Raise your hand if you like the thought of having a dog eat your face. And I don't mean "eat your face" in a cute, give-you-puppy-kisses-until-your-skin-turns-red way. I mean "eat your face" in a very literal way. Anyone? Bueller? No takers? You sure?
I figured as much.
And yet, despite the general consensus that having one's face eaten by a dog is bad, I encounter people almost daily who seem to be doing everything in their power to get their face eaten by a dog.
It's not their fault, I don't think. But a lot of people really don't know how to properly and safely approach a stranger's dog. I'm not sure why they don't, but the ways in which my dog and the dogs I walk for work get approached would indicate a lot of people are clueless.
With that, I've created a handy-dandy guide for approaching a stranger's dog without getting your face eaten. Enjoy.
Rule 1: You probably shouldn't approach a stranger's dog. Well, ok, that's not exactly true. But you should never simply approach a stranger's dog without asking - from a distance - if it's ok. Some people don't want their dogs to interact with people they come across on the street. Some dogs look well-behaved but when they get around a human that is not their owner, they freak out. Even the most well-behaved dog is still an animal that acts on instinct and could flip out and attack if scared. Keep that in mind.
Rule 2: If you must approach a stranger's dog and the owner gives you permission, you shouldn't simply start petting it. Some dogs are picky about where they like to be touched. Faces, feet/legs, ears and tails are spots that can set a dog off and make it defensive. So when you go to pet the dog, hold your hand out first. Let the dog sniff it. While the dog is sniffing, reach your other hand around and gently start petting the back of the dog's neck and its back. It's safer than trying to pet their face or ears in any way. Which brings me to ...
Rule 3: Move slowly and deliberately. Quick, jerky movements are a pretty surefire way to freak a dog out and increase the potential of getting your face eaten. This rule applies both when you're close to the dog and when you're moving toward the dog. I can't even count the number of times I've had to stop some little kid from running at my dog (or one of my clients) while flailing their arms and yelling "PUPPY!" And I've had adults do similarly stupid things. Don't be those people.
Rule 4: Remember, you do not have the right to pet a stranger's dog. Ever. As the owner of a dog, it's my responsibility to keep him safe. If someone wants to pet him and I get a bad vibe or my dog is being a little too rambunctious, I'm not going to let it happen. I've told people no, you can't pet my dog. And more often than not, when I do that, people get mad. I've had people tell me they SHOULD be allowed to pet my dog and start yelling at me. But I don't care. If I don't think it's in his best interest (or your best interest) to let you pet him, I'm not going to let you pet him. It's simple, really: No means no.
And there you have it. If you follow these rules, you are less likely to do something stupid that will set a dog off and cause it to eat your face. By all means, say hi to the dogs of the world when you see them out and about. But do so carefully.
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