Imagine taking a walk through the park and suddenly someone you’ve never seen or met before comes up to give you a hug and scratches your head. Some of us are “huggers” and might be totally okay with this random display of affection, but many of us might jump back and let the person know they’re invading our personal space. Now imagine that you’ve politely told them that you aren’t interested in receiving a hug from a stranger because it makes you uncomfortable, but they say something like “I was just trying to be nice!" Sounds a little rude and uncomfortable, right? After all, just because you’re out enjoying your day doesn’t mean you consent to strangers coming up and touching you.
This is the frustrating reality that many Pet Parents have to deal with daily for their pets.
We can safely assure you nobody loves petting dogs more than our Two Bostons Team. What’s not to love? They’re soft and fuzzy and if we’re lucky we might even get a puppy kiss or two! However, we understand that just because we want to pet dogs doesn’t mean the dogs or their Parents are okay with us petting them. That’s why if a Pet Parent asks that we don’t pet their dog for whatever reason, we respect their wishes without question!
There are many reasons a Pet Parent might ask that you respect their dog's personal space, but one of the biggest is that they have what's commonly known as a "reactive dog". Just like people, dogs all have their own backgrounds, struggles, and quirks. A reactive dog could be a dog that came from an abusive home that’s learning social skills, or a reactive dog could be one with severe anxiety. Maybe they’re a puppy who hasn’t quite learned boundaries yet, or, maybe that dog just has a history of not getting along super well with other dogs (something us humans can relate to, too!). Regardless, if a Pet Parent asks you to stay away, then for everyone’s safety and comfort, listen to them without complaint.
For those of you reading this who have reactive dogs, you’ve probably encountered issues in the past, and it can be super frustrating when people don't listen. It’s important to be assertive without being aggressive. As your pet's guardian, it's your responsibility to be their voice and keep them safe. We also suggest familiarizing yourself with, and spreading the word about The Yellow Dog Project, a movement where owners are encouraged to tie a yellow ribbon on their pup's leash to let others know that they have a reactive dog.
That being said, we know that sometimes situations can get sticky. A person might ignore your request, or not understand what the yellow ribbon means, or your dog could wander too closely to a reactive dog. That’s why it is crucial to always have your dog on a standard (non-retractable) leash.
A “standard leash” is a traditional leash, typically made from nylon, and unlike retractable leashes, you won’t have to worry about it getting tangled around your ankles or not “locking” it fast enough to avoid a dangerous situation. Since they’re sturdier, they also typically put less stress on your dog’s neck if they tug or your shoulders if they get a bit too excited! Also, unlike retractable leashes, you can get them in a huge variety of pretty colors and patterns with matching collars (and that on its own is enough reason to make the switch!). One of our favorites is the "Flat Out Leash" by RuffWear because it's simply flat out amazing! The design is simple and sleek, and the length can be easily adjusted!
Breaking the stigma against reactive dogs is possible, but only if the environment surrounding them is safe and respectful. To people with friendly dogs or who just like to pet pups: don’t forget that you don’t know a dog’s story and it’s important to respect their parents’ wishes. To the people with reactive dogs: stand firm and know you are completely within your right to ask curious hands to stay away. It’s only if we work together that we can truly improve the lives of pets and their people.