My husband takes our pooch to work with him. NajaHund sleeps curled up in a ball under NajaHusband’s desk, and is always leashed to the desk to prevent him from wandering off and bothering anyone. He’s generally very mannerly and loves people, so whenever anyone comes by, he’ll come out from under the desk and wag his butt and ask for scritchles… but he can’t go any further than about five feet from the desk. If anyone doesn’t want to interact with him it’s very easy to avoid seeing him or being within leash range.
There’s a guy who works in another lab who is afraid of dogs, but sometimes comes over to NajaHusband’s area to bounce ideas around or ask questions. NajaHund would come out wagging his tail, and the guy’s response (every single time, and this has been going on for years) is to squeal like a little girl, wave his arms and legs around almost cartoonishly, and leap back and forth. Now, all the guy has to do is stay on the other side of the bench if he doesn’t want to see the dog or doesn’t want the dog to see him. Instead, he pretty much guarantees through his actions that NajaHund gets excited and wags around in utter joy whenever scared guy shows up and puts on his “I’m terrified of dogs” display… which, coincidentally, looks a whole lot like other friends’ “Hooray!!! I love dogs and want to wrestle with this one” display.
We’ve tried explaining to him repeatedly that if he just acts normally and pays zero attention to the dog, the dog will ignore him and stay put sleeping under the desk–the dog knows the people who want to see and pat him, and the people who have no interest in him, and he reacts to them accordingly–but that by jumping around, waving his limbs and shrieking, he gets the dog all amped up. Doesn’t seem to make any difference.
There isn’t a whole lot of point to this story, except to say that if you’re scared of dogs and want to avoid drawing their attention to you, what you should definitely not do is to shriek and jump around and wave your arms at them.
Have you seen the guy with the big dogs before? As** Swallowed My Cellphone** said, it could be that the guy was looking at you funny because his normally well-behaved dogs started acting unusually, and you stood there staring at the guy. If something like that happens again, it might be helpful to say something to the dogs’ owner, even if it’s just “why are your dogs snarling at me, are they not good with strangers?” On the other hand, maybe he was just a jerk with jerk dogs and it wouldn’t have mattered what you did before, during, or after the encounter.
If you really want to cultivate friendships with your canine neighbors, carry around a couple milk-bones or bits of jerky in your pocket. Ask the owner first, but if they say it’s okay, greet the dog and toss them a treat from whatever distance you feel comfy with. In very short order, you’ll stop being “random, suspicious stranger” and you’ll become the beloved neighborhood cookie dispenser