My Dog is Not a Walking Petting Zoo

Oct 1, 2018   Tracey Aston   Training

“Oh! A puppy! I want to pet it!”  You love animals - they're cute, soft, fluffy and nonjudgmental. I get it, I'm an animal lover too, and that's why I do what I do. However, approaching strange dogs could turn dangerous for all involved. 

First off, a professional dog walker is on duty, they are doing their job and are responsible for the pets in their care.  Pet care professionals don't play with pets all day; they care for them and provide individualized exercise, enrichment, mental stimulation, meals and medications when needed. As friendly as they want to be, they have a strict time table to keep.  This assures all animals in their care are getting the time they need.

Time tables aside, by running up to a professional pet sitter, you're approaching an animal you know nothing about. This dog could be people aggressive and the dog walker has spent months gaining its trust, but you haven't.  Approaching a people aggressive dog puts you in danger, as well as the dog walker and the dog.  The fear of a physical altercation should be enough, but now you've also put the professional dog walker in the position of being liable if the dog lunges or bites you. 

Professional dog walkers must always be alert to possible dangers when walking a dog! They are watching for squirrels, loose dogs, keeping an eye on a yard they are passing to see if a dog is on a tie-out, has an electric fence or will jump the fence.  It feels like we're playing dog walker chicken! Debby McMullen of Pawsitive Reactions, LLC, expands on this further in her article Boundary Battlefields: Dogs, Yards and Walks. For the professional dog walker and dog's safety, their attention can't be broken.  If an off-leash, strange dog runs up to a professional dog walker, their priority is to protect the dog in their care, this includes having to spray mace at your dog is they are in fear for their safety. Now, your dog is confused and scared by the interaction, and could possibly end up with a human aggression issue from the experience.

While out walking your dog, never allow the dog to run up on or approach a strange dog. The dog could be dog aggressive, and by allowing your dog to run up to it, a serious altercation could result, putting all parties in danger. Not all dogs want to play with other dogs, and not all are comfortable being approached by another dog in unfamiliar territory. Even if your dog is friendly and “just wants to play” that doesn't mean the other dog feels the same way.  How would you handle a stranger running up into your face and jumping on you? Not well, I'd assumed. Dogs are the same way.  Another great article from Debby McMullen on the subject is Consent is not just for people!  Another thing to be aware of is you're putting your own dog at risk. If your dog bites someone, you are liable and courts always side with the humans, even if you can provide a rabies vaccination record. Don't put the other dog, pet walker or your own dog at risk by allowing them to run up on another dog! 

This dog could be in a training program, and by breaking his attention you're setting back his training. Also, a professional dog walker might not be the only one walking the dog on a routine basis – his owner, trainer or other family member may also be working with him on walks. If even one of those people allows him to greet others, the dog will assume that can be done with everyone. 

Let's say the dog is friendly, and you want to pet him and make friends. Now, the next time that dog sees you, the dog will want to visit his friend. This puts him and the pet walker in danger.  The dog sees you from across the road, and wants to visit, so the dog bolts towards you. If the person walking the dog is unprepared for this, they could be pulled over or their arm jolted or that dog could end up running into traffic in the attempt to get to you. 

Don't allow children to run up to a strange dog! We understand Paw Patrol is very popular, but running up on a dog just because it looks like Rebel isn't a good idea! Not all children are aware enough to know how to handle a dog, especially a strange dog. That innocent hug you think your child is giving to the dog could trigger the dog, when the dog only sees strange arms wrapping around their neck!  You may have a dog of your own, and have taught your children the basic of no ear and tail pulling, but this isn't your dog and it may not be used to children! Especially strange children! Again, even if the dog is friendly and your child is knowledgeable, a large dog could get over-excited and jump onto a child, knocking them to the ground or scratching them. 

Basic consideration is always appreciated when out walking your dog. This is a great time for exercise, mental stimulation and bonding with your pet. Common sense and common courtesy go a long way in allowing everyone to share this experience at the same time. 

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