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Ungrateful Parents: The Minority (Thankfully!)

Two of the three dogs I’ve had in my family have been child-unfriendly.

The late Jordan had been terribly abused as a puppy and, as a consequence, was frightened about being touched by anyone (child or adult) except me. The late Jake became child-unfriendly when he started to get various painful age-related problems like arthritis.

I’d always stop children from patting either dog, and explain the situation to the kids and parents. (See Don’t Be Afraid To Say “Stop!” for more details on this.) Most parents were extremely thankful for my honesty, but on some rare occasions I encountered parents who were both ungracious and ungrateful.

An Encounter With An Ungrateful Parent

One particular mother was deeply offended when I told her child not to pat Jordan.

“Stop! Don’t pat the dog!” I told the child, as I stepped between her and Jordan.
“She’s only a baby!” the mother snapped at me.
“My dog’s very nervous, and your child was running at him from behind. I had to tell her to stop,” I explained.
“There was no need to say it like that!” the mother replied, her face screwed up in anger.

Well, now I was angry. I had been trying to protect her child (in other words, doing her job: parents should be the ones to stop their child from charging towards unknown dogs), and she had the nerve to tell me off?

“What should I have said, in that case?” I asked her. “Should I have taken my time explaining things, by which time your daughter would have already grabbed my dog from behind, startled him, and possibly been snapped at? Would you have been happier that way? No, you wouldn’t have. In fact you would’ve complained that I hadn’t acted quickly enough. But I did act quickly, and your child didn't get snapped at. Obviously, though, you’d prefer me to be polite rather than your child to be safe.”

She didn’t have much to say to that, but she was still very displeased.

The Ungrateful Parent: A Rare Breed

I haven’t experienced many situations like this. It’s actually pretty rare to find a parent who favours good manners over their own child’s safety. And I’ve got to say, I really don’t get it. Do these parents really expect me to stand there elucidating in polite tones to a child who is clearly too excited to listen? Time is of the essence when a child is roaring up to a nervous dog at top speed with arms outstretched, and it requires quick intervention - NOT courtesy. You’ve got plenty of time to be polite afterwards, once the child has stopped charging.

As far as I’m concerned, the only way to handle a situation like this is to stop the child first, thereby breaking their dog-induced excitement. Then you can explain the reason, at your leisure, and you can do it kindly and courteously. But only after you’ve thwarted the child’s love-attack on your child-unfriendly dog.

The good news is that the grateful parents are very many, and the ungrateful ones are very, very few. So don’t worry about the fact that you might have the misfortune of encountering the odd (and I mean “odd” in both senses of the word) parent who values politeness over the safety of their child. Despite the existence of such misguided parents, you must always stop the interaction between your child-unfriendly dog and the child, thereby protecting both dog and child.

Protect...Whether Ungrateful Parents Like It Or Not

I say: tough luck to the parents who don’t like the way you speak to their kid when you tell them not to pat your dog.

Better that you offend the foolish parent and keep both dog and child safe, because I assure you that if the misguided parent’s child does get snapped at due to your dilly-dallying around trying to be polite, that previously politeness-obsessed parent will not be commending you on your politeness. No, not at all. They’ll have an abrupt change of heart and suddenly value their child’s safety above all else. And they’ll immediately put the on blame you and (especially) your dog. They won’t care about the background of your dog, or what their child was doing to or around the dog. A parent like that will put the blame somewhere - anywhere, in fact! (but never to themselves, of course) - as quickly as possible, and that finger of blame will be pointed at your dog.

And, no, I’m not being dramatic, and I’m not being pessimistic either. History shows that some humans can only see with one eye and think with half a brain when an animal does even a little bit of harm to a human, so please protect your dog by erring on the side of caution at all times. If your dog is child-unfriendly or if you’re unsure about your dog with kids, stop the encounter from happening. Better a disappointed child than one who’s upset because of being snapped at by a frightened dog.

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Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

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