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Should You Let People Pet Your Dog?

Let's start with the short answer. "No."

Why not?

Would you let a stranger approach and grope your children? No? Well then maybe a stranger should also not reach for your dog until you and your dog have a chance to get comfortable with that person.

Remember, it's not only for dogs that are unsure or shy but also those that would rehearse jumping up and other frustrated greeting behaviours. If you don't want your dog to rehearse unwanted behaviours, make sure you set up interactions so you can train what you do like.

Dogs do not live in the same world we live in.

Am I crazy for saying that? Not really. Humans experience things mostly visually, we see and make decisions based on that. Dogs, on the other hand, live in a scent-oriented world. Until they can freely sniff and explore a new thing/person/ situation without feeling pressured or stressed, they are often not able to make calm decisions based on visual input alone.

How do you effectively stop people from approaching and touching your dog?

If you say: " No please, no interaction" Will people do what you ask?

People hear what they want and are often already approaching your dog's space before they ask if they can interact. Many do NOT listen to instructions and will follow up with: "Oh but all dogs love me." or "I know what I'm doing."

Using words like "Please do not pet my dog" and "Maybe do not approach" are not strong enough for people to listen.

Be a force of nature! Guide your dog behind you and say the following 6 words: "Dog in training, need extra space" People will understand that you need a bit of help and will be more willing to support you!

Don't forget you can always step in front of your dog to cut off the approach to help keep distance between your dog an people you are not ready to interact with.

When is it ok for a stranger to pet your dog?

Let your dog choose who they want to go see and interact with. They need to be able to give consent. This is a crucial step that ensures your dog is not put in a situation they are uncomfortable with.

Start by asking the stranger to turn around, and stand still. This takes away the pressure of an unsolicited approach. Let your dog sniff the backs of the legs (if they want to approach) and they will tell you if they like the person and want more, or are good to leave it at that!

If your dog is indicating they like the person, use the five-second rule. Pet the dog for 5 seconds then take your hands off. Does the dog stay or turn back to you and ask for more? If the dog wants to engage further, great! 5 seconds more. Do they wander away? Good, that means they have had enough.

We often like to do too much touching, often too invasive and too controlling. Give the dog more freedom to move away. Even if the dog was ok with a sniff and a brief touch, that doesn't mean they want your face in their face and a full-body hug.

Make strangers respect the dog's space

This will prevent additional stress for you and your dog. That stress could lead to unwanted behaviour such as jumping up, nipping or shying away and could undermine the bond of trust between you and your dog! Keep in mind everyone has their own personal bubble and they have the right to decide who comes into that space. Or they are so excited that they throw themselves at people and we just don't need to rehearse the dog not respecting other people's space. It all depends on what your dog is comfortable with and ready for. But the gist of it is DON'T BE AFRAID TO SAY "NO".

If you need help with inappropriate greeting behaviours, teaching people what to do to greet in a more appropriate manner or helping your dog feel more comfortable around other people, please reach out to us for lessons or classes.

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