Does your adorable dog make everyone stop and stare?
Are people always asking to pet your dog – or even taking it upon themselves to reach down without asking?
Even grown adults sometimes forget their manners when they see a cute dog. If your dog is friendly, that might be okay.
But you have little control over these interactions. Some people do not realize that not every dog is comfortable around strangers. They may tower over, corner, or sneak up behind a dog, creating a scary situation.
Others may lean in for a kiss or hug. Wouldn’t you be startled if a stranger did that to you?
Scary interactions can turn a friendly dog into a reactive one. Even the friendliest, most well behaved dog can get scared and bite.
What To Do When A Stranger Wants To Pet Your Dog
Watch your dog’s body language carefully any time someone asks to pet your dog or starts to approach.
If your dog has a loose, soft facial expression, an open-mouthed “smile,” and starts to walk towards the stranger, they probably would be okay with getting pets. If you’re okay with this, it’s perfectly fine to allow it. If you want, tell the stranger about your dog’s preference for ear scratches, or offer them a treat to pass to your dog.
However, even if your dog loves strangers, it’s perfectly fine if you want to decline it anyway.
You may be working on loose leash walking. You may prefer your dog to focus on you, rather than constantly seeking attention from strangers. Or, maybe you just don’t have time or the social energy to deal with this on walks.
Remember, it’s your dog. You don’t have to have a valid reason or excuse to decide that you do not want to let people pet them.
What To Say When You Don’t Want To Be “Rude”
Ideally, people will leave you alone if you just say, “please don’t pet my dog”. You don’t have to explain yourself.
But some people will ask questions, or insist, or even get angry. Unfortunately, some people believe that all dogs in public should be free for petting.
Offering a quick explanation can make it easier to get rid of people who don’t take “no” for an answer.
You can try:
- My dog’s nervous around people
- We’re in a big rush, we have to get going
- We’re working on training and can’t have distractions
Tips For Letting Strangers Pet Your Dog
If you do want to let people pet your dog, you should be prepared to speak up if your dog’s body language has changed, or if they’re overstepping boundaries.
Be especially careful of children, as they often get bitten because they do not yet recognize body language, and they do not realize that dogs don’t enjoy tight hugs and kisses on the face.
For kids, it’s best to preface the interaction with “please move slowly, stick your hand out for her to sniff, please don’t pick her up, no hugs or kisses please”.
Be wary of kids who run up to your dog without their parents’ permission. It’s best to only allow kids to interact if they have a watchful parent closeby who is also advising them on polite doggy manners.
Prevent Unwanted Petting Before It Happens
People may be less likely to reach for your dog if they’re wearing some type of gear.
Try a harness like one from the Julius K9 brand, on which you can attach patches that say “do not pet” or “I’m nervous” or “in training”. This is not to fake the appearance of a service dog – just to lessen the chances that your dog will be approached.
The Yellow Dog Project is a movement that promotes the use of yellow ribbons to signify that a dog needs space.
Adding a yellow ribbon to your dog’s leash, or using a yellow leash and collar, can be helpful. Not everyone knows what the yellow means, though. You may want to get a yellow leash that says “caution” or “nervous”.
Lastly, you can offer alternative ways for people to enjoy your dog.
You can show off your dog’s tricks instead of letting people approach.
You could even let people give your dog’s treats, but only if it does not make them nervous. If your dog is nervous about taking treats from a stranger’s hand, encourage people to toss the treat down instead.
More Help For Nervous Dogs
Taking your dog for a walk should be fun. If you’re having trouble enjoying your walks, you can get there with lots of positive reinforcement and help from a professional trainer. Get modern, positive reinforcement based training in Toronto and North York from Healthy Houndz.