My dog Swift and I were enjoying our walk in the park this morning when I saw a man and his dog off in the distance, heading our way. As they got closer I noticed a very happy Doodle who was hoping to have an encounter with a new K9 buddy. I asked Swift to come to my side, shortened the leash and readied myself to ward off an overly exuberant dog and his enthusiastic person.
“Good morning,” the man said. “Is it best to stay away?”
I stood gobsmacked, completely unprepared with an answer to THAT question. Then I smiled and said, “Yes. Thank you.” And off we all went on our merry ways.
“Is it best to stay away?” What a brilliant question! It sets everyone up for success instead of conflict.
Hopefully people who walk their dogs looking for pooch playmates (or people without a dog who just want to say hi to yours) politely ask, “Can we say hello?” But this requires those who aren’t interested in a canine social interaction for whatever reason to say NO, instantly creating an unspoken awkwardness between parties.
“Is it best to stay away?” takes conflict off the table because the Pooch Smoocher or Playmate Seeker gets the answer RIGHT. Bonus: the answer might actually result in an invitation for a social interaction with the dog!
Dog walkers not interested in a social interaction for their dogs do so for many reasons.
Their dog is reactive towards other dogs or people.
Their dog isn’t particularly interested in socializing with other dogs or people.
Their dog is busy enjoying a good sniff.
They’re in the middle of a training session.
The owner is simply looking for some quiet time with their dog.
For these folks “Can we say hello?” sets up the weird dynamic of having to defend their dog’s right not to have a social encounter. “Is it best to stay away?” relieves that pressure and leaves the person feeling appreciative that their dog’s needs were considered.
The next time you’d like to interact with someone else’s dog try “Is it best to stay away?” It’s a WIN/WIN for all involved.
Many thanks to the stranger and his super cute dog who took the time to ask this morning.
Interested in carrying some of these “Is it best to stay away?” cards on your walks to share with others? Click on the image to download and print.
Suzanne Clothier offers a great resource to help folks understand why your dog might not want to say hi. Click on the image to download your FREE copy.