I just spent a day at the Philadelphia Kennel Club show. You know this show; it is televised on Thanksgiving Day. It’s a benched show, one of only a handful in the US at this time. A benched show means that the dogs are on display all day. Honestly, exhibitors hate these shows. It’s a long day for people and dogs. The dog may be in the ring for only a few minutes, but needs to be in the show hall for the entire day. That means many dogs, like my dog Visa, hold their bladders all day. You see, she is house trained and finds going “potty” in the designated rest areas a bad idea.

But, what makes a difficult show for competitors, makes a great show for spectators. The general public comes in and can view all the dogs that are competing any time during the day. Also, people like me can talk to them about the breed they like. That part is good. I can share what it is like to live with a Labrador Retriever. Yes, they shed. A lot. They can show me pictures of their dog at home, or their special dog they lost not long ago.

Visa did not win her class. Bummer. She has won at this show before and I was hoping for a repeat, but no such luck. Visa does well on “display”. While she does not love being fawned over, she accepts it with politeness. You see in Visa’s world, it is all about Sara. For whatever reason, she is more interested in what I am doing at all times than the people walking by. A rare exception is a particularly yummy smelling food.

The one thing that I am surprised at in these dealing with the dog loving public is how little people know about dog language and safe greetings. I spent much of the day telling children that it wasn’t safe to put their face right up in the dog’s face. Honestly, Visa, while not thrilled, was safe; face to face interaction is impolite in dog communication. But, the next dog may not be safe and the child could get a terrible injury. Parents seemed clueless. While many of the children knew to ask before petting, they had no idea what safe petting was. Of course, how would they know? Their parents didn’t know either. One woman walked up to Visa giving her a hearty hug around the neck. Really?

If you are a dog lover, take the time to learn the type of interactions that are safe and that dogs enjoy. If you are a parent, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to teach your child safe interactions with animals. One year at this same show, I was talking with people and out of the corner of my eye I saw a small girl reach her arm into the crate with my sleeping dog. Fortunately, all was well, but it could just as easily been a tragic incident. I explained to her father that he needed to watch his child, that dogs are dogs and the next crate his daughter reached into could have a dog that was not so tolerant.

Whether  you have been around dogs all your life, or  you are new to dogs, take a few minutes to read and understand the best ways to greet dogs. It is important to keep people safe and dogs comfortable. The following web site is full of valuable information for adults and children: http://doggonesafe.com/