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  • Richard Chan

I always ask...what’s wrong with that?

Sometimes, even walking towards a stranger dog to ask “can l pet your dog?” “What is his name?” “What is he in training for?” can be very interfering and invasive to both the dog and the owner. You do not know anything about the dog or the owner. You are putting spatial pressure on the dog by approaching a dog who does not know you, and you are breaking the handler’s focus as he will have to talk to you rather than paying full attention on his dog. If you are displaying some unstable emotional energy (excitement, arousal, ...) when you ask this question, it can cause a lot of dogs to either become anxious or stimulated, which can lead to other problems that you may not be aware of. When l am training my dog, my dog has my full attention. I pay attention to every little thing my dog is displaying so l can “listen” to my dog and address his concern in a timely fashion. When you come and ask about my dog, you may not know it, but you are really disturbing what l am doing. Some of these dogs that l work with are very fearful/anxious/reactive. I could be at a tipping point of my training. The dog could be at a point when he just starts to feel more relax around strangers/dogs. Your coming over and talking to me can cause some serious set back to the training. I am trying to help the dog to live a happier life. We are minding our business doing our thing. We never indicate to you that we need or want your attention. We need to be in public for the training but we also need to be left alone. I have no time to explain to you what l am doing. I should not have to anyway if you would just ignore us like you would with other strangers on the street. If you approach me in a manner that stresses my dog, l may have to walk away and completely ignore you and may even have to block you from getting too close too soon - because the well being of my dog is my top priority. If the dog cannot stop being so fearful, he may be put down or never have a chance to go out of the house for a walk. These are intense cases. It is not an easy rehab and l need to fully focus on doing my job. I cannot be disrupted repeatedly by “can l pet your dog?” or “what is his name?” Your choice can make a difference to this dog’s future. You can leave us alone, or you can put unsolicited stress on this dog - who never wants your attention to begin with - by asking if you can pet him. Please control yourself, consider the dog, and do what is best for the dog. It does not cost you anything to leave us alone; but it can cost the dog and the owner a lot if you don’t. I also work with dogs that are too “friendly” - meaning they have no impulse control whatsoever and they are very reactive to human and dogs. They would pull and lung and whine and bark and jump on every human and dogs they see in an attempt to “say hi”. Some of these dogs are over 100lbs and have injured their owners many time while trying to “say hi” to some complete strangers. Their owners have to give them up or keep them locked up in the backyard if this problem is not resolved soon. They have become not only impossible but a hazard to be taken out in public. It is my job to help these dogs to know how to remain calm and content in public so they can have a higher quality of life. One very important part of this rehabilitation process is to show the dogs that strangers and dogs are not the source of extreme excitement. Your coming over with your questions or even just looking at the dog with lots of emotional display can cause the dog to become super stimulated because you are presenting yourself as a source of excitement. This will negate lots of hard work that has been put into helping this dog. You may not be aware of what you are doing. I am not saying you are intentionally harming other dogs. But if you keep trying to talk to strangers about their dogs on the street, if you cannot just leave them alone like you could with other strangers without dogs, you will make life much more difficult for a lot of dogs. I hope by sharing with you some of the reasons why it is really not a good idea to give unsolicited attention to a dog you know nothing about, you can see what you may not be aware of before. I hope you can put the needs of the dog first, and choose to just leave the dog alone in the future. Your consideration and respect can help these dogs to feel more relaxed, balanced, and more comfortable in public. Thank you.


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