Friday, September 2, 2011

Do Not Touch.

Picture this - you and your family are out at the park for a lovely picnic. You're having a great time, when suddenly you notice two people walking towards you. As they get closer, one of them squeals, "Omigosh, look at those kids! Aren't they adorable?" and they immediately surround your children. They pick up your infant daughter, pinch the cheeks of your four year old son and attempt to arm-wrestle your teenager. You do not know these people.

Would you be alarmed? Offended? Angry?

Let's continue. Horrified at what the strangers are doing, you tell them to leave your kids alone. One of them says, "oh don't worry, we're good with kids!" The other drops your baby and angrily exclaims, "Why would you even bring them to this park if we couldn't play with them? Are they little psychopaths or something?" Offended with your request to stop fondling your family, the people walk off, muttering about what an awful person you are for asking them to stop, and how your kids must be murderous little brats.

This happens to people every day - only replace the children in the above scenario... with dogs.

Since I've started walking my dogs in public more frequently, this kind of situation has become shockingly more apparent. There are five basic scenarios/characters that I've been able to identify as Dangerous:

1. The Rhetorical Question
Stranger encounters us on a walk. Stranger asks if they can pet the dogs, then immediately swoops in to pat them on the head - without waiting for an answer to their question. This is not good. People are not accustomed to being told "No" - so they assume that our answer will always be "Yes."

2. The Petting Zoo
Stranger encounters us on a walk. Without asking us if the dogs can be petted, they send their children over to "pet the doggies." When we body-block the approaching kids and tell them they can't pet the dogs, the horrified Strangers (parents) yell to their kids to get away from the "mean dogs." No - our dogs are not mean - we just don't want your kids petting them, okay?

3. The Creeper
Stranger encounters us on a walk. Stranger stares at the dogs, tries to talk to them in a weird voice, crouches down and makes funny noises - completely refusing to acknowledge the humans at the other end of the leash. As a bonus, this is usually at night. I will reiterate - our dogs are not mean - but they are protective and will react accordingly if a Stranger gives off Creeper vibes. Don't be a Creeper unless you want to get bit... or at least roared at by an angry black dog with 42 big, strong, capable teeth.

4. The Side-Stepper
Stranger encounters us on a walk. Stranger asks if the dogs are "nice." Stop beating around the bush, moron. What you really want to ask is if you can pet them. And the answer is no, you can't. But they're still nice dogs, unless of course you also fit into Scenario #3.

5. The Sneak Attack
Stranger encounters us on a walk. Stranger asks to pet the dogs, we politely say no. Stranger seemingly accepts our answer and continues on, but at the last moment reaches over and pats our dogs' butts as they walk past. Inappropriate touching! Our dogs are well socialized, but if someone swats their butts without preamble they may very well swing around and try to take a chunk out of the offending hand! Just don't do it! (This is especially common with children. Parents, if you tell your kids not to pet the doggy, be sure to enforce it. If your goal is to win the Inattentive/Ineffectual Parenting Award, letting your kid tackle a strange dog's butt after directly being told not to is a recipe for success. Here's your trophy.)


If we're walking, we're either working or exercising - please do not disturb us. It's not that our dogs are vicious beasts - it's just that our time is valuable, and we don't bring dogs to a public place so strangers and/or their kids can interact with them. If we're in conversation, please don't interrupt us. If we're trying to leave for the night, please don't block our path to our vehicles.

If I want my dogs to be petted, I'll be sure to let you know. If I'm not in the middle of something, I'm usually more than happy to let you pet my dogs - but wait until I tell them to greet you. Every interaction is a training opportunity, and my dogs have a clear cue ("Go say hi") that tells them when it's okay to interact with strangers.

And if I tell you it's not a good time for you to pet my dog, please respect that.

(On a side note - if anyone wants to pet my dogs, we'll be at the dog show at the Iowa State Fairgrounds next weekend at the Meet The Breed booth. Hope to see you there!)


  1. Very well put... wouldn't be appropriate to do it to your child so don't do it to my dog. Had some kids run up and charge at our my inlaw's puppy who has some minor issues with children due to an even when she was a baby. She was not fond of this kid charging at her and trying to pet her and it was obvious we were body blocking her from him but that was the one he intentionally chose to try and pet. Stupid people.

  2. Happens to me all the time. Both with my dog and my baby! When DD was only about a month old we were shopping and one older lady came up and was admiring her. Then tried to take her out of my arms. I stepped back and asked her what she thought she was doing. I didn't know this lady! She got all huffy and walked off. Something about she raised kids, knows what she's doing, bla bla bla. I think its just the way she was raised. Still, unacceptable.

    I have a rough collie that is very friendly. But like you said, I need to get her ready for interaction first. She gets overly excited to meet people. So I need her in a calm state first. It doesn't help when people are not calm themselves and speak in that high pitched happy voice that just excites her all the more.

  3. People always want to pet Mocha, they tend to be scared of Ashley and don't seem too interested in Winnie.

    Mocha Barney, Ashley Pumpernickel and Winniechurchill

  4. Agree. I have a German line GSD that goes to doggie daycare and sits well at starbucks etc. He plays off leash with dogs and in the right situation I will let people pet him.

    But sometimes when I am standing there and he is sitting there. People with an unknown dog will let their "friendly" dog come straight up to mine to try and nose sniff. Least to say my GSD hates this and goes ballistic. He does not like interacting with dogs while on leash. He loves to play when off leash. Why do they let their dog go up to mine???

    Or the lady the other day. She patted his head as we went by and then after we passed my GSD turned and started barking at what does she do? She turns and starts following him him tying to touch him more talking in a baby voice...ballistic dog. She blocked the only ramp for him to go down to get where he needed to go while talking to him trying to pet him....So my dog is basically wondering why this lady was chasing him down.

    If I see someone with a dog on leash I will give them space regardless. They are walking or exercising their dog. They are not out there to meet me. In addition, I will speak to the person and not acknowledge the dog as I go by. Sometimes eye to eye contact sets off a dog. It does mine.

    I see many small dogs that are barking constantly and people ignore it. Because my dog is a large GSD thy call him vicious if he barks at all. Not. Just stop trying to come up and pet him or let your dog crowd in on him or follow him.


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