Pet Etiquette: How to Pet a Dog You Just MetPublished July 28, 2011
Here in the store I frequently get to see people interacting with dogs that don’t belong to them. Most understand the rules of human-to-dog meet and greet etiquette, but many don’t. What’s okay for your dog might not be for your neighbor’s dog, so let’s run through a few “please don’ts”:
1. Please don’t allow jumping up.
My dog Millie has a few dicey habits I’m trying to squelch, including jumping up on people.
Now, she’s just 11 pounds, so it’s not like she’s exerting painful pressure when she jumps, but it’s rude. My shoppers are universally sweet, cooing to her as she plants her front paws on their lower thighs. I try, ever so kindly, to tell people to ignore her when she jumps, but nearly all say, “It’s okay if she jumps on me! She’s so cute!” The sad fact is that the attention she gets from jumping up keeps the behavior alive.
With that in mind I ask this on behalf of everyone trying to teach their dogs polite greeting behavior; if someone asks you not to pet their jumping dog, please wait until you see four paws on the floor before you touch.
2. Please don’t play fight.
I’m not a fan of play fighting with dogs. I think it blurs the lines of acceptable interaction, and can lead to unfortunate consequences with people who don’t appreciate roughhousing (like your visiting grandmother).
What’s worse is play fighting with a dog that isn’t yours. Do you know if the dog has a bite history? Does the dog hate having its tail touched? Does the dog even understand what play fighting is? I recently saw a depressing example of unwelcomed play fighting at a party. A tipsy male guest repeatedly knocked the hosts small mixed breed dog back and forth between his hands, adding a slap on her face every so often.
After a few minutes the unhappy dog retreated under the table, and the idiot moved on. If the dog had been less tolerant the guy might have ended up with stitches.
3. Please don’t encourage nipping.
Millie is a willing victim of this one. A well-meaning shopper will stop to pet her, and somehow the person’s fingers end up in Millie’s mouth while she nom-nom noms away.
She has a very gentle mouth, which is wonderful, but that doesn’t mean that I want play biting humans as a part of her repertoire. After the important puppy teething developmental stage has passed, teeth belong on toys and bones, not skin. Particularly if the dog isn’t yours.
4. Please don’t feed before asking.
Okay, I’ve been guilty of this one. I offer every canine shopper a goody, and more often than not I’m asking the person’s permission as I’m handing the treat over. Uh, what about food allergies, woman?
A few people have stopped me mid-offer because the dog has a chicken allergy, or wheat intolerance, or just good old fashioned chubby-dog syndrome. It’s fun to give treats to dogs (it makes you an instant superstar), but it’s not always welcomed by the human end of the leash. It’s best to ask first.
These are just a few “please don’ts” … can you think of any others?