Some of you might remember a couple of months ago when Jennifer Lawrence took some serious heat from the media for telling off a paparazzi for grabbing at her dog outside an airport. Now don't get me wrong, the derogatory remarks she made towards the man, started with an f, ended with an -oser, were a bit much. But then again, if I had cameras and people in my face all the time I might flip a lid occasionally as well. What she said before the name calling though? YES! PREACH ON GIRL!
"Don't touch my dog!"
For a lot of people, especially it seems those who don't own one themselves, dogs occupy this magical space in society where they belong to everyone. Their existence on this planet is simply to fulfill our need to fawn over and cuddle these magical furry four-legged beasts. Every dog is fair game for pets, even those who are residing behind fences or, are busy walking down the road.
You know the people I'm talking about. If you're a fellow dog owner you've likely seen them. They hone in on your dog, walking slightly slower as if to not frighten your fuzzy companion with their hand's outstretched, reaching as if to say "I just want one little pet." The problem though is that they haven't spoken to you yet. If you're in a busy public space sometimes you don't even see them until you look back at your dog and realize it’s being fondled by strangers. I now have to be the bad guy and say, "Please don't touch my dog." "But I was only petting him!" or "You don't have to be so rude!" is what often follows. And that's fine, you learn to ignore it.
By now many of you probably think I'm a monster; some cold-hearted, frigid person who's only mission in life is to suck all the joy and laughter out of the world one dog pet at a time. Now I do have my serious side, of this I admit, but I promise I am not. I LOVE dogs. All dogs. Big dogs, small dogs, fuzzy dogs, nakey dogs. Obviously I love them, I work with them for a living! But loving dogs also means respecting dogs, and respecting the two-legged humans they come with.
I would never walk up to somebody's child and touch him or her. So why do we allow this to happen or assume that its okay to do with people's dogs?!?!
First off, and probably most importantly, this behaviour assumes that all dogs are friendly AND that all dogs like to touched by strangers. I consider myself to be a nice person, but, if you sneak up on me and grab my arm, or touch my shoulder, I'm going to freak out. I have the ability to use my words; to scream or yell, swat your hand, what have you. Dogs don't. Well they do, but we don't like it when they do. We say "your dog growled at me, he must be unfriendly", "it nipped me!" or "he just turned around and bit me." Meanwhile all of those actions in that situation are not the dog’s fault. That dog was saying in dog language, "Holy crap what was that? I'm scared/uncomfortable." Dogs don't have the ability to use words and actions as we humans do, so they communicate in the only way they know how.
Second, you don't know the situation this dog and/or owner might currently be in. They could be trying to train, in which case distracting the dog is not only frustrating for the owner but could have a negative impact on the dog. An old roommate used to raise puppies for Guide Dogs of Canada, which means she carted her little pup around everywhere she went with its adorable little green vest on. The amount of people who still tried to pet this dog, regardless of the big lettering on the vest saying "Do Not Touch - In Training", was astounding.
Furthermore, the dog could be wearing a training tool that causes it discomfort if it’s not paying attention to its owner. I have personally been walking through busy places and had to turn around to figure out why it felt like I was dragging my normally highly excitable dog, to find small children and people basically hanging off of him. Not only did this annoy me, it also caused great discomfort to my dog due to the leash now being fully extended and pulling on him to walk forward.
The dog could also be incredibly excitable, like my dude. I didn't let small children pet my dog for the first while because we were still working on him not jumping up when he got excited. You might think it’s funny or adorable when he jumps up to lick your face, however it’s not funny or adorable when he pushes over a toddler and their parents start screaming at me. I can stop him from jumping up if I am face to face with someone; I can't if I don't know someone is sneaking in from behind to touch my dog.
Lastly, touching or approaching my dog without my knowledge or consent is plain old rude. You don't know if that dog and their human have somewhere to be, or if they are trying to do something, like juggle coffee, manage the leash, and turn off their phone that just won't stop ringing. What you think to be not a big deal, a simple pet, could be a huge deal to that person and to that dog. In the words of a fellow dog enthusiast, "my dog is not a petting zoo." My dog does not exist for random people to fondle and fawn over it. Our trip to the market, or to uptown to get coffee, is not for the benefit of you and your need to pet my dog. If you need to pet a dog that badly but can’t own your own, why not volunteer as a dog walker for the humane society.
Now I know what people will say, "well why don't you just get one of those tags you can put on their leash/collar that says 'don't touch me' or 'in training'." Why should I have to? Why don't you ask me if you can pet my dog? When did we stop teaching children that it’s not okay to walk up to strangers’ dogs without asking?
Like I said before. I'm not a monster. I'm not cold-hearted, and I am not frigid. I simply just want you to ask me before you touch me dog. 80% of the time, I will say YES! Yes you can pet my dog. And if you're a small child, I'll follow that yes up with a "thank you for asking me!" Scout LOVES when people pet him, so much that I will probably warn you of his obsession with licking peoples ears first.
It is not hard people. All you have to say is "can I pet your dog?"