It’s a soul-crushing moment when you encounter an utterly adorable good boy on the street, or anywhere out in public for that matter, and you’re suddenly struck with the moral dilemma: this isn’t my dog – am I entitled to crouch down, give it all the cuddles and let it lick my face off?
It’s a legitimate question. Some dog owners appreciate strangers asking them before they become fur buddies with their four-legged pal, while others are fine and dandy with their doggo making friends with everyone they meet.
There are so many pitfalls of public dog petting etiquette. Here are some to look out for next time you find yourself face-to-face with an irresistible pup.
Sadly, not every cute canine wants to be showered in your attention. In fact, there are plenty of dogs who get freaked out by busy, loud and crowded locations and your temptation to shake paws may only make that worse.
According to the Best Friends Animal Society, it’s all about body language. “If a dog becomes very still, his body stiffens, or he seems to want to avoid the interaction, he’s probably not comfortable in that particular situation.”
Let’s not forget there are dogs who have disabilities like blindness, or loss of hearing, and approaching them for a cuddle may cause a fright. Other dogs are actually ‘working’ and will usually wear a ‘service dog’ harness that warns passersby not to pat the pupper and distract it from the task at hand.
According to Dogs Trust, there are a few simple steps to public dog petting. The organisation states that you should only stroke a dog if the owner says yes.
Once you have approval, allow the dog to sniff your hand first, then proceed with a gentle stroke. They also state that if a strange dog approaches you – you should stand still, look away and cross your arms. This is far easier said than done.
While it’s tempting to show every dog in the world how much we appreciate them, perhaps it’s better to be safe than sorry and always ask before launching into cuddle mode.