Monday, January 16, 2017

Don't Touch! - 5 Reasons Why It's Not My Job to Run a Petting Zoo

Hi, everyone!

A few days ago my good friend Lauren from ZoePhee wrote a great post about Dogs Not Liking Hugs, and it - along with a truly awful experence at the beach on Friday that I will get to shortly - inspired today's post. I wanted to talk a bit about what it's like to have a small dog that people tend to treat as a free for all when it comes to touching, and why I no longer allow strangers to interact with my dogs.

As a whole, people are absolutely terrible about interacting with dogs, both their own and strange ones. Joe Blow does not give a damn if a dog is uncomfortable, so long as he can paw at the dog to his heart's content. And people wonder why there's such an epidemic of dog bites....

It happens to all dogs, of all breeds and sizes. However, in my experience it is so much worse with a small dog. When I had Roxie, our foster pit bull, almost no one came up to us and NEVER touched her without permission, even though you couldn't find a sweeter dog than Rox. Similarly, when Layla (Mastiff) was still with us no one tried to pet her, and usually gave us a wide berth, even though she was a puppy and very friendly.

On the other hand, everyone makes grabby hands at my small dogs, no matter what I say to them. It doesn't matter if they're not engaging with the person, if they're behind me, if I'm blocking them, or they're being carried. People see small dog and instantly think that they're allowed to manhandle it as much as they please.
I've had people try and pick my dogs up, grab their leash and try and tug the dog towards them, tug at their ears or lift up their feet, try and lift them onto their back legs, ect and it makes me so furious. It's dangerous and stupid.

Any dog can bite. A small dog is still a dog, and dogs are not robots. Any dog can have an off day, even if they're well trained, well bred, and well socialized. Not all dogs like being pet by strangers, and many don't enjoy the way most people pet dogs (right on top of the head, ect). When a dog is throwing  so many signals that she's uncomfortable, the person needs to respect that and back off, not continue to push the dog into something she doesn't want to do.

After Friday's incident, I'm no longer allowing strangers to interact with my dogs. No petting, no holding, trying to call them away from me. Nothing. It's not because my dogs are unfriendly. They're stable, sweet, and easygoing for the most part ( depends on the day). It's not because not because I'm scared they'll bite, for their risk is minimal. However, it's important to remember all dogs can and will bite if pushed far enough.
It's not even because I don't like people (well....;)). It's simply the fact that my dog is my priority, not total strangers.

Here are 5 reasons why:

  1. I'm not running a petting zoo. It's not my job to fulfill someone's asinine need to touch things that don't belong to them, and my dog doesn't need to be on constant display. 
  2. I know my dog...but I don't know the person. I know my dog well enough to gauge how she'll react to most situations at any given time. I know when she'll be okay with someone and when she really won't be. However, I don't know this stranger wanting to get their hands on my dog.  I don't know how they'll react, and that's not a gamble I'm willing to take. Just because they tolerate it doesn't mean they should have to. 
  3. I'm covering my own ass, even though there's almost no risk of anything happening.
  4. Most strangers make my skin crawl when they touch my dogs. It's the strangest and most uncomfortable situation, and I hate it.
  5. As mentioned early, Joe Blow Public has no idea on proper dog handling and body language. I'm not putting my dog in an uncomfortable situation when it's not necessary. My duty is to my dog's safety and comfort, not someone else's enjoyment. 

Of course there are exceptions, like when my dogs genuinely want to interact with someone and that person is agreeable (the pups are the best judgers of character, I swear), or when we're around dog savvy people (like BlogPaws, which Nola enjoyed and made several friends). Family and our vet team of course have full access, if the dogs are agreeable - and they always are.

Another worthwhile reason is injury prevention. When strangers roughly grab at my dogs legs or ears, yank at her leash as hard as possible to pull her to them, or god forbid try and pick her up, there's a risk of injury to my dog. She is 9.5lb, and her breed is prone to back issues. Pike's one front leg is weak due to his regrown dewclaw removal surgery, and the subsequent issues that happened. Lachlan is a baby, with puppy-breakability.

It is entirely possibly to still be a good breed and dog ambassador without serving my pups up on a silver platter. They are well trained, calm, quiet and focused while in public. I would personally much rather see a trained dog connecting and engaging with its owner than shoving itself at everyone for outside attention. While out and about, I need my dog's focus. Strangers do not.

So there you have it! That's why I  say no when someone asks to pet my dogs, and if they do it without permission or ignore my no...well, I'm not afraid to let them have it. ;)

So what about you? Where do you stand on strangers and your dog? Do you have any stories about people ignoring your dog's cues?

- Dachshund Mommy


  1. I usually let anyone pet my Dachshund if they want to, as my doxie loves everyone, but if there's a bunch of people it can overwhelm my dog so I make sure the environment is controlled before anyone touches my dog. Personally I love when anyone asks to pet my doxie because he brings so much joy to everyone around him, and it's fun to show off his tricks.

  2. I hear you. I have a Chihuahua and he is ... wait for it ... 3.5 pounds and fluffy (long hair). I now have rules of engagement. If someone asks I say "one moment. let me put him down fist and let's talk". I then explain that it's best if he comes to them and sorry but if he doesn't ... it's a no go. Please don't pet the top of his head and don't pick him up unless I can see that he's ok with that. #1 bite dog out there? Chihuahuas. I know for a fact my dog can bite. He never has but I know he can. So far the approach ahs worked. If someone can't follow instructions - I walk away. I have found other small dog owners to surprisingly be the worst - like somehow because they have a small dog they assume my small dog is fair game.

  3. I'm the same way because Phoenix doesn't like grabby hands, either! For the first couple of years that I had her, I didn't let anyone touch her so she could stay comfortable. Now I only let people interact with her if she initiates it. She loves all of my co-workers at work and she's been wanting to say hi to female employees at the various pet friendly places we go to. She actually jumped up on a male client yesterday and I was really excited by it. LOL

    Random people on the street, though, no way!

  4. Um...nobody wants to pet me! BOL!!! they take one look at the slobbers, and recoil! BOL!!!! If anyone starts the "Oh! What a cute dog! Can I pet her?" I say, if you don't mind a hand full of slobber, sure! that almost ALWAYS brings a 'um, no, that's okay....☺)
    My Old English Sheepdog ~ couldn't keep people away from her! She was such a sweet dog, that I almost never said no, because most people were 'dog people' and understood how to act.
    Slobber ~ the great deterrent! ☺
    Ruby ♥

  5. I have two dachshunds, one I got as a puppy and one I adopted from a breeder after she had 3 litters of pups. Emmy has never been around children and she is the sweetest dog but I do not know how she would react. She is very scared of many things. When I walk my dogs everyone comes up with their kids and wants to pet. I tell them NO she is not friendly and NO you cannot pet her. I hate to be mean but some people assholes (excuse my language) Now my other dog wants everyone to pet her!

  6. We have Red, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and he is a magnet when it comes to strangers wanting to pet/handle him. We know it's important to socialize him but we have to draw the line somewhere. And they all use this high pitch voice that gets him crazy. I totally agree with you...

  7. You make so many good points. It drives me NUTS when people try and pet my dogs. None of my dogs want anything to do with strangers. It's the most difficult with Wynston because he's the smallest, but he likes people the very least. Khloee is better with people but she doesn't like children. Kids tend to gravitate toward her because she's white and fluffy. Ugh.
    I typically refuse people when they ask to pet my dogs for all of the reasons you listed!

  8. I am very pushy when it comes to Dante and Ziva, we are more than happy to say hi to people so long as it's on our turn and they ask.
    I like having kids meet my dogs because Dante and Ziva are amazing breed ambassadors but I expect people to ask, and if a child runs over to us I tell the child to go ask their mom/dad etc..
    But sometimes we don't like to be bothered like when we're training, so if I see someone coming I tell them something along the lines of, "We're training, don't touch."

  9. I had that issue with Ginger and she was a very sweet/loving dog off leash but on leash she was a bit hesitant so I always just told people that would approach me to please not touch her. Mostly it was kids in our neighborhood who would run at her which would totally freak her out. No one tries to pet Matt. LOL So funny there is such a big difference with interaction between small & big dogs.

  10. We are currently having to deal with a lawsuit for Buzz jumping on a kid who trespassed on our property and ran right up to him, screaming "doggie" (we were in our front yard getting the mail). The kid ended up falling on the sidewalk next to our front yard and lost a tooth.

    This kid had no business being anywhere near us, let alone on our property. He didn't ask for any sort of permission to come up to us and interact with the pups. Just saw the dogs and started running our way.

    Now, I have socialized the heck out of both pups since they moved in with us at just 8 weeks of age - anyone who knows me and my blog knows this. Both pups are wonderful around well behaved kids who respect their space and pet them on their sides and chests.

    It is truly saddening and extremely frustrating to be blamed for a certain type of dog behavior when an unsupervised child gets to act out.

    You wrote a great post and I completely understand why you made the decision of keeping strangers away from your pups.


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