Advocating for your dog

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!”

OR

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?!

Sleeping Silas

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.

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13 thoughts on “Advocating for your dog

    1. I’m actually quite strongly opposed to those color-coded leashes. Why does my dog need a label in order for people to respect my wishes? Why can’t people be polite just because, you know, it’s the right thing to do?

      Also, people who are jerks (off leash dogs, inappropriate reaching) are exactly the same people who won’t notice or care about a yellow leash.

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  1. I have the same problem, except my dog won’t Bark, she will flail at the end of her leash trying to get away. I’ve started saying, “No thank you. She does not want to say hi.” She’s usually fine until someone tries reaching for her.

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  2. Very interesting and true! This is a salient social observation. When people with kids try to run up and pet Pyrrha, I just flat out tell them she will bite. She probably wouldn’t, but that is a very rapid way I’ve found to get people to leave us alone.

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    1. I try not to use the B word, but I do keep it in my arsenal if we get in a bad situation with children. Some of their parents just don’t pay any attention, and kids understand “bite.”

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  3. Great post. Like you, I have found simply being direct is the best approach. “Can I pet your dog?” “No. But thank you for asking.” I’ve given up even explaining as a rule because to be honest, it is few and far between that someone even asks.

    I am encouraged though by more and more people asking – maybe word is getting out that not all dogs like to be mauled by well-meaning strangers. Maybe times are ‘a-changing’.

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  4. I love that! I don’t get it either… Why, when I say, “No, you can’t pet him,” people INSIST that they’re special in some way. That my rule about my dog doesn’t apply to them. Then Cooper lunges and barks his face off, and they give me a dirty look. Sigh.

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