Silas is a deceptive little creature. He’s generally interested in other people and dogs, but his reactions tend to change quickly once things get too close.
This means that strangers think he wants to be petted. Right up until he starts barking at them, that is, and they act like my dog is a hell creature.
The problem is that this belief is so strong that I have difficulty overriding it. We get a lot of scenarios like this:
Stranger: “Can I pet your dog?”
Me: “He’s really not good with new people.”
Stranger: “Oh, but dogs love me!”
Me: “He’s very shy.”
Stranger: “He doesn’t look shy to me!” (reaches down to pet Silas, gets barked at.)
It’s exhausting. Why can people not listen to me?!
The problem with my statements in both of these cases is that the stranger thinks I’m asking for help. Their magical abilities with dogs will help Silas be less afraid of new people. Their petting will override his shyness. My dog has a behavioral problem that they think they can help me fix.
Once I realized this, I changed my tactics.
Me: “If you pet him, he will bark at you.”
Stranger: “Well, he sure is cute.” (Goes on about their business.)
It turns out, people are a lot less likely to ignore your objections when the consequences are clearly explained.