Silas dislikes strangers.
I don’t know, maybe that’s phrasing it a little strongly. Silas, in fact, adores strangers, as long as they’re behaving predictably. It’s just that he adores them like he adores a fresh bush to sniff–he wants to go see them and give them a thorough examination. He continues to be baffled that this fresh two-legged thing to sniff expects to reach out and touch him as part of the sniffing ritual. Because he doesn’t handle being startled very well, you can see why a small problem might arise. Somewhere between 50% and75% of the time, the person he’s sniffing will manage to initiate contact in a way that Silas finds acceptable. The rest of the time, not so much.
Needless to say, we don’t meet a lot of strangers unless I have some pretty clear evidence that things will go well.
His little problem has also made me very sensitive, to the point of paranoia, about petting dogs I don’t know. Over time, my paranoia has crystallized into this rule:
I pet dogs who are actively, happily, and politely soliciting my attention. Otherwise, I leave them alone.
If your dog comes up to me, when I don’t have Silas, and makes a sweet “please pet me!!!!” face, I’ll probably oblige. If your dog is watching me curiously, I’ll try to have non-threatening body language, but I’m not going to solicit attention. I am not going to coax a dog over, unless we’re in some kind of lost dog emergency situation. I am not going to ask you if I can pet your dog, unless your dog asks me first.
Petting your dog is none of my business.
Petting is not an inalienable right that comes with having hands. Having soft fur does not mean that you have no say so about what happens to your own body.