Caught it on the tail end here, but wanted to make a post anyway.
We talk a lot about how consent is important in relationships (and it is still a HUGE issue there in today's society), but there are many other places I have noticed that consent is lacking as well... One of them is in our interactions with dogs.
1. Always ask the owners consent before approaching a strange dog
/ petting a strange dog/ letting your pet/child approach or pet a strange dog, etc. If the owner says no, for WHATEVER reason. Please respect them. I don't know how many times I have told people a dog that I am walking bites only to have them reach for the dog anyway. Please please don't do this. Most times when I say this I say it because my dog is afraid of strangers. I have been working VERY hard to counter condition him to their presence and to working in public. He is doing very very well and he does not lunge at or bark at strangers any more when I take him places. He will, however, feel very threatened if reached for, and while he is working up to that in training, a well meaning person reaching for him without permission, actually causes that training a lot of harm, and could end up provoking him enough to bite. He is a perfectly behaved dog when not reached for and just like I have the right to walk down the street without being touched by strangers so does he.
Some dogs love being petted but might be recovering from a painful injury, or have had a bad experience just a few minutes ago. If their owner tells you not to pet them, please be respectful.
Some dogs are service dogs for an unseen illness, they are working and if you are asked not to pet them please listen.
There are many reasons and to be honest it doesn't even matter. No means no.
2. It's not just the owners we need to ask for consent. We really ought to ask the dogs too
. Sometimes I like hugs, other times I would rather not be touched. I'm sure we've all felt that way, and we have to remember that our dogs feel that way too. We so often expect them to be robots that tolerate whatever we throw at them, and we need to remember they are living breathing creatures with feelings. Stand back from a dog and call it to you, if it doesn't approach it means it is not answering 'yes'. Which means it does not want to be petted right now, and that's okay. If you start petting a dog, it is polite to pause for a moment. If the dog moves toward you, or stays there you can continue petting, if he/she walks away, they have probably had enough for now. This is something we can do with our own dogs too, not just strange ones! By learning a bit of dog body language we can really listen to a dog's more subtle warnings and keep them from having to escalate to biting. It is also really important to teach this to children as they are the most likely victims of dog bites. (see the blog post bellow for some GREAT info on this)
3. We need to ask other people's consent to let our dog interact with them too!
It is our responsibility as dog owners to insure that our dogs are not bothering, scaring, or harming anyone. If they don't say yes to letting our dogs greet them, then we shouldn't force them to greet our dogs anyway by just letting a loose dog run up to them. We all share pubic space. I have watched so many people let their friendly but exuberant dogs run up to anyone they meet. Some people are afraid of dogs, some people just don't want to be jumped on, some are allergic, etc. Just because your dog is usually friendly is no excuse to let this happen. There are times and places where it is okay to let our dogs off lead, but even then we must remember that we are sharing the space with others and respect their needs. Another point to this is all dogs have teeth. Even if your dog is friendly, if the stranger does something the dog does not take to well the dog may bite. I also feel like strangers have every right to defend themselves if a loose dog runs up to them. I've seen many owners get mad when their loose dog ran up to someone and the person held up a stick as if to hit their dog. If you are so worried about people hurting your dog, or other dogs hurting your dog, you need to keep them leashed or under appropriate control. If you want to learn more about dog body language and other great ways to prevent dog bites, here is a LOVELY blog post written by one of my friends/colleagues. easternherdingdogrescue.org/20…