Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why can't I pet your dog?

Why can't I pet your dog?
If a complete stranger walked up to you and asked, "May I drive your car?" or "May I live in your house?" or "May I have your purse", your response is probably going to be "NO!"  Now imagine if the reply to your response is "Why?"  How do you answer that question?  If this happened to me, I would either ignore the person or respond, "It's my house; I paid for it, I owe you no explanation."
Spiritually, my dogs are my family members; but legally, they are my property.  So when I tell someone that they can't pet my dog, can't give my dog a treat, can't approach my dog, etc.. why do I owe some explanation? They are my property; I pay for their food, their vet care, their training, etc..
Let's say that dogs are our family members and not property.  If  a stranger walked up to you and asked, "May I pick up your kid?" or May I take your kid for a ride?" I'm assuming your response would be a resounding no. Imagine once again if the response from the stranger is "Why?"  Do you really owe that person an explanation?   But let's say that you do provide a why.  Your response might be, "I don't know you, I don't trust you with my kid, and my kid doesn't want to go with you."  Now imagine that the well meaning stranger then says "But I'm good with kids; look at your boy, he wants to get in the car with me."  How do you now respond to that?  Do you owe a response?
So, am I supposed to simply let you touch my dog because you are "good with dogs?"  Do I really need to explain why I don't want my family member, my property touched?
If you still need an explanation why certain people don't want strangers touching their dogs, here are just a few
  • The dog could be in training and strangers approaching the dog might hamper that training
  • The dog could be shy and afraid of strangers.  Some pet owners like to ease their dogs into getting used to new people.  Forcing petting on a dog will only make that shyness worse.
  • The dog might have some nervous issues that might cause him/her to bite if approached incorrectly.  The pet parent doesn't want you to get hurt
    • Additionally, the pet parent doesn't want her dog to get a bad reputation for biting or have to have his/her pet put down for biting.  So it's safer for everyone if you keep you distance.
  • The pet parent might be uncomfortable with strangers even if the dog is comfortable.
If you have a strong desire to pet dogs, instead of insisting that you force yourself on strangers' dogs, here are some other ideas
  • Volunteer at a local shelter or with a local rescue groups
    • Sadly there are an abundance of unwanted dogs in this country, so volunteering your time at a shelter will give you a never-ending selection of different dogs to pet. I suggest spending extra time with large black dogs. In general, they tend to have a harder time getting adopted. Even better, ask the staff who hasn't been out of their kennel in a while or ask who gets the least attention, who are the most misunderstood dogs. Then spend time with them.
    • Look into a dog-related profession
      • Pet Sitting
      • Dog Walking
      • Dog Training
      • Dog Grooming
    • Spend time with dogs who belong to friends and family - humans who have given the okay for their dogs to be petted.