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No, You Can’t Pet My Dog, and Here’s Why

No, You Can’t Pet My Dog, and Here’s Why

I generally do not allow strangers to approach or pet my dog, and I never allow on-leash greetings with other dogs. 

The culture in the dog world has created the assumption that it is OK and normal to pet other people’s dogs in public spaces.

There are even shirts that say “pet all the dogs.”

Barf. I steer far, far away from those people.

Speaking up and advocating for your dog can feel awkward, rude, and uncomfortable, but your dog will respect you for doing so and your relationship will be stronger as a result.

Why I Don’t Allow Strangers to Pet My Dog

I don’t allow strangers and dogs on leash to approach my dog for a number of reasons. The primary reason is for safety. 

My Dog Is Reactive

My dog can be reactive with strangers and new dogs and most people have no clue how to properly greet dogs. If my dog reacts and bites the person or other dog, then he is blamed, even though it is the fault of the person or dog invading his space. I can’t take that risk.

If you have a reactive dog, you know how stressful outings can be. You’re constantly scanning the scene, keeping an eye out for the outstretched arms of “dog lovers” beelining straight toward your dog.

It’s exhausting and frustrating.

It’s Rude

Another reason is because I simply want to reshape the culture around dogs. I don’t touch people’s children without permission. I don’t hug random people on the street. I don’t drive my neighbor’s car just because we have the same car.

It’s plain rude to enter someone’s space and assume that it’s ok because I think their dog is cute, or because we both have dogs. It’s not ok and the entitlement needs to stop.

People will sometimes be offended when I say no or mutter that my dog must not be friendly. Nope, it’s just that you can’t pet my dog. Get over it.

If I’m relaxing with, running with, walking, or training my dog, we don’t want to be interrupted because you feel entitled to pet my dog.

It Can Create Leash Reactivity

Finally, allowing people and other dogs into a dog’s space constantly can create leash reactivity and aggression problems down the line. 

At first, a dog may tolerate the frequent interactions, but it’s not uncommon for sweet Fluffy to one day decide they’ve had enough and use their teeth to indicate they’re fed up.

My Dog Doesn’t Want to Be Pet

I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t appreciate strangers touching me, hugging me, and getting into my space. A lot of dogs are no different. 

Sure, there are some social butterflies who crave attention, but if you truly watch a dog’s body language, you’ll notice that a lot of dogs tense up, move to avoid interaction, or display other signs of discomfort.

Advocating for your dog means telling people they can't pet your dog. It'll feel weird at first, but you'll get used to it.

6 Ways to Communicate to People That They Can’t Pet My Dog

There are plenty of ways to communicate with someone that they can’t pet your dog. Most of my methods are silent, while some are more direct. It depends on the situation.

Because the culture of petting someone’s dog is so ingrained into our society, it’s not all uncommon for people to push you to say yes or not understand your signals.

It’s not rude to tell someone no or to avoid eye contact with them if you don’t want them in your dog’s space.

It IS rude to assume that it’s ok to pet someone’s dog without first asking permission.

Here are the various ways that I communicate to someone that I do not want them to approach my dog.

Just Say “No”

Consider this your permission to just say “no.”

You don’t have to provide a reason why someone can’t pet your dog. A simple “no” is reason enough. 

You don’t need to make up a reason about your dog being shy, or “not friendly.” You don’t need to explain that you’re training (because if you’re doing it right, then you’re always training your dog). You don’t owe anyone any explanation.

If they ask why, my response is that I don’t allow strange people and dogs into my dog’s space. 

It took some time to build up to feeling confident to reply with a simple “no,” so if you do need to work your way to a one-word answer, it’s absolutely ok to provide a reason like you’re training or your dog is shy.

If someone is pushy, and says something like “oh, but all dogs love me!” or “I’m a dog person!” say “I said no” and just walk away.

Avoid Eye Contact

If I hear someone down the sidewalk or path making awwww sounds, baby talking about how cute my dogs is, or talking directly to my dog, I let them know that we’re not interested in greetings by avoiding eye contact and continuing to move forward. 

I don’t say anything to them, I don’t look at them, I don’t smile at them. I just keep my head down and keep walking.

Always Be Training (ABT)

Anytime you’re out with your dog, it’s a good idea to work on passive training. Not only are you getting reps in on various skills, but a treat pouch is a good signal to other people that you are working on training. 

Often, people will tend to stay away once they realize that you’re working. So sport that dorky training pouch loud and proud!

Muzzle Your Dog

I believe muzzle training is an essential skill that all dogs should know. A muzzle gives a clear indication that your dog needs space and is not to be touched.

While muzzles are slowly becoming more accepted among the responsible dog community, they still carry a stigma that only “bad dogs” wear them. It works out nicely if you don’t want people to approach your dog. 

Switch Your Dog to the Opposite Side

On tight city sidewalks, farmers’ markets, crowded streets, and on trails, I switch my dog to the opposite side of the person indicating that they want to pet my dog. And, like always, I keep moving and avoid eye contact.

I taught my dog a “side” command that means he needs to switch from my left side to my right side. After hundreds of repetitions, he now switches sides automatically if a person or a dog is approaching from the left.

Body Block Your Dog

If you are in a situation where you can’t switch sides, cross the street, or otherwise avoid someone, simply put your dog behind you and body block your dog from the “dog lover.” This is a clear indication that you do not want your dog to be pet.

Get the $%&! Outta There

I’ve been in multiple situations where I have to react quickly in tight spaces to a person reaching out to pet my dog. In this scenario, I simply just back up and walk away. I don’t say a word to the person, I just get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

What are your tips for communicating to people that that they cannot pet your dog?

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Nein, Sie können meinen Hund nicht streicheln, und hier ist der Grund - Pet Word

Friday 10th of February 2023

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Monday 12th of December 2022

I have a hat from my local trainer (Say it Once Dog Training!) that says "Ignore My Dog" and it usually does the trick. It's stopped kissy noises and baby voices to my dog right in their tracks. My hound mix is a very beautiful boy, but also reactive and insecure. Over a year of training later and I still struggle with advocating for him sometimes, I feel rude, but his safety and mental state is what matters. So far, I've only had one really rude and insistent experience with an older woman, and I had to keep pushing her hand away while I said "no, he's in training. no, please don't touch my dog" while she laughed and kept telling me how "all dogs love her."

Jen Sotolongo

Monday 19th of December 2022

It took me a long time before I felt comfortable advocating for my dog, but it gets easier with practice...and I guess fortunately, I get a lot of practice where I live.


Sunday 4th of December 2022

"Hi, we both have personal space issues. Please stop."

Jen Sotolongo

Tuesday 6th of December 2022

Haha love it. That would make a great shirt.

Sarwar Abdullah

Thursday 17th of November 2022

Don't you believe your dog is being unsocial by refusing to interact with other dog and peoples?

Sarwar Abdullah

Saturday 19th of November 2022

Yes, Jen, you are correct. Thanks.

Jen Sotolongo

Thursday 17th of November 2022

He doesn't refuse to interact, I don't let him interact with random people and dogs. I do allow interactions with people and dogs that I know. Besides, just like humans, some dogs are introverts and aren't super social. There's nothing wrong with that.


Wednesday 16th of November 2022

As a fellow reactive dog owner, I want to express my appreciation for this post (and your others regarding reactivity!). My pup sounds a lot like Sitka and it has been a journey for me learning how to advocate for my dog and respect her boundaries. As someone who grew up with happy go lucky laboradors and now has a very smart and intense border collie/pit mix, there have been many tough learning lessons around this topic. At first I didn’t understand that she just wasn’t a very social dog and didn’t appreciate strangers petting her (because of my past experiences owning social dogs) and pushed her into situations that made her uncomfortable thinking she just needed more positive interactions with strangers. Unfortunately, my naivety resulted in her nipping someone after a forced interaction (cringe). This was a big wake up call for me and after lots of reading about reactivity and going through e-collar training I have a much better understanding and acceptance/respect for her and other reactive dogs. I also have more compassion for other dog owners struggling with this and people who just plain don’t know about dog boundaries or reactivity. This post gave me some good new ideas and validated some of the strategies I had been employing to help keep her (and others) safe from unwanted interactions. Thank you for this post and helping to educate others. My pup Eevee and I appreciate you!

Jen Sotolongo

Thursday 17th of November 2022

Sometimes, it takes those challenging dogs to help us unlearn everything we thought we knew about dogs! Thanks so much for the kind words and yay for advocating for your dog!