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Ever wish people would give your reactive dog space on walks?

My personal rule is to leave plenty of space between the dog I’m walking and any oncoming people or dogs.

Most of my dog walking clients’ dogs are friendly, but some are not comfortable with strangers reaching out and touching them (can you blame them?).

So, I want to share a scenario that happens pretty often when I’m walking dogs and a major mistake I made recently.

Normally if I’m walking a dog and someone in the neighborhood stops me to chat about the dog it’s because they’re familiar with the dog. Usually they live on the same street as the dog or something like that and have interacted with the dog before.

When this happens, I judge the situation based on the dog. If I know the dog loves all people, then it’s no big deal. I usually let the person greet the dog. If I don’t know the dog very well or if I know the dog is at all fearful or reactive, we just keep walking.

Well, I made a mistake recently.

I made a bad judgement call.

I was walking two 90-pound dogs that are well trained but not overly affectionate. They won’t growl at a random person, but they’re not thrilled about people petting them and one can get a little nervous when his space is invaded.

So, when a neighbor said hi to these two dogs on our walk and began talking as if he knew them, I hesitated but stopped and let him approach. (Should’ve kept walking.)

He called the dogs by name, but I could tell the dogs were not interested in interacting. They weren’t tense, but they were looking away, sniffing the grass, etc.

I should have said hi quickly and then kept walking because, remember, I don’t know this person.

Then the man did something that absolutely horrified me.

He got down on the ground and put his face right up to one of the dogs.


I was screaming inside, but I knew if I tugged on the leash there was a slight chance the tension could cause an aggressive reaction.

I also didn’t want to tell the man to back off because his quick retreating motion could also cause an aggressive response.

So what I did was make that happy “click-click” sound with my tongue, followed by “Here boy!”

It worked.

The dog turned to me, and I patted his side to ease the tension a bit and boost his confidence.

Then we got outa there.

Reminders for adults around dogs

I’m the one who made the mistake in the above scenario by not protecting my dogs.

However, I also want to list out a few reminders that grown adults don’t seem to follow.

Rules around dogs

  • Do not put your face up to any dog unless you are 99 percent sure the dog is OK with it. This can scare, challenge or threaten a dog.
  • Just because you’ve met a dog before doesn’t mean the dog remembers you or is comfortable with you.
  • If a dog is not showing interest in interacting with you by sniffing, wiggling his body, wagging his tail, leave the dog alone.
  • Stand or sit with your side to the dog instead of face-to-face.

Those are the rules I follow with all of my clients’ dogs, foster dogs and other dogs I interact with.

Woman walking two dogs

Yes, I’ve made mistakes too (read them here). No one is perfect.

But I’m hoping the above “rules” can at least get people to think about their behavior around dogs.

Dog lovers can be the absolute worst because we have this belief that “Oh I love dogs! They love me!”

Have you noticed that if you tell a dog lover your dog is aggressive, it’s almost like an open invitation for the person to prove you wrong?

So, so frustrating! And scary. Unless you’ve walked an aggressive dog, you would not believe what people will do. Actually, I’d love to hear your stories!

The bottom line is, a true dog lover respects dogs and knows that even if she knows a dog well, that doesn’t mean he’s interested in being hugged, kissed, cuddled, etc.

Simon the Lab mix - Give dogs space

I’ve been growled at by dogs for stupidly trying to hug them when they were not OK being hugged by me. Thank goodness the dogs was polite enough to growl rather than bite.

Have you ever been in a bad situation with a dog?

Related blog posts:

5 mistakes I’ve made that resulted in dog bites

How to prevent a stressed dog from biting

Teaching dog bite prevention to kids (From Puppy Leaks)

My dog bit my child (from Lola the Pitty)

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