Should People Pet Your Dog Without Permission?

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Should People Pet Your Dog Without Permission?

What You Need to Know and How to Implement It

By Julie Schrager


Each year, 4.5 million people are bit by a dog. Of these 4.5 million people, one out of five needs to go to a hospital to receive medical attention, half of these people are children. These are fairly high statistics and it’s up to us to understand why they need to be lowered.


Just take a moment to think about it. How would you feel if somebody walked into your space? I am sure that you would not feel very comfortable and possibly, anxious. With that said, imagine somebody coming up into your space and touching your face or your hair. Again, it’s something that would be unsettling. Now that you have a better understanding about space, this is how dogs feel when a perfect stranger comes up to them and starts petting them. Just because a dog is out in public does not mean that anyone can come up to them and pet them. The approaching person does not know if that dog is shy, predisposed to fear, or in the midst of being trained. For many owners, they just don’t realize that allowing strangers to pet their dog might be harmful to them and cause unnecessary anxiety.

The best way to approach a dog and its owner, if you are interested in petting that dog, is not to approach at all. However, this is not something many people will do. Therefore, for those owners who must state to a stranger not to pet their dog, here are some things you can say to those who may approach your dog:

  • We are working on training with him/her
  • My dog is reactive
  • My dog is scared of strangers
  • Please do not touch

When a dog is on a leash, they feel more vulnerable by those who approach them because they feel ambushed. Additionally, dogs have a keen sense of knowing how their owners feel. If an owner feels anxious about a stranger approaching their dog, that dog will sense the owner’s anxiety and react. The best way to handle a situation like this, is to simply turn around and go the other way or find another path to avoid that person.

It is up to the owner to make their dog feel secure and less anxious as well as ensuring that dog is safe and always feels safe. It is not up to the dog to decide for themselves. It is our job to decide for them.

If you are having issues with others approaching your dog, try the methods I stated above and don’t feel guilty about telling someone not to approach your dog. You have every right to protect your fur baby from those who do not have a right to pet your dog. However, if it is difficult for you to tell someone not to pet your dog, you can purchase collars and leashes that say “do not pet”. Sometimes these methods work and sometimes they don’t.

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Julie Schrager and her husband Jeff have lived in Wellington for 20 years with their son Jake along with their two mini schnauzers, Baron and Leo. Julie is the owner of Tail Waggers Dog Walking & Training and the host of her podcast Nothing But Julie.