BG: We adopted a rescue dog about 8 or so months ago. She was estimated to be five at the time, and the shelter said she had been abused. Her behavior and quirks definitely seemed to verify that. She’s a dachshund mix, a strange-looking adorable dog who weighs 35 or so pounds. She’s very, very long, but not tall at all. When she is on the go, no part of her but her wagging tail is more than 10 inches off the ground. The first 2 weeks were a nightmare. She loved us immediately, but barked at every stranger, even if they dared walk passed the house from across the street. With time and much effort, she is amazing. She walks by our side, doesn’t pay attention to strangers anymore, and is calm and collected with other dogs (and cats!) — even excited puppies that chew on her ears. When it comes to new people interacting with her, it has to be on her own terms. She is still skittish and has to be around them at least several minutes before she decides they’re okay. She will give them a little drive-by lick (her stamp of approval) and then we’re good to go. When encountering interested strangers on the street, I’d say about 75% ask if they can pet her (I politely decline and let them know she’s still getting used to strangers), and the other 25% who start to engage me in conversation about the dog and appear like they are about to pet her without asking, I always am able to head them off and briefly explain her story. /end BG
I was walking her one morning and we were passing a man who was full-speed-ahead in the opposite direction and showed no apparent interest in the dog. Right as he came next to the dog, he swooped down to try to place his hand on her head. She barked at him (she’s got big dog bark) and sprinted to the other side of me, terrified. He proceeded to scold me: “If you know your dog is like that, you should have pulled her away!” I was shocked. There was no time to pull her away from a stranger’s hand because he gave no indication he was going to make a move towards her. I think I stared at him for about 5 full seconds before I basically stuttered, “You should have asked before you try and pet a strange dog.” He walked off, that was it. I’m not sure what the polite or proper response should have been. There was absolutely no indication that he was going to lean down to pet her. I am hyper-aware of surroundings since we got her because of the way she used to be. She does so well on walks and shown so much improvement, I’m not going to not walk her. Is there any better way to deal with this kind of stuff? 1127-15
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I am big into dogs and do a lot of training with mine. My rescue dogs compete in shows- even my reactive dog. So believe me when I tell you that I know exactly what you are going through.
The bottom line is, that you are responsible for your dog 100% of the time- regardless of whether someone is stupid or rude. Had your dog bitten the man, instead of jumping to the other side of you, you would have had serious issues.
Your reply was fine, but your mistake was before that. If someone is coming towards you, cross the street. Or change sides of your dog, so that the dog is as far away from the individual as possible to prevent a drive by pet attempt. At minimum, stop and reward your dog and provide a distraction from the passing stranger. But you have to take control of any situation regarding your dog- because there are a lot of idiots out there.
You have to keep your dog safe.
I respectfully disagree with you. Her dog was leashed and she did nothing wrong. It’s not her responsibility to walk away from everyone else. What if there are a lot of people outside? Where else should the OP go? It is the responsibility of others to know not to approach and put their hands on a strange dog. My child knows better than that!
I believe Michelle is correct on this one. The animal is leashed and the owner is in control of the leash. She isn’t legally responsible for HIS actions.
Legal- yes she is. It doesn’t matter if her dog is leashed- unfortunately she is still responsible for her dogs actions- regardless of what caused it.
If the dog were to bite, she would be financially responsible as well as possible in a position to have to put her dog down.
Check up on your local laws. Here, a bite is reportable – even if it is while undergoing treatment at the vet. The vets understand that sometimes it’s going to happen- but legally they have to report even minor contact.
Actually, in most states, if her dog was on a leash of appropriately controlled length, she had no reports of the dog having previously bitten someone, and he reached toward the dog without asking and got bitten, she would not be liable.
The actions of the dogs are never in question in court, only the actions of the owner. When the owner has done nothing negligent, they cannot be held liable.
Your state may be one of the oddballs, but that doesn’t mean that’s the law in every state.
There are two kinds of dog people I truly cannot stand: the ones who think all dogs like them, and the ones who think all people [should] like all dogs.
I am not a dog person, but my kids love all animals. I always ask (my kids are too young) if they may pet a dog if they look interested in the dog. Even dogs we have met before, we ask “can we pet the dog today?” Because its a living creature and it deserves that kind of respect.
It drives me nuts to see people just approach strange dogs, or owners to allow dogs to just approach strangers (on retractableleashes or worse off leash)! I have been bitten, and jumped on and hurt, by dogs and while I do like some dogs who I know, in general I do not want to be approached by a dog. I think it’s perfectly reasonable for a dog to feel the same about people.
OP, you handled that idiot very well.
May I suggest another approach if you ever find yourself in a similar situation? Don’t say a word, but start loudly growling and barking at the stranger. Chase him down the sidewalk, getting louder and louder. You can count it as a victory if the stranger breaks into a run. Your dog may think you’ve lost your mind, but the rude person will steer clear of you in the future.
People who put their hands on another person (or pet) without asking are boundary-challenged, to say the least! And then to SCOLD you for the fact that your fur-baby barked! He was so far wrong he wouldn’t have been able to find right with the assistance of Sherlock Holmes, Siri, and Google. You don’t have to explain your pet to every random busy-body. They’ll invade her space, sadly, so you will have to say more of “no, I’m afraid not” than you should. But it’s a bit over the top to then complain of your unwillingness to let them invade your personal space. In this case, I’d have been tempted to say “There, there, Cerberus. Calm down. You know that mommy doesn’t want you to eat anything unless it’s organic…”
Grrr. I have a 7-year-old who loves dogs. LOVES. Since he got old enough to understand, he’s been drilled in the right way to handle things with dogs in public. Stand back, give the dog its distance, hands at sides, no sudden moves, ASK the owner if you can pet the dog. And accept a “no” graciously. If you get a “yes,” approach slowly, make sure the dog can see you, offer a hand. Accept the dog’s cues! If a bright kid can pick this up, you’d think the average adult can! >:(
argh! I hate when people do this! We also have a rescue dog, who we believe was abused based on his behaviors. He is also nervous around new people, although not for long, and a little wary of other dogs. He is wonderful and we adore him. One day while the kids and I were walking him, a neighbor’s child (maybe 5) came running up from behind us holding a very small puppy, and shoved the puppy in his face. He let out a bark/growl thing and snapped to the side, but I was so scared! He’s never snapped at anyone, but I was terrified he had bitten this boy’s face or hands. He didn’t, and I took him straight home. The boy’s dad watched the whole thing from about three blocks away. I was super angry without knowing who exactly to be angry at.
OP, I think you did great!
Phrase it more insultingly next time: “Even CHILDREN know not to pet strange dogs without permission!”
I know you said your dog was a rescue and has reason to be defensive. But for many dogs, maybe the startling sudden pet would have caused a bark, too. He wasn’t being very smart or polite.
This situation falls under the heading of “Consider the Source”. Anyone who would go up to a dog they do not know and touch it, is obviously not someone brimming over with intelligence or common sense. Therefore, do not trouble yourself over their opinion of you or your dog-handling skills.
In the future, if someone approaches your dog, simply state, “No touching” and keep walking. If they do’t like it, too bad. You don’t owe them anything, including an explanation.
We have a dog that we suspect was abused and he doesn’t care for strangers. He’s fine and super affectionate once he gets to know someone, but I’ve had several people – even with a warning – try to rush him. He hasn’t bitten anyone yet (knock on wood) but he has snapped at a couple. I do not understand when people just barge in on a dog’s personal space. I don’t want to get bitten, even by a chihuahua, so I always ask first.
I think you were fine. This guy was obviously an idiot. You don’t go around petting strange dogs without asking.
Once my two kids were playing in their bedroom at the back of our house they were 6 and 7 at the time. I was sitting on the sofa in the family room with a clear view of them. They were shrieking and just playing like boys do. I had the large sliding door open next to me but the wire mesh screen was closed. All of a sudden I hear this thud outside and before I even got to the back door this massive American staffy smashes through the screen of the back door and bounds right past me into my kids room INSIDE my house and starts growling and barking at my kids who jumped on the bed screaming. I was yelling at it and eventually it ran back outside. When my husband at the time got home he went and spoke to the neighbor who owned the dog.. who said that if my kids must have taunted him. The thud I heard was the dog jumping our fence. So he could not even see the kids. I dont blame the dog, they raised it to be wild and they did not secure it properly. When the ranger told them all the things they needed to do in order to keep the dog they got rid of it and got a new one…. that just happened over and over. The next one bailed me up once when I was unloading groceries from the car, the boys were asleep in the car so I was leaving them until all the groceries were inside the door (dont worry it was not a hot day and only about 4 meters from the door in a quiet street) then the dog showed up and refused to let me get back to my car where the kids were. I had to call the police to get them to restrain it.
On a side note. I once cam out from the shower after taking my kids to school to find 2 large dogs and a small one sitting on my sofa watching tv… I have no idea where the dogs came from, no idea who owned them and never saw them again I just politely got them outside and sanitised my couch.
Oh and once walked into my study to find a cat I did not know sitting on my desk looking out the window… no idea of my can invited it in or what but it was asked to leave as well.
I have no idea what was in that house but it attracted animals.
I was “treed” on a washer in the building laundry room by a neighbor’s husky once. We had just moved into the apartment building and I was doing a load of wash….the dog was walking down the hallway while the owner was doing whatever he was doing before they left so the dog was unleashed. I turned around only to see this huge husky baring its teeth at me in the doorway. Head down and everything. I climbed up on that washing machine and tried to not scream afraid it would trigger the dog to come running in and attack. The owner came up and laughed and said “Oh don’t worry. Charlie doesn’t know you yet….that’s his way of saying hello to strangers!”….um I had a 1 year old child….if I had brought him in there with me I would have come out of there swinging to protect my child. I told him he needed to leash the dog and he informed me there has never been a problem before. *sigh*. So glad I have a house now.
That sounds absolutely terrifying.
I had a similar, though less frightening experience as a kid – the neighbours had a huge mixed breed dog, no idea what it was, except that it was big and barked a lot. It had been digging a hole under the fence and one day, as my sister and I were playing in the backyard, it all of a sudden pushed through the hole and ran at us, barking. It may have been signalling that it wanted to play, but as young kids raised in a no-pets household, we were very frightened and ran and hid in the shed. The owners refused to do anything about the hole on their side of the fence, so my dad ended up buying a heap of old bluestone and bricks and just building a rather ugly, but effective, barrier along the bottom of the fence.
When I was ten and my brother (who had been terrified of dogs since a young age) was eight, we were visiting my grandparents’ place in an area with houses screened from each other by a lot of brush. New neighbors had recently moved in. DB and I were playing in the front yard while adults stood off to the side talking.
Suddenly, two massive BEASTS came crashing out of the brush, barking and pelting straight toward the two of us. My brother screamed and fell backward. I ran toward them, barking back, waving my arms, and trying to make myself look bigger and scary.
My parents had my brother snatched up in a minute, and seconds after that the beasts were called away by their owners, who came and introduced themselves and their pair of Irish Wolfhounds.
They may have been very sweet dogs, but the houses aren’t that far apart, and the brush was the only apparent barrier between the small yards. The owners should have kept the dogs on leashes until they could be taught the boundaries of their property.
Slightly off topic, but also on topic.
My 3yo son has some possible sensory processing problems, and doesn’t cope well with strangers getting to close him. We’ve talked often about polite ways to assert himself about his personal space and for him to feel safe, but, he IS 3, still.
In a store the other day, he was behaving really well (not easy when there are so many things to touch) and was listening to me and doing what he was told. I was proud.
Until one of the shop attendant walked, unexpected, up to him, patter him on the head.
He yelped loudly, swished her hand away and ran and hid behind my legs.
The shop attendant wandered off, muttering to her colleague about “stroppy children in the shop all the time”.
Why o why o why do people think it’s ok to invade the personal space of a child?
If I walked up and patted the woman on the head she would have reacted the same way, I am sure.
Can people really not apply the same common sense and respect to children that they do to dogs?
At a local store we go to frequently, there is a very nice young man with disabilities in a wheelchair who has a companion dog, who is employed as a greeter.
They are both friendly and very sweet.
The dog, as per usual, wears a vest which has in BIG letters “I’m a service dog….please DO NOT pet me!”
This gentleman is there quite often, and I can’t tell you how many people let their kids engage with this dog.
The first time we were greeted by this young man, (Hello, Billy!), my kids were pretty young, and I told them to say hello only, you cannot pet the dog, he is working.
Billy told my kids his dogs name, (Champ) and what the dog does for him, and why he is not allowed to be petted.
My one son listened to Billy, then said to him, “You mean Champ doesn’t get petted?!? EVER?!?”
Billy chuckled and said “Oh no, kiddo….when we are at home, Champ gets all the love he wants, and more treats than he should!”
On more than one occasion, we have seen kids make a beeline for Champ and pet him and a few times grab his leash….all the while their folks are busy browsing and got pissed off when Billy very nicely told the kids to back off, Champ is WORKING and can’t be distracted.
“Oh, for Christ sake!!! They are just KIDS who want to pet your dog!!! WHAT is YOUR problem?!?”
One man was so rude and obnoxious, and really upsetting Billy, “Its a DOG, RETARD!!! That’s what dogs are FOR!!!”
I stayed by Billy and Champ and sent one of my kids to the customer service desk to ask them to send someone over to help Billy because this guy was being so awful to Billy, I wasn’t sure what would happen and Billy seemed close to tears.
When the manager came over, this guy’s kids were pulling Champs ears and he was trying to hide behind the wheelchair.
The manager told this guy and his kids to leave NOW or he was calling the cops.
I don’t think you did anything wrong…but a couple ideas to try and help for next time.
You can get patches for harnesses or vests that say “Don’t Pet”. It might be helpful for you to have if you are going to be in an area where a lot of people might be interested in petting your dog.
http://Www.yellowdogproject.com is a project trying to get people to identify dogs who may need extra space/not be petted (by age, infirmity, history, whatever) by having the dog wear something yellow. Unfortunately, it is still in its infancy so not everyone knows the meaning of a yellow leash or bandana. However, it could be worth a try – especially if you tell people what it means.
Wearing yellow as a warning is a great idea! Hopefully, this will become an established signal that people heed. Rushing up and petting a strange dog without asking the owner and allowing it to sniff you first is amazingly stupid. It is also amazing how much people want to pet and interact with strange dogs though. Once when we were visiting a tourist area with many sideshow type attractions, we were walking our 2 Labs and a Basset, and you would have thought we had another tourist attraction, a traveling menagerie. Luckily our dogs were thrilled with all of the attention, particularly from children, but I was surprised at the attention the dogs got, given the other attractions on the street.
Or a tee shirt with the words, “Beware of owner! He/She bites”. Learn to growl if someone comes too near.
Mine would read “Beware, I bite and don’t have my shots…..”
People should keep their hands to themselves – whether it’s your dog, baby or pregnant belly. Unfortunately other posters are right in observing that, had your dog bitten the man, you would have been liable. People have no respect for the boundaries and warnings animals give – the previous post about the aggressive pony is proof of this.
As much as it’s right of you to think it unfair and unreasonable to make your animal ‘suffer for the sake of others’, it is better both for you and others if you ‘plan for the worst, hope for the best’. Muzzle your dog with a cage muzzle and use a full body harness (rather than a neck leash) – it’s easier to control the animals’ reaction that way. If someone else’s stupidity results in them getting bitten, your dog will be the one to suffer – either by being destroyed or removed from your care. If the dog is muzzled and it’s not physically possible for it to bite, then even if it barks and reacts badly, you know things aren’t going to end up with bloodshed. I’ve also noticed that people tend to be more careful of muzzled dogs (ironically) since it seems that a muzzle suggests the dog is aggressive.
If I were you, I’d have responded that the man shouldn’t have tried touching someone else’s animal without permission and left it at that.
I commute to work by train, and just before Xmas a youngish woman got on the train with a MASSIVE Rottweiler – he was a gorgeous-looking animal and even had his proper, undocked tail – really lovely looking dog, but Rottweilers are pretty scary and this thing was bigger than a shetland pony. At no point did it cross my mind to touch her dog at all (uninvited), but I did engage in conversation with her to complement the handsome animal and his impeccable, adorable behaviour during the 30 minutes he was stuck in a crowded train carriage. I don’t understand what drives people to touch things that have nothing to do with them. If that dog had approached me for affection (he did sniff me thoroughly as we got off the train – probably because I have a Cat and 4 Rabbits and I probably smell interesting to him), I would have expected his owner/handler to pull him back as we tend to be quite protective of our personal space, so I don’t understand why people can’t apply those same rules in reverse.
You did so well.
Thank you so much for giving this abused, scared dog a home and the care he/ she needs. You are doing an awesome job.
When we first got Molly, my rescue mix, she was an estimated 6months old with an unknown background. She wasn’t house trained, so I pretty much took her on a walk outside every time she twitched. Luckily, she got the jist pretty quickly.
Anyway, on day one, I was taking her for another walk. At this point, we had only had her a couple of hours, and I knew only what she’d shown me in that time. I have no children, and no other dogs (although I do have a cat, which she was fine with), so I wasn’t going to intentionally put her near children or dogs so soon.
Well. We’re walking along, minding our own business, and this woman with a toddler (barely able to stand, not speaking anything I could understand), swoops in and puts her son down RIGHT next to my dogs face. For clarity of image, Molly is a GSD/Vizsla/lab/terrier/and more mix, so even at six month she wasn’t small and her mouth is BIG.
“Pet the puppy!” The woman said, as I pulled Molly away. Remember, I’d only had Molly for a few hours at this point and didn’t know how she would react around kids. The toddler was eye level with her! When I pulled Molly away, the woman got all huffy, and told me not to worry, they have a large dog at home so he wouldn’t hurt her.
Umm… I was never worried about the 1 year old hurting my dog. I was worried about it going the other way! I don’t understand why people just assume they can pet every dog, or worse, drop their children off right at a strange dogs face!
(As it turns out, Molly loves both children and dogs. Nevertheless, people should ask first!)
My husband once told a friend we would watch her pitt bull while she went out of town for a wedding.
Earlier in the week, she brought the dog over so we could meet him.
This dog was MASSIVE, and to this ladies credit, he was a rescue from an abusive home.
She and the dog were not in our house for five minutes before I knew there is no way we are watching this dog.
I certainly don’t blame the dog, but her owner couldn’t control him, and be honest I was afraid of him as were my two little ones.
The lady asked if she could take him to the back yard to do his business, and we all watched as the dog took HER for a walk.
I said to my husband, I’m so sorry….but no freaking way is she leaving this dog here for three days.
Luckily, he agreed and told her as much when she came back in.
She said it was no problem, and was very nice about the whole thing.
I had a male Chihuahua who had been abused, and more than a decade after coming to live with me, he still had issues. He was very unpredictable — I never knew, when he met a new person, if he was going to be instant BFFs or try to attack them. There was one friend of mine whom he disliked on sight, but one day had a change of heart and decided this friend was the coolest guy ever. I muzzled him in situations where he was likely to be around a lot of strangers.
But even people he liked, he might turn on if he perceived a threat. One night I was sacked out on the couch, sick, and my partner bent over the couch to check on me. The dog, who adored my partner, went into attack mode, because he saw partner’s bending over posture as a threat to me. Another time, he went after a friend who was play wrestling with her own (very large) dog, because he thought his new dog friend was being attacked. (Both times, I called him off and nobody was hurt.)
A few months before this dog passed away, I took him camping. I was walking him around the campground when a little boy about 4 years old came running toward us, arms flailing and shrieking, “CUTEDOGGYCUTEDOGGYCUTEDOGGY!” I snatched the dog up in my arms and gave the kid a *very* stern lecture about how to approach strange dogs. My boy was old, arthritic and toothless and could not have done any damage to the kid — but he was scared out of his wits by this little two-legged banshee running and screaming at him!
Living with this dog taught me a *lot* about the etiquette of approaching other people’s pets, even those I know. The sweetest animal in the world can go ballistic very quickly if he perceives that his, or his human’s, space is being invaded.
I’m a frustrated not-yet dog owner – I absolutely love pugs in particular but can’t have a dog at my current residence. I squeal with excitement every time I see a pug, and they always get a smile out of me. However, I would never pet even the friendliest looking dog without either asking the owner for permission, or sussing out the dog (eg slowly approaching it and holding a hand out for the dog to smell). You just don’t know – the dog could be a rescue dog with a history of abusive treatment, a dangerous dog, or just in a crappy mood.
Some people lack a healthy respect for things that can be potentially dangerous.
Oh, I hope you’re able to have a pug one day….they are the sweetest, silliest little snugglers ever. Generally great with kids, too.
Not much of a dog person, but I would definitely consider a pug if I ever did get one. Especially a black one. A friend had a black one and he was the cutest thing ever!
My 2 pit bulls are both rescue dogs (from a fighting ring). When I walk them people ALWAYS ask permission to pat them.
I used to have this issue with my Lab. She behaved well on walks and loved people, especially kids, but whenever someone would pet her as we were walking, it completely threw her. She wanted to play, and spent the next several minutes of the walk trying to go back to her new friend. If the person asked to pet her, I could prepare her by telling her to sit, and this made things much more pleasant for everyone involved.
I avoided the drive-by pettings by putting myself between my dog and the approaching person. That way, if they wanted to pet her they would have to ask, or go around me, at which point I could intervene.
I do not think it is rude to tell someone that petting a dog without permission is a bad idea. It’s not just disrespectful, it’s dangerous.
You are doing your best and it sounds like you are doing great with your dog. If I were in the same situation, I would have said “You stuck your hand into the face of an unfamiliar dog, what on earth were you thinking?” Maybe next time they’ll have a little more caution.
Wow I thought it was common sense not to touch someone else’s pet without permission. I love animals, but I always ask. The exception is if the owner is smiling, loosens their leash, and lets their happy wagging dog approach me for obvious “loves”. Never would I swoop down quickly and startle an animal. Maybe I’m just more observant on animal behavior. I’m not an expert, but I know just enough to recognize a friendly one.
I would have told him that since veering at her dog without warning was definitely an attack action on the man’s part, the dog was justified in being alarmed.
Nu uh… that’s bad dog etiquette, and asking to be bitten. My brother and I were taught from a young age that you NEVER just charge up and pet a dog. You might offer to let the dog sniff your hand. If the dog growls, you pull your hand away (they almost always growl). If the dog sniffs your hand, you’re probably okay to pet. You NEVER EVER run up to an animal abruptly and try to touch it. Some people’s kids.
I ran into this problem while dog-sitting for a friend. First, this dog was a rather willful sort. She was a terrier mix and a very intelligent dog. She obeyed my friend without hesitation but tested boundaries with me. It is for that reason that I never, ever took her off her leash while we were outside, even in a dog park. Second, the dog had a probably abusive past. We weren’t sure. My friend was the FOURTH owner, and adopted the adult dog from a kill shelter shortly before her time ran out. Her visceral reaction to anyone wearing a hat, men in general, and men with tan or darker complexions in particular makes me think there is someone who fits that description in her past that abused her. Once you’re “in” with this dog, you’re good, but it took some time for her to make friends. Strangers had no chance to develop this relationship.
I’d snug up on her leash if we approached people that I knew triggered her barking and sometimes snarling reaction, but there’s only so much I could do. When one man reached down to pet her, I barely warned him in time that she bites. If only he had asked before reaching down!
This dog lived a long life and never quite got over her reaction, though she did make friends with people of all kinds.
I love dogs and will pet random dogs I see around because they are so loving and cute. Nothing loves like a dog! But I always – always! – ask first.
You should ask before petting any animal. I try to warn people about my tortie kitty. She’s a doll, but gets overstimulated easily with pettings and has bitten before. My father didn’t listen and we had a band-aid moment. Now that she’s an elderly kitty (minimum 14, maybe as old as 16) we think she has pain in her joints because the merest touch sometimes sends her biting and meowing. But if you stick to petting her head only, she’s a lovey-dovey purring machine.
In our part of the country we are mostly farm and ranch. Everybody has a Blue Heeler, or some type of cattle dog, in the back of a pickup. I’ve seen people walk up and start to pet them. I say start because nearly every one of them will bite. It’s the easiest way to pick out the people from town. You don’t pet other peoples dogs.
This area is like that too and you should KNOW that that dog is a ‘good dog’ but it will be possessive of ‘their space’ and you come too close and you will get bitten. Most are very good while their human is in town doing errands and stay in or on the back of the pickup… and unless you approach looking at the dog or truck or touch the truck, they will leave you be. I farmsit for one couple when they go for family events or holidays, and that dog I can approach, I will often stop to say hello to the dog first, even before I notice that he’s sitting in the pickup. He just grins…
Just like you shouldn’t approach a car with dog inside and windows rolled down unless the dog looks in distress OR the windows are NOT rolled down; you don’t approach a dog in the back of a pickup. City or country dweller, don’t ever.