Are You Being an Advocate for Your Dog? | Pupford
August 8th, 2023
Filed under Pet Parenting
We hear the term “advocate” used in a handful of ways:
Advocate for yourself in the workplace
Be an advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves
She is a big advocate of protecting the environment
But have you heard it used for your dog?
Being an advocate for your dog is just as important as being their caretaker. It’s another way you can keep them safe, comfortable, and thriving.
Let’s take a closer look at what it really means to be an advocate for your dog, and how to put your advocacy plans into action.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN ADVOCATE FOR YOUR DOG?
In simple terms, advocating for your dog means being their voice to speak and acting in their best interest. This is such an important role for a few reasons.
While our dogs are great at communicating with us about a lot of things, they aren’t able to voice exactly what it is that they need during times of stress or fear. But knowing they can count on us to take control of a situation or avoid triggering situations in the first place is comforting to them.
They can navigate their surroundings knowing that we are looking out for their best interests, and they will be a lot more comfortable – they may even learn to look to us for help rather than getting stressed in the first place!
Being your dog’s advocate also protects them (and others around them) from destructive or potentially dangerous behavior as a result of extreme stress, anxiety, or fear.
In other words, everyone in a situation benefits from you advocating for your dog!
HOW TO BE AN ADVOCATE FOR YOUR DOG
We wish it were as simple as saying “I want to be an advocate!” and having everything fall into place.
But the reality is that it takes some time and a lot of hard work to become an advocate for your dog – but it’s so worth it.
There’s a two-part approach that we recommend taking here:
- Action plan
Let’s talk more about each!
PART 1: IDENTIFY YOUR DOG'S INDIVIDUAL NEEDS
“Advocating” is not a one-size-fits-all thing. It only works if you know your dog’s unique needs that you need to advocate for.
Here’s how to do that:
1. LEARN DOG BODY LANGUAGE
Your dog tells you a lot more than you would think through their body language.
Learning your dog’s body language cues is the first step in understanding their needs because you can understand when they are experiencing stress, scared, or otherwise need you to step in and change something about the situation. You’ll learn to better anticipate future stressors and better gauge when you need to intervene.
Want to become an expert in your dog’s body language? breaks down different tell-tale (or should we say tail?) dog body language cues and how to respond to them.
2. PRACTICE SITUATIONAL AWARENESS
You’ll also want to start paying a little bit more attention to the details of a situation when you’re with your dog, especially when they’re experiencing fear, anxiety, or stress.
The goal here is not to completely shield your dog from things that make them uncomfortable, but rather get a good idea of all the factors that contribute to your dog’s feelings – good and bad.
Practicing situational awareness is pretty straightforward, but it takes a bit of effort. It requires you to slow down in situations and use all of your senses to get a full picture of what’s going on. That way, if your dog has a reaction, you can take note of what was happening in that moment and create a plan to avoid it.
3. IDENTIFY YOUR DOG'S TRIGGERS
We can’t advocate for our dogs effectively if we don’t know exactly what we’re advocating for.
Learning your dog’s body language and practicing situational awareness will help you identify your dog’s specific triggers, so you know what steps to take and what boundaries to put in place.
It may take some experimenting or trial and error to identify triggers since a lot of things present themselves together. For example, if your dog gets overwhelmed when there are visitors, you may need to do a little experiment to find out if it’s the people, or the sound of the doorbell that’s the actual trigger.
PART 2: PUTTING IT INTO ACTION
So now you know you can really understand when your dog is showing stress signals and what causes them. Now it’s time to make an action plan so you can truly advocate for them.
What does an advocacy plan for your dog look like?
While it may be a little different for each dog, here are some action steps you can take:
- Protect your dog’s home environment. For example, if your dog is reactive around other dogs, don’t allow others to bring their dogs to your house.
- Place a “Do Not Pet” tag on their collar or harness if they are nervous when people approach. Layer that with a verbal warning not to approach your dog, in a calm tone of voice.
- Decline invitations to take your dog with you to places that will overwhelm or stress them. Your dog will be infinitely happier at home in their comfortable environment than surrounded by their triggers.
- Step in when someone violates any boundaries you set around your dog. Use a firm, yet calm, tone of voice and clearly state your intentions – for example, “We do not give our dog food from the table” or “Please do not come any closer with your dog.”
- Get further help when it’s needed. It’s okay not to have all the answers right away, and often it’s even difficult to know where to start. If that sounds like you, take a look around the to see all the expert-led help that’s available to you instantly!
Now that you have a full understanding of how to advocate for your dog, let’s ask the question again: are you being an advocate for your dog?
Hopefully, this article helped you strategize how you can continue showing up for and supporting your dog when they need it most – strengthening your relationship in the process!