You are walking down the street and see someone walking their dog. It is a beautiful dog, one that you don’t see every day. In my case, you will see me with my very large Saint Bernard. You want to take a moment to appreciate the animal and learn more about it. So, you walk over and want to pet him/her.
We have all been in this situation before, and we have all walked over to admire the dog. Being in the position of dog owner, however, can sometimes become an awkward situation if you want to say no or if your dog is not the best behaved pup on the block.
My Saint Bernard is beautiful, loving, and HUGE. People always want to pet him and talk to me about him. While it is great that I can meet new people and socialize on my walk, that is not what I always want. My dog likes to lick and jump and drool. When a person asks if they can pet him, the first thing I tell them is that he may jump and drool on them. Usually, this does not deter them. They tell me that it’s ok and start petting him. Sometimes, when they realize how MUCH he drools, they get offended and expect me to apologize for something I warned them about. And if he jumps and knocks them down, they sometimes get upset by this. If a person tells you their dog jumps and the dog is very large, brace yourself if you want to come close enough for petting him or her.
For those times that I want to say no and keep walking, what do I do? For the most part, I wear my headphones and play my music when I walk, and I look ahead, so many people comment and I do not hear or see them. But for the most persistent people, what should I do?
Since I do not have the heart to tell people my dog will bite them or to be rude to them, I am writing this article to give an etiquette lesson to those that may need one!
When you are walking down the street and see a person in a jogging suit, walking their dog at a brisk pace, looking straight ahead, odds are they do not want to be disturbed. As cute, fluffy, big, or unique as their dog may be, the fact that they are out doors with their pet does not equal an invitation to pet their dog and talk about the weather! So, please, in this situation, admire from afar and maybe next time, they will be out on a leisurely walk and would like to stop and talk.
If you are out with your children and you all see a large dog being walked, please please please ask if your children can pet it from far away. This way, if the dog will jump, get excited, or may nip, you know about it and can make your decision based on facts and not just how the dog looks. Large dogs do not know how large they really are. As puppies, and sometimes adults, they get excited around new people. My dog, like most other Saint Bernard’s, is very big and very clumsy. My dog would never hurt a person, especially a child on purpose. But when you have an excited child and a large clumsy dog, that may become dangerous. So, please, let your child know that when there is a large dog, they should not approach them because even if they are not mean, accidents can happen. Nobody wants a beautiful pet to become a liability, so consider what MAY happen before approaching with young children.
Another thing that happens often is people will stop me and ask me all kinds of things about the Saint Bernard breed. While I did much research before welcoming my beloved pet into my home, I am not an expert and can not guide people on their decision when I know nothing about them. So, please limit your questions to a few, leave the rest for the breeder or vet.
When you see a person walking towards you and they have a large dog that is not behaving for whatever reason, do NOT approach them at that time. When my Cesar sees a squirrel, all bets are off as far as obedience goes. He outweighs me and is almost entirely all muscle and when he wants to chase a squirrel, odds are that is EXACTLY what we will be doing. Add a stranger that wants to pet him into the mix and we have an all out circus waiting to happen. And no, you probably can not help the owner. If the dog is not going to obey the owner (Saints in particular are obedient and loyal), they are not going to listen to you.
Last but not least, please watch the body language of the owner. As mentioned previously, when a person is out and about for exercise, they do not want to be disturbed. If they look upset, maybe walking their dog is their way to clear their mind, please let them. But if they are happy and walking in a leisurely way, give you eye contact, wave, or acknowledge you in another way, they probably will not mind stopping for a SHORT chat and letting you pet their pup.
If you follow these rules of simple etiquette, you can avoid accidents and have a little understanding that a dog owner does not always want to be interrupted, so please do not take it personally if they do not acknowledge you or talk to you for a long time. If you were on the other side of the leash that holds a large dog, you would want, maybe even expect, the very same courtesy!