Is Your Dog Friendly?
Such a simple question with a not so simple answer. As Laura & Kim discuss this topic, you’ll hear why just blurting out “yes” may not be the best option. No matter how friendly your dog is under normal circumstances, there may be situations when he isn’t comfortable having a stranger pet or interact with him. Nobody wants to offend someone on the street who says nice things about their dog, like how cute he is, or he reminds them of a dog they had growing up. So, when that same person asks if they can pet your dog you feel compelled to say “yes”. Unfortunately, that may not be what’s best for your dog.
Believe it or not you can ask your dog if he wants a stranger to interact with him. Your dog’s body language will tell if they want or don’t want somebody to interact with them. As you are talking to the person watch your dog. Does he turn away and sniff the ground? Does he move towards them? Or does he try to put you between the person and himself? Of these three things which one do you think says your dog wants this stranger to pet him? When you watch your dog the answer becomes clear. Even if the person is not a stranger to you, they may be a stranger to your dog. And just because you might be having a nice conversation with this person that person is still unknown to your dog.
If you can tell that your dog isn’t interested in having the person say hello then feel free to say he’s nervous around strangers, even if it isn’t every stranger. You are not only allowed to, you are expected to be your dog’s protector. If your dog learns he can trust that you are reading his body language and won’t put him in harm’s way, the communication between you and your dog can only improve.
On the other side of this coin let’s say you want to say hello to an unknown dog. How would you determine if the dog wants you to come closer? The three examples above are good ones to go by. In case you didn’t catch it, the second option is the one where the dog is indicating he wants to meet you. If the dog moves nicely towards you that is a pretty good indication that interacting with him is okay. Now that doesn’t mean you get to hug, kiss & pet the dog for 20 minutes. It means that it’s ok for you to pet the dog for a few seconds, preferably under the chin, and then back off and see how the dog responds. If he stays there or moves in closer then you can pet for another few seconds.
Another way to ask if a dog wants to be friends is to hold your hand down. Notice we did not say stick your hand in the dog’s face “so he can smell you”. Believe us when we say the dog smelled you coming from a half block away. That’s not an insult, it’s a testament to the power of a dog’s nose. If you really aren’t certain if a dog wants you to pet him just hold your hand down by your side, palm facing out and fingers slightly curled. If the dog moves into it then you can most likely pet him under the chin; but only for a few seconds. If he doesn’t move into you then you have your answer. Don’t take it as a personal affront though. Dogs have good & bad days just as we do.