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I Don't Let Strangers Pet My Dog & Why You Shouldn't Either

It's an unpopular opinion. I don't let strangers pet my dog.

I am a crazy dog obsessed mom. I get very excited and happy when I see dogs in public too. But training my 90lb fur baby to go everywhere with me came with several boundaries and it made me realize that in order to have a more pet friendly lifestyle, our dogs cannot serve as constant forms of entertainment to everyone they encounter. I bought a harness and leash that both very clearly stated: "Do Not Pet" at the beginning of Max's training.


Training During the Pandemic

I knew when I started training our newly adopted dog that I wanted him to learn to stay calm in public places. Little dogs have such an easy time. My little purse dog who doesn't need a lot of correcting because she doesn't seek out the pets and attention of others, and she stays in my lap or purse easily. She is 9 lbs and can be kept under control. Max, however, is a giant Old English Sheepdog, with a streak of stubbornness. Setting the expectations for him at an early age was very important.


I started Max's training at the brink of the pandemic. Our timing was ideal. We could go places without many people around. Crowds were nonexistent and the few people you did come across stayed 6 feet away.



Exposure

A hugely important aspect for Max to learn to be out and about with me 24/7 was to let him get exposure to all there is to see, smell, and hear in the world. Dogs are most comfortable in the places they have been to several times. Each new place they are exposed to is a new chance to become familiar and learn to remain calm despite the distractions. The restaurant patio, the department store, the busy town square, the vet, the car wash, are all brand new experiences to them. Their minds are naturally going to be overly exerted and their reaction is most likely going to be along the lines of stress - whether that be excitement or anxiety. Getting them constant exposure to these places as soon as possible allows them to become used to being out and about. We have to be advocates for our dogs in helping them become respectful canine citizens.


Not Here For Your Entertainment

People get so excited about seeing dogs, especially a big fluffy, cuddly one. And I get it! I do too. But in order for Max to be comfortable, calm, and completely used to the idea of walking around shops and busy public spaces with me and his dad, I needed him to not seek out the attention of other people and to learn to remain calm in all situations.


For effective training, I believe our dogs need to pay respect and be attentive to their owners. This is not possible when they are pulling, jumping, and seeking out the pets and attention of strangers everywhere you go. Just like a child, if the dog is getting over the top attention, they are likely to get overly excited.


I made the conscious decision to not let strangers pet him not only because of the need for calmness but also because I believe dogs do not need to be out merely to serve as entertainment to strangers. When I see dogs, I would love to pet them all, but in order for my ideal dog friendly lifestyle to be achieved for my dog, myself, and other dog owners, then getting pets by all of the people they run into just isn't ideal.


Pets After Training

I no longer have to wonder if Max will get excited when someone greets and pets him. I still stick with the rule, but he gets an occasional pet from time to time at specific places. He is very good at ignoring people when he's supposed to be and greeting them when I have given them and him permission. He loves the pets when he gets them, but they are a treat and a privilege, just as it's a privilege for a 90lb dog to get to go everywhere with his owner. He and I had to earn these priveleges by training ourselves in the right methods of remaining calm in all places and situations. He, of course, earns all of the pets from me and his dad in all situations, especially since he is so calm and does not beg nor get overly excited when we do. He is grateful, calm, and ready to please, and gets all of the love he deserves from his parents.


Thanks to this simple rule, and positively reinforcing the calmness of my dog, I now have the most ideal and pet friendly lifestyle possible with him! I highly recommend implementing the "Do Not Pet" rule on any dog that is learning and training. Eventually, pets can be welcome once your dog learns to be calm in all situations.



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