Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Why Can't I Pet Your Dog?

Yesterday, I met a friend from Illinois who had traveled to St. Paul with her son to visit Macalester as a potential college choice. Knowing that I lived close by, she asked if we could meet while her son was doing the college visit thing. She also wanted to meet Belle, the dog she has heard so much about. We had a wonderful visit, sitting on a shady bench in the Mac quad.

While sitting on that bench, many folks stopped to greet us, even calling Belle by name and asking if they could pet her. After a couple of these meet and greets, my friend asked me to explain the purpose of the "no pet rule". I told her that it is easy for a dog to learn it's okay to be distracted by well-meaning people because the reward is so great - retrievers love human affection. Thus, the first skill we teach the dog is "Attention" - because it is the most important skill they need for the work they will do when they graduate. I asked her to imagine trying to work with a dog that was constantly looking around and unfocused.

I wish I could have been as clear in my explanation as the example portrayed in this morning's comic (see above). Talk about serendipity. Talk about "brevity". Our dogs don't joust, but loss of focus at the wrong time could potentially put their humans in a dangerous place. It isn't any more complicated than that.


Anonymous said...


That cartoon says it all. I am toying with printing a copy of it to carry with me on public visits.


Pappy's Fella said...

Well, for those of us who don't have our dog's attention in the first place, there's a different reason for the no pet rule. A lot of people, adults included, race up to dogs and grab them like they were stuffed animals. Pappy is generally great with strangers, but put him in these situations and he gets a little wigged out.