How NOT to greet a dog

March 23, 2010 at 1:36 am 32 comments

We had an incident today at a local pet store…which is what inspired this illustration below.

The crazy thing is that most people don’t believe me when I tell them that my dog is very sensitive and that he could react if you lean too close over him.

One lady at the pet store actually said to me: “Sometimes you just have to let dogs do their own thing. He is fine. Look! He is so well-behaved. You don’t have to worry.” I know she meant well but it was almost as if she thought I was being a control freak!

When Boogie snapped, the first thing she said was “Oh, you’re right. He’s a rescue dog with issues”. WTF. It wasn’t Boogie’s fault.

Entry filed under: Art, Articles, links, Social stuff, Training.

Training session #4: “Look at that” homework Anal gland expression

32 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Aneil  |  March 23, 2010 at 2:23 am

    Seriously…at a pet store? Really? You’d think they would know better than to do that sort of thing. I can’t tell you how many times people have tried to grab my dogs head, scruff the back of her ears (which she will ONLY tolerate from my wife or me), or anything else like that. Its okay once you have been introduced and hopefully my dog has had a chance to get to know you but in a strange environment that will get you barked at and nearly nipped.

    Go Boogie…teach those folks how to behave.

    • 2. lili  |  March 23, 2010 at 2:29 am

      I know! At a pet store!!! And before Boogie reacted, I was made to feel like *I* was the problem for not letting Boogie interact with them (and with their dog in the store).

      Sadly I don’t think the store owner understood what she did.

      p.s. I can do anything with Boogie because he trusts me. But strangers? – no way.

      • 3. Aneil  |  March 23, 2010 at 2:59 pm

        Yeah, I totally hear that. Now when people ask if they can pet my dog I rarely let them unless I can tell that they know what they are doing and understand dogs. I just don’t want to deal with it anymore.

      • 4. Aneil  |  March 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm

        Awesome graphic btw. I wish I could put that type of thing together. Good stuff as usual!

  • 5. Sarah Owings  |  March 23, 2010 at 2:56 am

    Sometimes what helps me with my sensitive dog in public is to just tell people she’s “in training” and not allowed to say hi. No discussion. Otherwise people do make you feel like a control freak. There’s even a cool vest you can buy to make it loud and clear “DO NOT INTERACT WITH MY DOG RIGHT NOW!”

    Love the illustrations too (as usual). Do you have these posted somewhere for down loading?

  • 6. Sarah Owings  |  March 23, 2010 at 3:06 am

    One last thought…What people don’t realize is that doing this to a dog who doesn’t know you is like a perfect stranger giving them a great big hug and kiss in an elevator. Wouldn’t that creep you out? And wouldn’t you have the right to defend yourself?

    Maybe you could add that example to your cartoon somehow, so people can really relate to how the dog feels.

  • 9. Kelly & Glenda  |  March 23, 2010 at 4:12 am

    I love your drawing, too! So true. For the FR group’s next Pay Pal collection, can we go for a full page ad in the New York Times with your drawing??? 15 second Super Bowl commercial?? Just kidding……..
    But seriously, as far as working dog vests, this place makes really nice ones, with things like “do not pet” and “working dog do not disturb” and I think they would even do custom work.
    Keep up the good work though and Boogie will become more resilient even in the face of the clueless space invaders. Best! 🙂

    • 10. lili  |  March 23, 2010 at 6:49 am

      Haha, thanks Kelly and Glenda. You know, another friend of mine suggested the same thing as both you and Sarah. She said that I should get a “Service Dog” or ‘Working Dog” vest for Boogie so that people will respect his space and don’t touch him.

      I don’t exactly want Boogie to look all nerdy with words on his tshirt…. Hmmm, maybe I’ll design a more aesthetically-pleasing version on Cafepress or something…. which would be cheaper 🙂

      (Poor Boogie – what do you do when you are so cute?)

      • 11. Words and Steel  |  March 25, 2010 at 9:55 pm

        what a good idea! If you designed something like that, i’m sure there would be a market for it– me, for one! I would so get one for Orby.

  • 12. barrie.lynn  |  March 23, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Speaking of Cafepress, I was going to see if you would put the above drawing on a shirt so we can wear them when we are out with our fearful dogs! But a doggie shirt from Cafepress is a GREAT idea. I am going to do one up for Jellybean rather than going the service vest route since that always makes me worry that I will have to explain even more about Jellybean’s issues 😦

    Still love to have both and crazy people basically attacking our fearful dogs is a problem for all of us so I bet you could sell a lot of the don’t pet my dog shirts for Boston rescue 🙂

    • 13. Lili  |  March 24, 2010 at 2:11 am

      Hi Barrie – I wasn’t planning to put it on anything, really…
      Yeah, I hear you about having to repeatedly explain to people what the issues are… it’s so awkward.
      I’ll see if I can do a “PLEASE DON’T PET ME, I AM IN TRAINING” shirt…

  • 14. Ashley (aka dearprudie)  |  March 23, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    While Pru doesn’t have the same reaction as Boogie, she becomes extremely fearful when people approach her the wrong way. And it does not help that she is severely afraid of men (still trying to work that one out). I am always completely honest with people that approach her and tell them she may growl and cower which means she does not want you near her so no, you may not go to pick up my dog and cuddle her!

    And don’t get me started about the crowds of roving children and preteens fresh out of their day at school who love to descend upon Pru during out afternoon walk like she is a stuffed animal.

    • 15. Lili  |  March 24, 2010 at 2:17 am

      Hi Ashley – that’s a tough one – afraid of men! Men are everywhere! And I bet you get men who want to approach her who believe they are god’s gift to dogs. (I have encountered a few of these)

      Boogie has more of a problem with old people than with kids. He has so many triggers (also dependent on mood and context) I can’t keep track! He is also reactive towards pedestrians who stare at him and a lot of people do because of his two different-colored eyes.

      • 16. Xuân  |  August 1, 2012 at 7:42 pm

        “And I bet you get men who want to approach her who believe they are god’s gift to dogs. (I have encountered a few of these)”

        Oh, you sum it up so perfectly that I almost had tears of gratefulness in my eyes when I read that! 😉
        I can’t get over the fact that so many guys just REFUSE to listen to me and take it personally when I’m politely telling them how to interact/not interact with my dog. I’ve had so many encounters with men who gave me that “shut up bitch, I’m the alpha and I shall tame your dog” attitude.
        Maybe the fact that she’s a so-called “bully breed” + I’m a small babyfaced girl is triggering some pride and virility issues in those men.
        Anyway, that’s really, really annoying and I’m thinking about getting one of those dog vests, just to chase the morons away. Which is sad, because she loves people when they approach her the right way.
        Your illustration is perfect and should be distributed EVERYWHERE. Sometimes I think I should just print it and give it away to people on the street, for education’s sake 🙂

  • 17. Words and Steel  |  March 25, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Thanks so much for this! It frustrates me to no end the way people try to greet Orby. He’s already reactive, and people never seem to listen until he finally snaps!

    One thing I wanted to ask you about is your “to do” list for greeting– the poster recommends them pet him on the side of face/body or on the back. I wonder, though, if someone would foolishly think they should pet a dog on the back without letting the dog know s/he was there… I can imagine a startled dog turning around and nipping someone if they were caught off guard. I also have read that it’s preferable to pet beneath the chin or on the chest so they can see your hands.. have you heard this?

    • 18. Lili  |  March 25, 2010 at 9:57 pm

      I know what you mean. Someone at a party grabbed Boogie from the back – Boogie didn’t know he was there- and that freaked him out. Person got nipped.

      In this case, I advising people not to reach out towards the dog until the dog has approached the person first (so he knows that he is there).

      Yes, I have heard about petting beneath the chin and chest too… but I think the side is “safer”than the front(???)

      Any dog trainers want to respond to this question?

  • 19. Janeen  |  March 30, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    seriously… Long story short… went to socialize my young male GSD baxter we walked to a nearby grocery . Sat in front and get him introduced to the surroundings .Elderly couple approached and started to droll over him. (He is a very Handsome all black shepherd).
    Can we pet your dog… I said sure I put him in a sit . and the next thing i see the woman bending over my huge puppy to kiss him or get one… ugh .. I said you can pet him not kiss him please don’t .. thought she understood but again as the husband started telling me how they had a Shepherd long ago she is AGAIN kissing him caught me by surprise and i was frightened on how close she was to his face this time I pulled back.
    Baxter felt my fear and went from calm to protection is a second………. Nothing happened but it was close… and if my dog bit her it would have been my fault. this is a lesson I shall never make again… Even though I told her she can pet him.

    • 20. lili  |  March 30, 2011 at 7:24 pm

      Janeen – yes, what sucks is that if your dog had bitten the woman, she might’ve blamed your dog or sued you and not acknowledged that it was HER fault. I don’t even let people pet Boogie unless if Boogie shows signs of friendliness (ears down, loose posture) and wanting to go greet the person.

  • 21. How not to greet a dog « CHANgigi  |  May 29, 2011 at 2:50 am

    […] [via] […]

  • 22. thegraceofdog  |  February 9, 2012 at 3:57 am

    I just found your work and this poster is PERFECT! I’m a (positive methods, TTouch) dog trainer, and my own dog wishes every human on the planet would study this poster! She’s awesome and we’ve done lots of work with her since the age of 8 weeks, but she will still take issue at times when someone greets her in this way. DUH!!! THANK YOU FOR YOUR WORK!!! Cute and educational, too!

    • 23. lili  |  February 9, 2012 at 4:02 am

      thank you! I learned all this from my dog, of course. 🙂

  • 24. Dog Parks! « The Chronicles of Capone  |  February 11, 2012 at 7:46 am

    […] SO, the dog park really helps with meeting other doggies that want to play and other people/kids that go there knowing that they are going to meet dogs, want to meet dogs and know how to meet dogs. Read up on this wonderful post shared by Honey the Great Dane ’s Facebook page which demonstrates proper pooch etiquette. Its very cute! […]

  • 25. Thomas D  |  February 11, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    I’ve always learned that the first step in greeting a dog is asking its human if it’s okay to greet the dog.

    • 26. lili  |  February 15, 2012 at 1:10 am

      Yes, and then seeing if the dog is comfortable about being “greeted”. Boogie doesn’t always want to meet and greet…

  • 27. Laine Sweezey  |  February 15, 2012 at 12:33 am

    I would love to have your “How NOT to Greet a Dog” sign (in a larger size) to post at the dog park I manage. Would that be possible? You wouldn’t believe how many visitors bring their small, ill-behaved children and turn ’em loose to run around the park with no supervision. And if a child is ever hurt (God forbid), the dog will be blamed. Your sign could help!

    • 28. lili  |  February 15, 2012 at 12:37 am

      Hi Laine, Here are links to download/purchase the poster in a few different sizes –
      Let me know when/if you do put it up at the dog park and if it makes a difference! 🙂

      • 29. Laine Sweezey  |  February 15, 2012 at 12:47 am

        Wow, thanks for the info and for the quick response! I think I’ll order the large poster (and I’ll let you know if it makes a difference . . . IF the irresponsible folks bother to read it!).

  • 30. Diana Whitmore  |  February 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    I like this poster

  • 31. nico  |  May 25, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    You should not stare at the dog but you SHOULD look at it once you have approached it. Also you should have the dog sniff your hand, that is the proper way to approach dogs, you just need to do it properly.


    • 32. lili  |  June 17, 2018 at 7:49 pm

      Respect every dog you meet as an individual. Dogs sniff your feet, mouth, and crotch for information. They don’t give a hoot about your hand. But humans are still obsessed with thinking that dogs want to sniff our hands. 🙂


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