a bit of advise, or could even offer me a little insight into their situaion and how to hadle it myself.
Maybe that’s selfish. But hey, there are lot’s of cute dogs I could be petting!
So I’d like to know from dog owners: In what way could I approach you that would make you feel safe and open to discussing your dog? Would you e open to advice?