Taking liberties

Many people ask me if I've ever been bitten, my answer would have to be "not by a dog."  I have been involved with dogs for over 35 years, I started in the conformation ring, moved onto training, owned a pet walking service, been a professional dog trainer and dog photographer and the only thing that ever bit me was a duck of some sort.  Yep a duck, or it might have been a goose.  I was actually doing a photo shoot with a couple of very beautiful Belgian Tervurens, quite an intense breed.  The shoot was fabulous, the dogs were wonderful, it wall all good but the duck/goose.

We were shooting at a lake, a small man made type lake with tons of ducks and geese.   I was minding my own business, I would never harass a duck or goose and always keep my distance.  Well this one, let's call it a goose, this one grey goose was harassing me.  Not the dog, me.  It followed me everywhere, I kept moving out of it's way and it kept coming.  Finally when I was completely involved with the dog I was shooting it came up behind me and bit me in the lower back, right where my jeans and shirt left an opening.  I was shocked, I had a few choice words for this bird and we moved off far enough that I could keep it in my peripheral vision.

Other than that I've really only had a handful of diffusing situations.  The type of  moment when your dog reading skills need to be at their finest.  Three were training clients and two that I can remember were photo clients.  Quick thinking and very fast but slow and calm turn a ways solved each instance.   Each of the scenarios were caused by the dogs realization that I was in their space.  Only one actually barked at me, the others I avoided any vocalizing by moving quickly out of their space by simply and smoothly turning sideways.

One such incident was with a rescue Mastiff, we'd been getting on fine, not great but he was putting up with me.  He was standoffish enough to let me know that we were not friends.  All was fine until I moved in for a close-up and I crossed an invisible line, one that I knew I'd crossed by the change in facial expression and rise of his ears.  I snapped quickly to get a shot with his ears up and then turned away which immediately solved the issue.

We humans tend to be presumptuous, taking liberties with the canine species when we meet them.  So many people tell me how others move in on their dog even when they have been asked not to.  Some have to resort to holding out their hand to stop an interaction "no they don't like strangers," as the stranger persists.  "All dogs love me."   Very few dogs want you pawing all over them, they don't know you.   Dogs will clearly tell you that they don't want you in their space, are you listening?  Are you watching and reading their signals?  Dogs are great communicators.  Ducks?  I'm not that educated on duck behavior to be honest.  To this day I do not know if he loved me or hated me.