Basic etiquette: Always ask before giving food to another person’s dog

September 28, 2011 | By | Add a Comment

As noted elsewhere on this website, and in the book I’m writing about Shayna, I never could have anticipated that by adopting my first dog, I was actually becoming a “dog dad.”  This is especially true in Shayna’s case, as she is so smart, and has psychological and emotional needs and phobias that one might expect more in a human child, than in a canine.

I cherish the role of being her “dad,” and I am good at it.  One facet of this role is how guarded I must be to prevent her from eating things she shouldn’t, off the ground, or in the woods, on our walks.  Or, out of my own kitchen – as I recently discovered.

Another responsibility I have, as her “dad,” is to protect her from people who wrongfully assume they have my permission to give her some food item, and I only find out about it after it’s in her mouth.  

I’m acutely sensitive to this issue because I’m writing these words mere minutes after it nearly happened, again.  Shayna and I are sitting at an outdoor cafe, and I was working on her book, while feeding her (healthy) treats.  Mid-way through, she jumped up and began to charge towards something behind me – I was afraid it was another dog, and with her reactive aggression, I have to be perpetually on guard to introduce her to other dogs slowly, on a tight leash.

But no.  Turns out a man was holding out a piece of  a big cheeseburger, about the size of 1/4 of a fist, to her – and of course, she wanted it – bad.  I am pretty sure my look gave this guy the answer to the question he didn’t, but should have asked: “May I give her some of my burger?”  He then mumbled something about how he thought she’d enjoy it.  I then had the duty to restrain her, get her back into a sit-stay, and resume feeding her the treats I brought for her.  But she was eyeballing him until he left, about 15 minutes later.

I realize that he is probably a dog lover, and meant no harm – just like all the other people I’ve observed do similar things, to Shayna, and other dogs.

But think of it this way: Can you imagine how the parent of an infant or toddler would react if, while seated at a cafe’, another patron walked by on their way to dump the remainder of their meal, and – without asking permission – put a piece of… something(!) into the child’s mouth?  If I were that parent, immediately after forcing whatever it was out of my child’s mouth, I would – at a bare minimum – get right in the offender’s face, and let him or her know, in very plain language, to never, ever do that again.

I am posting this as encouragement to any other dog parents to take a similar stance – and to dog lovers who incorrectly assume that feeding another person’s dog, without first asking permission, is acceptable. It’s not acceptable, and if you do it to the wrong dog, you may end up getting a punch in the face, if you encounter a dog lover who is not as civilized as I am.

PS: One of our good friends, Margaret, also pointed out that some dogs are allergic to certain foods – that may be unknown until they have the reaction. Furthermore, I know that “Greenies” make Shayna’s stomach very upset – yet as shown in the picture at the top of this post, someone could conceivably walk by and give Shayna one of them, unbeknownst to me, and the next thing I know, she’s throwing up.  And that would get me very, very upset (enough to send the perpetrator the vet bill, if it got to that point).



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