Whilst another dog walker, carrying treats in his or her pocket may think it’s an innocent gesture to offer your dog a treat, this seemingly generous and innocent action can have potential implications, believe it or not!
First of all, what are they actually offering the dog? It may be something totally inappropriate for a dog to eat – I had someone offer my dog some chocolate some time ago – to my absolute horror! The treats may be harmful, or of such poor quality e.g. brightly coloured with artificial colourings, that they could have a detrimental effect on a dog’s behaviour and health following consumption. The dog may be on a special diet,
either for weight control, allergies or intolerances, or some other medical reason and should not therefore be eating anything other than what the owner is carefully monitoring.
Another reason is that if you are training your dog to come back when called, the walker who regularly doles out treats to other people’s dogs un-checked, is ruining your management of your dog, potentially putting them in a dangerous situation, should the dog choose to run after that person, if they were exiting the park and into a road. It also unravels all your good training if you are training your dog to focus on you but there’s someone wafting treats at your dog and approaching without even asking if it’s ok!
If managing a dog that is uncomfortable and defensive towards people or other dogs, or both, the last thing you need is a person coming full-on at your dog (who is probably already in a high state of arousal at the approaching person), with their dogs in tow and trying to impose their friendship on your dog, when all you need them to do is to keep their distance and move along, so your dog can concentrate on you and not be placed in a situation that it feels uncomfortable with.
Ill-mannered or aroused dogs are also likely to snatch the treat roughly, or bite the strange hand that is trying to give them the treat – at this point the treat means ‘zilch’, when faced with an unwanted person or dog right in your personal space – for instance, if a stranger holding a tarantula was heading my way, eating a chocolate they were also holding out to me, would be the last thing on my mind!!
So this kind gesture could end up in a bite and litigation against your dog – stopping the person from giving the treat, is doing them a favour and saves their fingers at least!
Yet another reason that doling out treats amongst dogs in the park is not sometimes the wisest of moves, is that it can cause a fight amongst said dogs – especially when all the dogs are just milling about and competition
is building between them, as to who can grab the treat first, or woe betide, the treats get dropped to the floor!
There are also some dogs who object to their owner sharing out food and learn to guard their owner and their
treats defensively and this then sets up aggression problems towards other dogs!
So folks before you call me a killjoy, just remember, we would frown upon a stranger thrusting treats at a young child for various reasons – I hope I have pointed out some valid reasons why we should also expect the same restraint from people towards our dogs.