Dogs are people magnets. When you’re out for a walk, and your companion has an adorable furry face and is oozing charm, the dog enthusiasts that cross your path can’t help but stop to say hello. Even grumpy dogs that bark at everyone can attract new friends. Not all situations are ideal for a meet and greet. We’ll talk about some of these and offer advice on how to politely but firmly turn away strangers who want to pet your dog.
When should people not pet your dog?
Whether you’re dealing with medical or behavioral issues, there are many legitimate reasons to stop strangers from petting your dog.
Some dogs get fearful, provoking an aggressive response
Some dogs get scared when someone new starts petting them, especially if they weren’t given a chance to sniff them and decide if they want to interact. (Which is why everyone should stop and allow the dog to sniff them first.) For small dogs, toy breeds in particular, the stress can amplify when they’re feeling dwarfed in the forest of tall human legs. Finally, dogs can feel threatened when a new person is leaning or bending over them, which is always a no-no.
Any of these situations can make even a friendly and outgoing dog feel scared or threatened, and that would provoke a defensive response. If the dog is moving away, it’s time to put the brakes on the interaction. Otherwise, the situation can escalate to growling, snapping and biting.
The dog may be recovering
If the dog is healing from a recent surgery or injury, they can snap or bite at the hand that accidentally touches their sore spot.
The dog is leash reactive and in training
If your furry friend is working on his leash manners and heel and obey commands, being greeted by his adoring fans can distract and excite him.
It’s matter of good hygiene
It would be an understatement to say the COVID-19 pandemic gave everyone a good reminder to keep a safe distance. Though dogs don’t usually catch our bugs and ailments, it’s good to play it safe and avoid situations where your dog’s fur may be a transfer station for germs. So if you’re worried about the spread of sickness, it’s OK to tell strangers not to pet your dog.
You’d rather not, thanks
If you’re not feeling friendly today, you’re under no obligation to be on ambassador duty when you’re out with your dog.
How do you stop people from petting your dog?
You hate to be the bad guy, but at times stopping people from petting your dog is just the right thing to do, both for the person for them and your furry friend.
When you’re walking through the park or the neighborhood, it’s easy to tell when people want to stop and say hello to your pet — they’ll be smiling and they may stop, in hopes you will too. When your path approaches others, shorten the leash to keep better control of your dog, position yourself between the new person and your dog, and just keep moving. A brief moment of eye contact and a polite hello are fine. But as you two power walk on by, they’ll get the message.
Give clear physical signals
A simple “Do not pet!” sign will warn off most people. There are patches on the market you can glue to your dog’s vest, and leash sleeves that can be positioned right above your dog. Also, it’s OK to have your dog wear a muzzle. There are many comfortable options that are humane and lightweight, while also providing a visual deterrent. To find some great products, talk to your local independent pet supplier.
Be clear and straightforward
We get it. Telling people not to touch your dog can feel impolite. Because, after all, they probably adore dogs just as much as you do, and they think your dog is pretty cute! And that’s why we may fall back on mushy warnings that are meant to sound polite. But if you say, “Oh, my dog is skittish,” or “He’s doesn’t like new people,” their response may very well be, “That doesn’t really apply to me, because I’m great with dogs! I’ll win him over!” After all, it’s only human to believe we have above-average abilities, especially when it comes to the things we love.
When you have mere seconds to stop someone from touching your dog, a straight-up, no-exceptions, this-is-my-final-answer warning will do a better job of getting the message across.
- You can take the polite-but-straightforward route. Something like, “Hi, we’re busy with training, and meeting people makes him too excited. Sorry!” Or, “Can’t stop today, we’re running late!”
- Of course, this is your family, so you’re not under any obligation to supply reasons. You can keep it simple: “Don’t pet my dog, please. Thanks!”
Stopping children from petting your dog
We all hope that parents teach their kids not to pet dogs before making sure it’s OK with you, the owner, first. But as you’ve found with your own furry friend, it can take time for the lesson to stick. If a child’s running in to greet your dog, you can gently move the dog out of reach, make eye contact with the child, and tell them in a firm but kind voice that you can’t let them pet your dog. You wouldn’t be out of bounds in telling them you like it when kids ask before they pet your dog, because it helps you keep everyone safe. For more tips, listen to Raising Your Paws podcast episode 10 – The Correct, Safer Way to Greet an Unfamiliar Dog.
To reward your best friend after a walk, NutriSource Soft and Tender Treats come in enticing chicken, lamb or salmon, all sourced from our trusted U.S. suppliers. This nutritious snack gives your pup a delicious treat, but without the worry they’re getting too many extra calories. Find them at your locally owned, independent pet supply shop.