I hate fall, spring and winter break around my neighborhood. Our midday, peaceful walks become an attempt to escape the parade of children following us screaming “OH DOGGY! CAN I PET YOUR DOG?! OMG IT’S A PUPPY!” My mindfulness transforms into anxiety, as I end up repeating myself 18 times with, “No, he doesn’t like being pet.” That statement, in my brain, translates to, “No, because he doesn’t like children, so please go away and leave us alone.”
No, you can’t pet my dog.
Dogs, like people, don’t like everyone and everything. Sure, plenty of dogs appreciate being adored by the passing child, but not my dog. Perhaps Wynston takes after me, but we aren’t fans of fast, energetic children running up to us with their small, grabby hands.
And quite frankly, you aren’t entitled to petting my dog!
The crappy thing is, I always feel like the bad guy. For example;
Wynston and I were out on an afternoon walk. It was cloudy, around 80° with a slight breeze. Just a beautiful day. Far in the distance I heard the sound of a child’s scooter, and I immediately got anxious. I thought to myself “and so it begins.” Closer and closer, the sound got louder until I heard the scooter right behind us. So far Wynston wasn’t phased. He was too focused on sniffing and marking other dogs’ pee. Then the inevitable happened…
The boy, maybe 7 years old, pulls up next to me and starts to jump off his scooter and exclaims, “CAN I PET YOUR DOG?!” as he goes to lunge for Wynston. “No!” I said abruptly, as to avoid Wynston cowering in fear. “He doesn’t like to be pet.” The boy’s face turned to sheer disappointment as he jumped back on his wheels and went on his way.
Then I saw the kid fetch his little brother from their home and I heard him scream, “THERE’S A DOG BUT YOU CAN’T PET IT!” Out runs a smaller child, as Wynston and I pick up the pace and continue on our journey. I look back, both the boys standing there staring at us, Wynston still oblivious.
I felt like the bad guy, but I was protecting Wynston. He doesn’t want children to pet him, so I had to turn them away. And let’s be honest – I’ll do anything to protect my son.
What it comes down to is the parents. Kudos to them for teaching their children to ask to pet a dog, because that’s a big first step. But the lesson doesn’t end there. The next step is to teach their offspring that not all dogs appreciate or enjoy being bombarded. Not all dogs like to be pet by strangers. Period. Just like some people don’t want to be hugged, some dogs don’t want to be pet.
And there’s a bite risk…
Wynston has never bitten anyone or gotten close to doing so. But what if he got startled by a child running at him? What if he became so irritated or fearful that he got defensive and nipped at a child? I’m not about to have a bite situation on my hands because YOUR child didn’t attempt to greet my dog properly. It’s simply not worth the risk.
So what’s the ideal situation? Teach your kids to stop at least five feet away and ask if they can pet a dog from a distance. Wait for an answer, then pet the dog or move on. Give the dog’s owner time to respond.
Neither you or your child are entitled to petting MY dog. He is MY dog and he is not a toy or a petting zoo.
Is this something that you have a problem with? Tell me about it in the comments.