Let me start by saying that the puppy magnet is real. I get it. You see a dog, you want to pet it. It’s natural. You see a puppy, you want to run up to it, pick it up, talk to it, snuggle it, name it, take it home with you and raise it as your own….
Time to get a grip. The truth is that, just like any environment or situation you might find yourself in on a day-to-day basis, interacting with someone else’s dog is a scenario in which any number of circumstances could be at play that you have to identify and decipher before taking any action.
Think of each dog you may encounter as its own anchor point, a furry, moving, wiggling, wagging anchor point. In theory, there are a limited number of select people who are “allowed” to approach that dog and enter into its personal space on any given day. The criteria for entering that space differs with the personality, temperament, and history of each dog. In my dog’s case, all you have to be is a human with hands that could be scratching him and he’ll let you approach him (if he doesn’t approach you first) with zero hesitancy. However, this is not always the case. Think of service dogs and police dogs on duty who are not to be approached, touched, or pet by anyone other than their owner or handler. Every dog you encounter should be treated as if they have that spatial boundary around them until you’ve gotten a read on the situation and made contact with the owner.
Let’s take the act of dog walking as an example, as it’s the behavior of a dog’s owner that is often the best indicator of whether you will be allowed into the space of the anchor point that is their dog. It’s no different than the scenario of approaching a group of people and using behavioral analysis to determine group relationships and dynamics. Dog walking is a situation that dog owners find themselves in likely multiple times a day, and it’s a scenario where you can use multiple principles of situational awareness to read universal signs of human behavior to be conscious, respectful, and ensure you have a good experience while avoiding potentially dangerous encounters for you and your pet.
Interactions with other dog walkers and their canine companions is perhaps one of the biggest wildcards that can come up during a walk. When a dog and their owner is approaching, think about the four clusters of human behavior