Monday, August 15, 2011

Why Should My Human Let a Stranger Pat Me?

Hi Y’all,

Yesterday I talked about you patting me, a dog. 

Today, I’m going to turn the tables on you.

If you were my Human, would you allow strangers to pat me when you were out walking me

What would you do if a strange child ran up to me?   I’m not used to children.  I’ve been socialized around them, but I don’t have little kids to play with me. 

What would you do when a strange dog, maybe misbehaving or even off leash, approached? 

Remember, I weigh 100 lbs. and I’m very active and fit. 

If you walk up to us, I’ll be walking on the off side of my Human.  I heel on either side.  If an off leash dog or one misbehaving approaches, I will sit like in the picture at the top of the page, beside my Human, on the off side away from persons or dogs approaching.    

In the picture above left, I am watching and waiting for my Human to decide where she’s going.  Directly above I’m at a street corner watching the traffic while I wait to cross with my Human.  To the left we’re getting ready to cross another corner. 

I’ll tell you a few other things about my training.  I stop at, doors, steps and curbs.  Now, unlike a service dog, the reason I was trained to stop was so I wouldn’t accidently carry my Human into traffic.  (When my Human is finished with the camera, in the picture above, we’ll walk up to the curb, I’ll sit until signaled and then we’ll cross when there is no traffic.)

Service dogs, especially leader dogs, stop to signal a curb or step.  (In the picture at right I’m stopped at the head of steps to wait for my Human. 

The Thundering Herd (here) has a problem with people running up to them to pat them.  For the life of her, my Human said she can’t understand running up to a Herd of anything!  Especially Siberian Huskies

I found out from the comments yesterday that Mrs. Midnite (here) has two little caveliers.  If they like big dogs, I’ve been known to lay down to play with smaller dogs.  Open-mouthed smile

Bert (here) had a very important point about touching  or patting a strange dog, after, of course, you’ve gotten the handler’s permission.  You should extend your hand, palm up, for the stranger to sniff.  Then, once the stranger reaches out and sniffs the hand and seems to relax, you can slip your hand UNDER the stranger’s muzzle.  This from the mouth of another dog, who is also a search and rescue dog. 

Why pat underneath chin instead of top of head or on side?  A hand and arm reaching above or around the dog’s head is invading his personal space and is threatening.  While such action by the handler or family is accepted, it may cause a defensive response toward someone else. 

Skye and Parker (here) get two very different reactions from people when they go for a walk together.  The problem is Parker, the cute fluffy white one, doesn’t care for “forced interactions with strangers”.  Of course, Skye is the the poor maligned Pit Bull. 

Tomorrow I’ll tell you WHY my Human doesn’t usually let anyone pat me.  She’ll let me meet and greet other dogs, whose owners say it’s okay, before she’ll let someone pat me.  (In the picture above left, I’m sitting a curb, waiting to cross.)

Today’s and yesterday’s post was inspired by A Glacial Pace (Here) The problems we face multiply when a handicapped or blind person puts their life in the dog’s paws only to have a strange child race up to distract the dog. 



  1. My mom is quite lenient as we are pit bulls and she wants as many people as possible to meet and love us!


  2. I tell everyone I meet to leave Oreo alone, that he is shy. Usually it works, if not, I walk the other way. Even little kids understand what "shy" means.

    I have noticed more and more kids are asking, "Can I pet your dog?" before approaching, so maybe people are becoming more educated about greeting animals.

  3. Very important post. Thunder is like a magnet for people wanting to pet him, despite his size. He has a happy personality so as long as they ask first, it is OK. Storm is not as willing to let random people pet her, and most pick up on that and over look her. Both love children more than adults though thanks to the neighbor kids playing with them when they were pups.

    Hawk is a very good boy to sit at streets, stairs and doors. We taught the 2 brown dawgs to do that too because they are strong and could pull us if they wanted.

  4. I too have noticed more children ask if they can pet Ricky before they run up to him. So maybe things are slowly improving out there in the world. :)

  5. I think you hit it right on the head-something I have been ranting and raving about for a while now LOL-just ask. Sometimes, it is ok to pet and sometimes it is not. Regardless of the yes/no or reasons for it, a person will never know unless they ask. :)

  6. I agree - asking is important. I also like that you pointed out that you shouldn't pat a strange dog on the head. When small children ask to pet Gwynn, I get him to sit, and get them to pet him on his shoulder or side. If people ask why he doesn't want to be pet on the head, I reach out, as if to pet them on the forehead... they figure it out pretty quickly.

  7. I've found most people ask if they can pet my dogs. Toby's no problem, and Sage is generally OK with it. She's not too keen on children, something we're working on. She's really great at sitting at the curb and going out the door too. Good thing to teach them!

  8. Hawk, you're so full of wisdom, and so well behaved! While both Parker and Skye like kids a lot, I'm still careful to keep interactions short and sweet. Mostly, kids ask or their parents are with them. Once, however, we were checking out at the pet food store (Parker and Skye practice sit/stay while I check out). I turned around, and there was a toddler, 3 or 4, hugging Skye and kissing her head! Her mother was checking out in a different line, and didn't see her come over to my dogs. Skye never got up, so I didn't notice either. The woman laughed when she saw her daughter and said "she just loves dogs!" I was polite, but reminded her that not all dogs are as great with kids as Skye. I can tell you that Skye got a big ol' treat for that, and I learned never to turn my back on my pups in public!

  9. Hello Hawk
    My little ruby cavalier would love to play, Star likes big dogs and likes to say hello. Sasha is much more nervous and sometimes runs home if big dogs run at her, she would need to get to know you before you could play.

    I let people pet them most of the time now but had to ask them not to when we were training. It annoys me if children pick Star up, she is very small and cute and they like to treat her like a teddy bear. I always ask hem to put her down.

    Mrs Midnite

  10. More great wisdom Hawk! We here are so different out in public that the momma is always worried. I, the Who (9lbs) don't want ANYONE approaching me ANYWHERE- I would never bite but I don't want strangers touching me. Now Butter the Bean (27lbs) is like a people-magnet. He looks like a stuffed animal and his tail is wagging all the time BUT he is awfully grumpy and the momma says she doesn't trust him not to snap. Hannibal the moose (80lbs) scares children when his only goal in life is to smooch on every kid on earth and get pets. Uncle Fred (58lbs) is just plain terrified of all people that he gets the heck out of petting range FAST.
    So the only one of us that the momma allow to get pats from stangers is the moose. It is sooo nice when adults/kids at least ask first though.

    Sugar the Who

  11. Jeepers, this is exactly what I went through last weekend. I think people are being better when it comes to big dogs like you, but for some reason floppy dogs like Darby still need extra education.