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  • April Schrader, CPDT-KA

Can I Pet Your Dog? Why Consent Matters

As a professional dog trainer, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to give dogs their space and only approach them if given permission. While many dogs love attention and affection, not all dogs are comfortable with strangers approaching them. Whether a dog is in training, fearful, or simply prefers to be left alone, it's up to us as responsible pet owners and dog lovers to respect their boundaries.

One common reason why it's important to avoid approaching a dog without permission is fear. Fearful dogs may have had negative experiences with strangers in the past, or they may simply be naturally more timid or anxious. Approaching a fearful dog without caution can cause them to feel threatened or overwhelmed, which can lead to dangerous behaviors such as biting or aggressive posturing. As a dog trainer, I work with many dogs who have fear-based aggression, and it's heartbreaking to see how much their lives have been impacted by negative encounters with people who didn't respect their boundaries.


Another reason why it's important to give dogs space is training. Many dog owners are actively working on training their dogs to behave in certain ways, such as not jumping on people or walking politely on a leash. Interrupting a training session by approaching the dog can cause them to become distracted or confused, which can hinder their progress and make it more difficult for their owner to achieve their training goals.


Lastly, it's important to remember that not all dog owners want their dogs to be approached or petted by strangers, even if their dog is friendly and well-behaved. Some owners may have personal reasons for not wanting strangers in their dog's space, such as a history of trauma or anxiety. As a dog trainer, it's important for me to respect the wishes of each individual dog owner, and to educate others on the importance of doing the same.


In conclusion, as dog lovers and responsible pet owners, it's our job to respect a dog's boundaries and only approach them if given permission. Interrupting a training session, approaching a fearful dog, or ignoring an owner's request to leave their dog alone can all have negative consequences for the dog's well-being and safety. By understanding and respecting a dog's needs and preferences, we can create a safer and more enjoyable world for both dogs and humans alike.

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