Max P. he/him
Pet Waggin' Team Member
"What has working with pets taught me?"
An important lesson I’ve learned over my time living, working, and taking care of animals is to always ask for permission. ‘But Max they don’t speak *human language* ’ and no they do not, not yet anyway, but with a little attentiveness and practice, it’s clear when a pet wants your affection and when it might be uncomfortable. Take a cat for instance, cats are quick and agile, if it doesn’t want to get pet, it’ll bend, scamper, and swat its way to some peace and quiet- even if it wants to be around you! Dogs are the same way, even the most affectionate dog need a little reprieve- the difference being, they are often far more interested in pets so even when they’re not, they will often tolerate it out of love. The trick is to wait for their body language to signal permission. I know this sounds crazy, but people are shocked at how quickly I get some of the more skittish bubs to warm up to me.
"What is your #1 pet care tip or something you want to share with clients?"
My tips for reading body language and waiting for permission to engage: For cats, I always near fully extend my arm, palm down, at or below its nose, and sit still, even if they sniff, you’re not in the clear yet. For most cats saying ‘yes’ will rub up against your hand and from there you’re in business. Occasionally, a cat will just sit there and look at you, no longer sniffing/checking out the hand, its more subtle but also go time for destination “ChinscratchVille”. For dogs, I look more for when they aren’t interested, and its often more subtle. If a dog lowers its head while still trying to look up at you/your hand, it is not yet comfortable trusting of you in that moment. So, I need to earn said trust, I often pull out a treat, put it in my hand, and turn it over and below them to show them this hand is magic and if you trust, it comes with treats. Likewise, if they try to keep your hand in their direct line of sight and or snap their head up and don’t make it easy to pet the top of their head, then I don’t do it. If they stiffen up as you start petting this also signals, they aren’t ready. Usually, the best indication for a dog is when they ignore your hands completely and just look at you with a big ole puppy smile and their body is loose and relaxed.
Oh, and while we’re asking for permission, make sure to ask the owner/walker for permission to engage with a pet beforehand.