Verb, ad-vo-cat-ed, ad-vo-cat-ing
To speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly
To act as an advocate
But what does it really mean to advocate for your dog?
It means protecting your dog from anything that could hurt them, whether that’s other animals or people. It means using your voice to stand up for your dog - because dogs can’t speak up for themselves. It means having their back at all times, ride or die.
Before you can be a true advocate for your dog, you have to be able to identify when your dog feels uncomfortable.
Then, you have to figure out why they’re not cool with the situation and how you can make things better (or when to just walk away).
Learn to Read Your Dog’s Body Language
One of many amazing things about being a dog owner is that it’s hard to fool us. Not because we’re super smart. I mean, we are. But it helps that dogs suck at hiding their feelings. Master manipulators, they are not.
Dogs do vocalize, but the easiest way to tell if your dog is stressed or flat-out panicking is by observing its behavior. Trust and believe - they will tell you when something is wrong.
Stressed out dogs can lash out with aggression, act erratically, and even completely forget every obedience cue that they’ve learned. Stressed dogs don’t know how to act, so they react on instinct and that’s never good.
It could mean breaking away to flee, it could mean biting in fear… or it could just cause emotional wounds that are hard to see and even harder to heal.
Some of the most common signs of extreme stress in dogs include:
Avoidance - turning away, dodging contact, or completely shutting down
Hyperactivity - pacing, moving in circles, generally acting like a frantic crazed gnat
Leaning In - pressing against your leg, getting close for protection
Slinking - you know the move… looking guilty AF
Plus panting, trembling, scratching, furrowed brows, tail between the legs… the list goes on.
Some breeds may exhibit stress differently, and some physical characteristics may make the signs less clear. Dog behaviorists, trainers, and veterinarians are all great resources for helping humans understand their dog’s language.
Learn to Read the Room
Things can go haywire anywhere, but there are a few places where tension goes from 0-60 lickety split. Play the tape in advance. By going through various scenarios before they happen, you’ll be able to handle them like a pro.
No one needs to know you’re also stressed the hell out. (Seriously. No one. Keep your cool, because dogs can read our body language, too. Fake it and you’ll both make it.)
Home is your dog’s happy place. Let’s keep it that way, shall we? Think twice before inviting new people into your home.
Especially children. The little rugrats can be fun, but they often don’t know how to behave. Unwanted hugs, funny games that are definitely not funny, and shrill laughter can grate on the nerves of the most zen-like dogs.
Same goes for your buddy who just got a new pup. The two will likely become fast friends on neutral territory, but inviting an interloper into your dog’s space may not be the cute-meet you were hoping for. Puppies can be annoying. It’s okay to admit it.
Pretty convenient excuse for keeping pesky visitors away. Sorry, mother-in-law. It’s not me, blame the dog.
And if they insist… it’s okay to insist on some house rules. No antagonizing the dog. No rough play, slipping snacks, howling like a fool, or encouraging other behaviors you’ve worked hard to redirect.
You know what your dog needs. Now is the time to advocate for your pet by making the rules clear.
At the Vet’s Office
The veterinarian’s office can trigger major panic attacks in many dogs. For one, they go when they’re sick. Or getting a shot. Or otherwise experiencing things that just aren't fun. What can you do?
For starters, find a vet with a bedside manner that puts your pup at ease. But you can also scope out the waiting room before bringing your dog inside.
Make sure there’s plenty of room for personal space. Bring a toy or treat to distract your pup from other pets. Dude, your dog is not the only one that hates the vet. Waiting rooms can be full of negative energy even if the vet is the coolest.
If your pup’s a little wiggle worm that just won’t sit still or stay put, the vet tech may need to gently restrain them. If you know your dog isn’t comfortable being handled by practical strangers, it’s okay to ask to take on that role.
Your dog will feel much more at ease with you by their side. You’re the protector, and your dog will know there’s nothing to fear.
In Public Places
Consider potential triggers when out and about. Crowded sidewalks can feel overwhelming.
You may be tempted to get evening walks out of the way. Consider your dog’s reaction to crowded spaces, and choose the road less traveled. If walking off-hours feels safe, it may be better for your pup’s mental health to wait until the crowds thin out.
Who doesn’t love a good Fourth of July picnic? Dogs, that’s who. If there is a hell for dogs, it probably reeks of citronella, has an endless supply of bones just out of reach, and… features a non-stop fireworks extravaganza.
Loud noises, bright flashing lights, chaotic surroundings, and over-stimulation can all freak your dog out.
The best thing about advocating for your dog in public places is that most of these situations are easy to avoid.
In cases like these…
Know When to Hold ‘Em and When to GTFO
No matter what’s happening in the room, you’re the adult here. So, it’s your job to wo/man up and keep things cool.
If the room still feels too hot to handle, then the best way to be there for your dog is usually to walk away. Keeping your dog safe - both physically and emotionally - should always be priority numero uno.
Want to learn dog body language basics and best practices to be your dog’s advocate, protector, and best dog parent ever? Sign up for our training courses! Your dog will thank you!