I just posted about Petting and acknowledging Bella. I mentioned that I don’t like to, but if I allow you to “pet” Bella there are a few things you need to know. The first being, it is not “petting” it is called greeting. It is really important to understand that greeting is a command that Bella knows, and she has rules that are involved. So I would like to walk all of you through how Bella greets.
First, it is very important that every time you want to acknowledge Bella to ask me first. Even if you have greeted her before that, it does not give you permission to pet her whenever you want.
After I say that it is okay to pet Bella, it is important that I get her ready before petting her. By me giving her a command saying that it is okay for her to make contact with someone else, it keeps her in work mode and makes her know that this is temporary contact. When getting Bella ready, I put her in a sit command and then tell her greet and I point to the person she can greet.
This next part is where the petter comes in, and this form of greeting should actually be used when meeting any new dog for the first time. First, you should stand a little less then an arms length away from Bella, then reach out so your hand is half a foot away from Bella with your hand flat, palm up, to let Bella sniff. This is a very important step that makes the greeting process mutual between you and her. After this, many people immediately go to pet her on the head but this is actually the wrong way to approach any dog. Instead you should reach under and pet the dog on their neck. The reason for this is that it is showing the dog non-dominance. It also will make them feel more comfortable and is less threatening.
For some people this will end your petting or greeting, Bella will usually let you know because she will lift her nose in the air and turn away. A lot of people don’t understand that this is Bella’s way of telling you, it was nice to meet you but please don’t pet me anymore. For others, instead of putting her nose up, Bella will put her nose down giving you permission to pet the top of her head.
The whole process lasts 30 seconds to a minute and then it is important to step back and to not continue petting. The reason is that any more petting makes Bella want to play. Also, I ask that when petting Bella not to go past her neck/ collar. Once again this gives her the idea that it is time to play and she gets distracted.
Once again, I would like to stress that it is always very important to ask permission before approaching a service dog. Do not take offense if a team tells you no. There are times and working conditions that the handler knows is not a good environment for greeting.
Here are some examples of when I don’t allow greeting.
- Random rude people because I don’t really have time for that.
- Busy environments such as a grocery store or a public place with lots of people. The reason is that the environment is already a little stressful for me and that is when I most need Bella working. The second reason is that if there are a lot of people and I let one person pet her, I will, with-out-a-doubt, have more people ask. When more people ask, I either have to say no and then get called out, or I get stuck for a long time.
- If Bella is already a little overwhelmed I say no just so she wont get more distracted.
- Sometimes I just don’t want to take the time to have Bella meet new random strangers. Greeting is something I usually reserve for friends and family because they see her all the time. Because when you think about it, should you have to stop what you are doing to meet 7 random strangers you will never meet again just because they think you are fluffy, cuddle, cute, pretty, well behaved, or just there? No you shouldn’t have to especially if you are busy working.
I know this seems like a lot to ask someone to do when petting which is why I only let certain people greet her. But this is the best way that works for us. Another thing I would like to point out is that other service teams might have a different process. Because of this, it is always okay to ask if there is a certain way to great and when in doubt just let the dog sniff your hand because it is safer.
I hope this clears up any confusion when it comes to meeting Bella and I hope that for us, it can make greeting easier.