Stranger Danger- Can I pet your primitive dog?

Do you have kids that rush up to your dog or people that insist on petting because “they are dog people?”

Some primitive dogs enjoy attention from strangers. But, many of the primitive breeds have “being aloof with strangers” built into their DNA. They may tolerate random people entering their space and touching them while for others, strangers are a source of anxiety. Dogs will tell you whether they are comfortable with their body language. If you notice that your dog’s body is tense, mouth is closed, tail tucked, ears are back, whites of their eyes are showing, lip licking, apprehension approaching someone or backing away from them then the dog is telling you that they do not want to interact.

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As a dog guardian, it is your job to act as an advocate for your dog and their safety. Be ready to tell the stranger that your dog does not want to be pet today. Even if your dog is usually ready to happily greet a new person, be aware that this may not be the case every time. Pay attention to the body language that your dog is giving and don’t feel bad turning people away. After all, you are most likely in public to enjoy time with your dog, whether it is for a walk in the park or in town. You are not obligated to be a source of entertainment for other people and children, as harsh as that may sound. Especially for sensitive dogs, this can ruin what would otherwise be a great sniffing session. Safety should always be the number one concern.

For some dogs, approaching a stranger is a frightening experience and it is important to remember not to force your dog to greet. Have strangers toss food to your dog instead of hand feeding them. Greeting a person up close can be very overwhelming to dogs, but they are pressured into it by the presence of a treat. Having the stranger toss the treat, rather than hand it, can show the dog that strangers aren’t so bad, without the anxiety of needing to interact. As always, the best way to gauge what your dog is willing to try is by reading their body language.

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If your dog does decide to greet someone, always encourage people to approach calmly, let them get a sniff, and pet them gently in a spot they enjoy. Tell them to avoid petting the top of their head and any other places that your dog doesn't like or that may have pain. Do not let people hug or hover over your dog, as this may be intimidating to them. If your dog decides they are done with the person, wrap up the interaction and move on. Respecting a dog's wishes to either interact in a proper way or not to interact by reading their body language helps create a safe environment for them and the people who wish to greet them. 

Do you struggle with greetings or is your dog the town mayor? Tell us in the group!