Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ask First. Always.

A few years ago, while at an event, I was chatting with a woman holding a pup who was up for adoption. This pup was about 15 pounds, mixed breed and absolutely adorable. He was resting comfortably in her arms. A man approached from behind. He immediately started petting the dog. He then put his face up against the dog's face for a kiss. The woman turned around so her back was facing the man. This all happened within a few short seconds. The man was baffled and made attempts to pet the dog again. I spoke up.

"You need to take a few steps back, please."

"Why. This is an adoption event. The dogs here are friendly."

"It doesn't matter. This dog doesn't know you. He's nervous. There's a lot of people here. You should never approach or pet a dog unless you ask first and never put your face up to a dog like that."

"I'm sorry. I didn't know." 

"A lot of people don't. Now you know."

The man walked away slightly irritated at me. I just shook my head and went about my business. I've lost count how many times I've witnessed this and similar situations. It riles me up. Fluffs my feathers. I have to bite my tongue. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to keep my response somewhat professional, informative and open for further discussion.

It's all in how you present something. I repeat this over and over and over in my head.

I've seen too much happen over the years. Children running up to small dogs, yelling and waving their hands in the air, "Mommy, mommy...this doggy is so cute. I want one." Pet parents engaging in conversation while their pup roams around unattended. Leashed pups at events with other dogs and the guardian have their back turned. People approaching dogs and petting them without asking permission. The list goes on. I suck in my breath. Worst case scenarios that I've witnessed in the past flood my brain.

I experience the same reaction when I see a toddler run across a room with a sippy cup in their mouth. Or, a child running around a slippery pool area. 

I want to whip out a remote control and pause the moment. Or, at the very least, redirect a situation that could quickly spiral out of control. Why are parents allowing their kids to run up to a dog they don't know? Why are people not asking permission before petting someone else's dog? Why are guardians not paying attention to their dog at events?

How many times have we heard the parent of a human kid say amid a tragedy, "I only turned my head for a second?" 

A lot can happen in a second or two. Your pup could be the most well behaved and calmest pooch on the block, however, you're taking them to unfamiliar territory with lots of other dogs and people. Temperaments change. Some dogs get stressed and anxious in crowds and may act out of character. This is not the time or place to take your eyes off of them.

Regardless of age, size, or breed, you should never assume you can touch another human's dog. You don't know their history, demeanor or how they respond to strangers. No. Do not, under any circumstance, allow your child to approach or pet without permission. Adults too. Ask first. Always.

This is our number one rule at events. We ask before approaching, petting or giving a biscuit. Always.

On the other end of the stick, we've been told, "I'd rather you not. He's still working on his people skills." We're not offended or put off. We applaud you. We also respect the humans who have removed their pup from the environment because they've become overstimulated. And, the ones who have tied a yellow ribbon on their dog's leash or sported a communicative bandana or vest to alert others to proceed with caution.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to common sense. When attending pet-themed events that allow dogs, keep your senses alert, your eyes peeled and be in sync with your pooch. They'll let you know. And never hesitate to say speak up. It's okay to say no when someone asks if they can pet or hold your dog. Safety first for both humans and pups.

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