This is a very simple and important question, yet so often unasked.
One of the biggest concerns we hear from clients is how other people will rush up to pet their dog without asking. Likewise, strangers will allow other dogs to pounce upon their dogs, again, without asking. Although the gesture is intended to be “friendly”, the importance of asking permission to pet or touch another dog FIRST should not be overlooked.
Remember, not all dogs want to be greeted, and there are many reasons for it. Dogs can be very protective of their owners and may consider the intrusion into their space as a threat. It is also very common for a dog to have a fear of strangers and your advance could cause a defensive reaction. The dog may even have aggressive tendencies that should be avoided for your own safety. Lastly, he may be focusing on training and feel overwhelmed by your barrage. If we really took the time to think about it, how would we react if we were out with our family and someone rushed towards us and began to make physical contact? Very few of us would appreciate that.
Another reason we need to ask permission to pet someone’s dog is because it gives the owner the latitude needed to correct bad behavior. For example, many dogs inappropriately jump up to greet people. If we ask to pet the dog first, it will allow the owner time to get the dog into a sitting positon and coach them towards a proper greeting. As dog lovers who may not really mind if the dog jumps on us, we have to be cognizant of those who do mind… like the elderly, or small children. If you allow the dog to jump up, you are rewarding the dog and that will make it that much harder for the owner to stop the behavior.
If you are the owner of a dog that should not be greeted for whatever reason, be firm, but polite with strangers. You are your dog’s voice and know him better than anyone else. Only you can speak for him.
Teach your children and others these 5 easy words, MAY I PET YOUR DOG, and it can make a world of difference to dogs and their owners.