Look at this face. You want to pet him, don’t you? Have you ever wondered if he wanted you to pet him? Just because a dog is cute and looks good to you does not mean he or she loves to be touched; especially by strangers.
I am not suggesting that you get on hands and knees, wiggle your bum and ask every dog you meet if they want to be touched nor am I saying that we should all roll onto our backs and let dogs pet us. We do, however, need to remember that OUR desire to touch an animal may not be received with enthusiasm. Some tips to remember the next time you MUST say hello to a ridiculously cute dog:
Ask. If you are walking into someone’s home or meet a dog on the street, ask if you may say hello to their dog. I can not tell you how many times I am out with Finn or a client’s dog and folks just rush us, without permission. Just ask. It is polite and prevents a bite from a dog who downright does not like people.
Listen. If the dog’s guardian tells you his or her dog is shy, do not reinforce those fears by mimicking Godzilla as you chase their dog into a corner.
Watch. If the super cute dog walks away from you, lowers their head or hides behind their owner; those behaviors clearly indicate varying levels of disinterest in you. If you give in to your desires and force your affection on the dog to feed your own satisfaction, you could make the fears worse or get bitten. Remember, flight or fight? If flight does not work, your actions might be met with fight. Not good for you or the dog.
Help. If you sit in a chair and avoid eye contact, it can help the dog feel less threatened. Crouching helps too but if the dog has ANY history of biting, you put yourself in a dangerous position by getting on the floor. Some dogs respond well when guardians give amazing treats for confident behavior in the presence of strange people, treats go away when the strange person goes away. Some dogs (ESPECIALLY DOGS WHO ARE GUARDING THEIR HUMAN) do well if the stranger drops (no tossing overhand) amazing treats on the floor for the dog then immediately walks away. Again, remember coming at or over the dog can be scary.
Remember, the way a dog looks is not an indicator of their personality. If you LOVE dogs, remember this the next time you meet a new one and you may help the adorable little (or big) dog become more confident around new people.