There are many reasons why you should never pet a dog without asking the owner. Often people see a dog walking along with his owner and feel it’s alright to just walk up and pet him. Although the dog may be cute and seem really friendly, you may not know how the dog is feeling. Dogs, like any other creature, have feelings and emotions that could impact their reaction to strangers.
Here are some things to consider when you see a dog out for a stroll:
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You Don’t Know the Dog’s History
Many rescue dogs come from very difficult or traumatic backgrounds. Often, they were abused or left to live in horrible conditions. Many never fully recover from their experiences. Although they may be perfectly calm and happy with their new family, there are certain noises, smells, movements or even voice tones that trigger the fear they once felt.
If you or your child move toward a dog without warning, the dog may react in a defensive manner that looks like aggression. Usually, they are more afraid than you are, but they will growl, bare their teeth and in some cases, bite to protect themselves.
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Although you may be a dog lover that would never consider harming a dog in any way, you may be wearing the same perfume or cologne that someone who once harmed them did. Your voice may have a very similar tone or your red jacket may be a reminder of an arm that once hit him.
A dog owner will often know what can trigger his dog’s fears and will let you know what is best for his dog.
The Dog May Not Be Feeling Well
I am neither a veterinarian nor a medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post if required. All safety and medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.
When dogs are feeling under the weather, they may not be up to having company. An upset stomach, an ear infection feeling weak or ill in any way can cause a dog to react differently that she normally would.
They may just prefer to be left alone. A walk is necessary for them to get some fresh air and do their business, but what they really want is to get back home, crawl into their doggy bed and curl up for a nap.
If someone comes toward them, all bouncy and excited to play with the dog, you may get a warning or other negative reaction from him.
Again, this puts everyone in an dangerous position. A simple, “Is it alright to see your dog?”, could spare everyone, including the dog, a lot of grief.
The Dog May Be On Some Kind Of Medication
Just as with humans, medications can affect your mood, balance, judgement and fatigue and adrenaline levels. Approaching a dog that is feeling out of sorts could result in a reaction that is very out of character for the dog.
The dog’s owner knows if her dog is taking medication. She would also be aware of even the most subtle irregularities in her dog’s behavior and would be able to explain why it may be best to wait for another day to visit with him.
The Dog May Be In Training And Needs To Focus
When a dog is in training it is important for the owner to have his full attention. Every lesson takes concentration and focus. By randomly walking up and petting someone’s dog, you may be interrupting a training session and setting the dog’s learning back.
It may appear that the dog is just walking along, but it is possible that the owner is trying to maintain a connection while guiding the dog through a distraction or trigger.
By walking up and petting the dog, you will break that connection and the dog loses focus.
She May Be A Service Dog
Service dogs are used for a variety of reasons. Most people immediately think of a guide dog for people with reduced sight or blindness. The fact is that service dogs are used for many purposes. People with physical disabilities, PTSD, and those who need emotional support commonly have service dogs to help them function on a day to day basis.
A service dog needs to be totally focused on the owner for service purposes. When someone randomly approaches a service dog to pet her, it could compromise her ability to do her job properly.
The Dog May Be In Physical Pain
A dog who is experiencing some kind of pain may not want to be touched, Many dogs suffer with arthritis. Others could be dealing with dental pain or recovering from surgery. These are not visible signs of pain.
If you approach a dog who is in pain, he may be reactive. Although this would only be an attempt to warn you to stay away, it can be scary for both of you.
The Owner May Have Difficulty Holding On To The Dog If He Gets Excited or Spooked
If you approach a dog who is easily excited, she may lunge or pull on her leash. The owner will have to hold the dog back. Should the owner be physically incapable of comfortably holding the dog, the situation could result in a number of scenarios.
- Senior citizens, people with physical impairments or someone with a broken limb could be put in a position where they fall, causing injuries.
- The dog could harm you by jumping up. A heavy dog lunging at you can be a lot stronger than they appear.
- The owner cold lose control of the dog and it could run away.
If you don’t know a dog and you would like to approach him, ask the owner if it is a good idea to pet their dog. If they say no, don’t feel offended. Know that by leaving the dog to enjoy his walk, you have helped him and potentially avoided a dangerous situation.
Your safety is as much your responsibility as it is the dog owner’s.