"Can I pet your dog?" No.

Last weekend was finally a beautiful break of the summer heat that we’ve been having. A day when it wasn’t 90+ has been a bit of a rarity so my SO and I wmade plans with a friend to hit two of the large outdoor art fairs in town. We were heading out around 10am so it was still early and with a doggy canteen on my side, I brought one of our dogs with. (The pug can handle long walks, the bulldog wouldn’t.)

Now, I adopted the pug when he was 6 months old and he’s a great dog and has really come out of his shell in the year and a half I’ve had him. He used to be afraid of strangers, if someone was walking towards him on the sidewalk, he would freeze until they passed. When I reached down to pet him and he’d duck out of the way. To put it frankly, I sadly think he was abused. So better life for him now, he no longer freezes, he doesn’t duck out of the way when I reach down to pet him. In other words, he’s building up trust. This summer, he’s actually gone up to people on his own to say hi at the doggy park. As long as he initiates contact, he lets them pet him, any petting by strangers without his consent makes him run away. So, baby steps here, but I’m happy with the progress.

Back to the story:
So we’re going through the crowds at the art fair and Spoon the pug is doing great. We stop for water, a little treat, etc but he’s keeping up and having a good time being out of the house. When we stopped at one place, one of the artists comes up and asks to put him, I agree and Spoon shied away. So I figured he was not in a mood to be petted that day. As we progress, several children and adults come up and ask to pet him. I reply “sorry, no” which apparently People. Don’t. Do.

At one point, I get chastised by a mother after her 8 year old daughter complains that she asked but was denied. “Why won’t you let my daughter pet your dog? She asked nicely!”

In my mind I wanted to reply “because Veruca Salt doesn’t always get what she wants when she wants it”. But I didn’t and just said “he doesn’t like children, sorry.”

So the question is, do I have some societal duty to let anyone pet my dog that asks?

No societal duty, no, but I wish you’d be a bit more understanding about it. Some people, especially some children, really, really like dogs, and them petting one doesn’t hurt anything if the dog can be socialized to the point where he’ll accept it and even like it. Then it’s a win-win, because the kid is happy and the dog is happy. If it’s just not possible for this to happen, then at least explain that the dog isn’t friendly, instead of just saying a curt “no”, which can be construed as you just not being friendly.

No, you haven’t. I friend of mine was very delighted when I told her that I didn’t pay any attention to her Dobermann unless the dog herself came up to me to say hullo.

I also have a rescue who took years to get to the point where she is regularly friendly. Use the no days as an opportunity to educate.

I’m sorry she’s a rescue and she’s feeling a little anti social today but if you would like to(insert some action your dog likes here) she might come and sniff your hand.

If they ask again to pet her I used to explain that just like people sometimes like quiet time and to be left alone dogs are like that too.

So the thread doesn’t derail on that point, I always said “sorry, no”. I was polite but direct.

it is good to say no to the request and to let the child know it. giving kids an unconditional love for animals and the desire to touch and hug them will lead to problems, especially someday without their parent.

I think that the confusion may be because you had let one person pet your dog and then simply declined without explanation to others.

Instead of this, maybe try something like, “sorry, he doesn’t like strangers.” That way you get the explanation for the denial out right away.

The problem here is parents who don’t teach their children that they should never ever approach a strange dog, no matter how kind it may seem.

It sucks when people ask for further explanation but you had a valid further explanation, why not use it?

I thought “he bites” would settle any dispute.

Good point.

I did when I was directly confronted about it after saying “sorry, no” by the parent of the child and said that he “doesn’t like children, sorry”.

I have one dog I won’t let people pet because he’s an insecure idiot and can act unpredictably. The other is of the “I’m in my adoring crowd, so pet me please it’s my divine right” mindset, and I let nearly anyone pet her.

As a more general case and rule, you have an absolute duty to your dog and yourself to control your dogs interactions. If the dog may not act well for any reason, the answer has to be no, even if someone else just got away with it.

Being a dog lover, I solicit skritch time by holding the back of a hand out to the dog. If either dog or owner say no, I go on my way and no offense is taken. If the owner smiles or the dog gets excited, then I assume some social time is desired. Then I’ll have to worry about my two sniffing me and giving me the canine stinkeye for cheating on them. :wink:

They asked first, which is the responsible thing to do. Not a problem at all.

  1. At least the people asked! It’s stupid when people don’t ask; don’t they realize it’s an animal, not a robot?

  2. No, you have no obligation to let people pet your dog.

You DO have two obligations, though.

  1. To your pet, to not let them be petted when they don’t want to be. That’s just forcing them into situations they have no good way of dealing with.

  2. To protect people FROM your pet, when said pet is not doing well in a social situation
    So, you did fine . I’m sure all pet owners thank you for not backing down. People need to learn societal limits. Like taking no for an answer, not as an insult.

I had a dog that had a propensity to bite hands that were rushed towards her face in an “I’m going to pet you” manner. She took it as an attack and she’d bite. People would ask me all the time if they could pet my dog. I’d say, no, she often bites. They would typically respond with something about how much all dogs like them and they never get bit. Wanna bet?
My point is that often a rather blunt “No” is best for all concerned. They rarely argue with that. I realize it sounds rude, but it’s better than taking the time to explain that my dog may well bite you, and, of course, it’s better than them getting bit.

They shouldn’t even have asked in my opinion.

How dare they ask a polite question!!


Most people have the reasonable expectation that a dog present in a crowded social atmosphere such as an art fair would be appropriately socialized to deal with a friendly crowd. A short explanation is a learning opportunity for kids and parents. “He’s a rescue and just learning how to get used to people. Maybe next time we meet.”

I don’t see why on earth they shouldn’t ask. I also don’t see why on earth stpauler shouldn’t say no - whether it’s because the dog isn’t in the mood, because it bites, or just because Stpauler doesn’t feel like it. He (she?) doesn’t have any duty at all to let people touch the dog.

My kid is just 3 and loves dogs, and I’ve taught her that you never ever touch one without asking the owner first. Sometimes the owner says no, to which Widget knows to say, ‘OK, thanks, bye!’ She also knows to hold out a hand and let the dog sniff her first, never to come at a dog from behind, and never to put her face to a dog’s.

She was patting a couple of greyhounds the other week, with permission, and the owner told me that I was the first parent I’d seen teaching her kid dog-manners. I was gobsmacked, but apparently most people either act like the dog is some terrifying monster that will eat you alive, or else let their kid go for the dog without even asking.

Kids need to learn how to treat dogs with respect - which means learning that interacting with a dog isn’t all about what you want, it’s also about what the dog wants. By saying no when the dog’s not in the mood, you’re not only protecting the dog, you’re also helping the kids to learn that.