Should Other People "Handle" Your Dog ?

Concerning the question of when and why you might want certain categories of other people to be able to "handle" your dog. Ie when should your dog be expected (required) to obey someone other than you, his primary handler ?

Should Other People "Handle" Your Dog ?

What are your thoughts on having a dog worked by only his human and family pack vs. encouraging a dog to accept handling by anyone? Does this differ if you intend to "work" your dog?

Every dog MUST be willing to accept the most basic handling by ANYONE and EVERYONE : take hold of collar and put leash on it, take hold of collar and look at the tag and read it, walk dog on leash without a rodeo -- ie everything that a finder of a "lost" dog would need to do to get the dog back to its owner. As to whether the dog should allow such a stranger to load him into their car, well, it's obvious that there would be an advantage to this if that person were an honnest finder of a lost dog who wanted only to get the dog back safely to its owners, but a real disadvantage if the finder were instead intent on stealing the dog.

Every dog MUST be willing to accept basic veterinary exam proceedures from every family member and from any vet or vet tech who knows basics of handling dog : examine ears, handle feet, take pulse in hind leg , listen to heart and lungs, lie dog down on side or stand it up, palpate abdomen, and draw blood or give injections, etc etc. dog should accept this in owner's presence or in owner's absence. ideally dog accepts this in a trusting and cooperative manner , without needing to be muzzled and without making a struggle. (In her wonderful book "DogSmart", Dr Myrna Milani gives a good description of a routine home vet checkup that should be done regularly on every dog. It should be done by every family member who is mature enough to do it properly.)

Every dog MUST obey basic obedience commands from EVERY FAMILY MEMBER : Come, Sit, Down, Stay, and walking on leash in civilized manner (competition heeling is not required). The dog should also obey such commands as "leave it !" or "get outta that !" (= stop doing something, leave something alone), "drop it" (or other command to drop something out of the dog's mouth), "quiet" , "wait" (eg at the door before exiting through it), "car" (some command to enter the car), "go crate", and other daily living commands. Likewise the invitations "go potty ?" (or whatever you use to encourage urination and defecation), "water, drink ?" (encourage drinking offered water, eg on a walk or other situation where water will be available only intermittantly), "eat eat" (not that most Bouvs really need to be encouraged unless they are sick)

Any working dog who is trained in protection and any dog who has a protective nature such that he might want to bite if he thinks a family member is under assault (eg as might happen if that person is receiving a Heimlich or CPR) MUST have an "OUT" = "DON'T BITE" or "CEASE Biting" command that he will obey from EVERY MEMBER OF THE FAMILY.

A dog who is trained to "work" in Agility or Herding or other dog sport generally does NOT need to obey work specific commands from anyone but his primary handler. Of course it is usually an advantage if the dog will work for your teacher / coach so that the teacher can demonstrate something to you or can help your dog catch onto some particular lesson. And sometimes in a class situation , swapping dogs can be very illuminating for all concerned.

In my opinion, a herding dog MUST obey the "THAT"LL DO" = "stop working and leave the stock" command from EVERY FAMILY MEMBER and maybe also from strangers, so that the dog can be called off stock in the event that he gets in with stock by accident. Many herding dogs will work stock for someone else well enough to get practical chores done, but the dog may not be quite as obedient about keeping distance, keeping a moderate pace, and about quitting work when it is done..

As for competition, if you and your dog are a good team, then don't expect that someone else , even someone who is a very good handler, could step into your role and get the same quality of performance. In many performance sports , a good partnership develops a very finely tuned communication and coordination of effort. the best teams eventually develop the feeling of seamless harmony that characterises the best Ice Dance and Pairs Figure partnerships.

As for the dog who is a working Service / Disability Assistance Dog, I really am not qualified to say how many of the service commands the dog should obey from other family members. I would think that would be for each family to decide , based on their particular needs. Some commands , like taking a note or an object to someone or finding someone, might well be commands that need to be bi-directional, ie need to be obeyed by someone other than the primary handler.

Note : in the above, when I refer to dog as "he" , I definately include "she" -- and indeed bitches can be far more discriminating as to who they will respect and obey than male dogs. When I say "every family member", I mean every one who has the needed maturity for the particular situation involved. that includes everyone who is living in the home, whether a permanent member of the family or not.


site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 8/15/03 revised 8/17/03
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