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Karen B. London
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Social Gaffes
A consequence of adoring dogs
What can I say? I'm drawn to dogs.

I’m pretty sure that as a child, I offended some friends when I went to their houses to play and paid more attention to the dog than to anyone else. Though I’ve always been social with people, this is a gaffe I made repeatedly. I never meant to be rude. It’s just that the dogs were so captivating that I couldn’t help myself.

It wasn’t only in childhood that I attended to dogs first and foremost. While in grad school, my friends and I played cards regularly. One night, three of us drove together to the house of a couple with a new baby for a game. We made ourselves right at home, all heading to what interested us most. That meant Ethan headed to the refrigerator, Amy rushed to hold the baby, and I went over to their Lab cross for my doggy fix. That was typical, and we were all teased for our predictable behavior.

Now in my 40s, I’m far better at minding my manners, which is why I’m so embarrassed by a setback I had earlier this week. I noticed the dog first and then came to realize that there was a person with the dog, and what’s more, it was a person I knew. I should have greeted her right away and chatted a little bit before turning my attention to the dog. (In my defense, this dog was a Great Dane, which is my childhood breed, and I had no idea that my friend was fostering one. It’s a weak defense, but it’s all I’ve got!) It’s as if my heart said, “Ooh, what a marvelous dog!” and then there was a huge lag before my brain piped in, “Hey, there’s a person at the other end of that leash.”

Please tell me I am not alone! Have you ever been guilty of these sorts of social gaffes because of your adoration for dogs?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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Submitted by Anonymous | June 2 2012 |

Oh yes. I know this gaffe from me. I think you're really not alone.
Dogs are wonderful

Submitted by Thomas Aaron | June 3 2012 |

You're not alone! I can't even go to a friends house without the conversation going straight to dog training.

However, I'm not so sure it is ALWAYS a social gaff. Most people love their dogs and are happy to talk about them.

Best Regards,
Tom Aaron
FetchMasters, LLC
http://www.fetchmasters.com

Submitted by Leanne | June 6 2012 |

Oh yes I have done this. It was a stressful day at work so two of us went for a walk at lunch time.On our way back there was a person with a cute friendly puppy on a leash, not a common sight in our business complex. I immediately started talking to the pup and was on my knees petting it before I looked up to see the person. The woman at the end of the leash was a very good friend of my neighbor and came to their house every week. She knew I had dogs and was happy to share her sweet puppy with me for that moment however my co worker is not a "pet person" and was shocked by my behavior.

Submitted by Angela Limburg | June 7 2012 |

Oh, yes, I've done this many times. But it isn't always my fault-sometimes the dog interacts more than the people I am with. We went to dinner at a friend's house, and my husband and our friends sat and watched TV. Their chocolate Lab was the only one who seemed interested in socializing! I wasn't going to be rude to her!

Submitted by Angela Limburg | June 7 2012 |

I've done it myself, but it isn't always my fault-sometimes the dog is more interactive that the person! My husband and I went to dinner at a friend's house, and after dinner, they sat and watched TV. Their chocolate Lab was the only one who seemed interested in socializing-and I didn't want to be rude to her!

Submitted by Annie | June 11 2012 |

Actually, the dog is usually so much a part of the family that you HAVE to make friends with the dog first coming in! This was especially true when I was doing home heatlth visits. Love me, love my dog and vice versa!

Submitted by Erin B. | June 11 2012 |

I work at Canine Companions for Independence. Although I am the grant writer and don't directly work with the dogs being trained as assistance dogs, as staff we get to bring our pet dogs to work with us everyday. There is a baby/doggy gate at every office with happy dogs waiting to be pet. It is standard procedure to greet the dogs first followed by the human. Many new people will remember the dogs names over the peoples names. At this point we're all used to being acknowledged second and we're proud that our dogs are so special!

Submitted by Anonymous | June 11 2012 |

I'm older than you, and still have to work CONSTANTLY on not committing this type of social gaffe on a daily basis! It's embarrassing... but hard to catch oneself every time. I spend a lot of time working with dogs at two different shelters, and they are infinitely more captivating & fascinating than humans. Sure, I like people just fine--but they're much more interesting if they have a dog with them! Manners, manners... they're tough!

Submitted by Teresa | June 11 2012 |

I had no idea it was a gaffe LOL!!!! I have been doing that forever, as a child, teen and adult - not only the animals in any house get more attention, but I will stop on a walk or cross the street to check one out! and I often turn the conversation into talking about... animals! My little girl is the same way... and I'm not about to correct her manners! Must be in her genes! :) My real gaffe is offering unwanted advice to strangers - and as I always say - unwanted, but very informational and... free!

Submitted by Teresa | June 11 2012 |

I had no idea it was a gaffe LOL!!!! I have been doing that forever, as a child, teen and adult - not only the animals in any house get more attention, but I will stop on a walk or cross the street to check one out! and I often turn the conversation into talking about... animals! My little girl is the same way... and I'm not about to correct her manners! Must be in her genes! :) My real gaffe is offering unwanted advice to strangers - and as I always say - unwanted, but very informational and... free!

Submitted by Anonymous | June 11 2012 |

As a dog photographer I see the dog first and the person, well, perhaps not at all. Don't really care to tell the truth. People have never been high on my list, they are only the means to the wagging tail. The only caveat being someone who is just as insane about dogs as I am. Then we can have an incredible conversation. But unless I see them many times, I wouldn't be able to recognize them in a crowd, unless of course they had their dog with them. Like you, I'd head for the dog. :)

Submitted by Katherine | June 11 2012 |

Nope... Not alone in this one. Once someone asks about my dog I have to remind myself that, unfortunately, not everyone wants to hear me ramble on about my dog. So... I save this for my boyfriend and dog friends who completely understand.

Submitted by MariskaB. | June 12 2012 |

You are definitely not alone. I make this mistake ALL the time... must say I haven't even seen it as problem until I read your article...

I used to visit my mothers aunt every week when I was little... When I was 9 her dog died... After this I didnt visit every week, I came once a year at her birthday :) It was empty there... and cold...

Submitted by Jacqueline R | June 12 2012 |

I was recently flying from Newark to Phoenix and the couple in the row behind me had a dog with them. I could not stop turning around and watching the dog. Finally I asked if I could hold the dog for part of the trip. The dog was thrilled to have someone new to play with. I can't remember what the couple looked like, but I can tell you all about the cute dog.

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