Practice saying, “No.”

Maplewood Dog

What phrase have I said more than any other phrase in the past week?

“No, but thank you so much for asking!”

Can anyone guess the question my response is answering?

If you guessed, “Can I pet your dog?” You’re the winner of the week! YAY!! (so sorry but you win nothing other than the satisfaction of being right :-))

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Tom & Zora on leashes in the leaves on the ground

If you’re finding yourself struggling to advocate for your dog, or your needs, in keeping folks from entering your dog’s space and touching them, it’s time to practice.  Time to practice your no phrase.  “No, but thank you so much for asking!” is one, and I kid you not it flows out of my mouth without thought at this stage, all I need is the cue “Can I pet your dog?” and I automatically respond with, “No, but…”, a smile then walk away or otherwise disengage.  Majority of the time I don’t even realize I’m responding until mid sentence it’s that automatic.

Why is this so important?  Oh for a long list of reasons, any one of which may apply to you, your dog, and any given situation.  Here’s a few reasons to get you started:

  1. The dog and handler are focused on a training task, and don’t wish to stop so a stranger can engage the dog’s focus instead.
  2. The dog is worried about people reaching over its head, and doesn’t need a stranger stressing them out
  3. The handler wants some alone time with their dog and not to have to make small talk while someone accosts their dog
  4. The dog is working and needs to maintain focus on the handler for the handler’s safety
  5. The dog has no desire to engage with strangers.
  6. The handler has no desire to engage with strangers.
  7. The handler has no desire to train a person on how to properly engage/greet a dog
  8. The handler wants to talk to their neighbor, friend, stranger and not just be a person holding the dog’s leash while the dog gets all of the interaction.
  9. Too many other reasons to list here…

I understand the social pressure many feel to have a “friendly” dog.  I happen to have incredibly friendly and social dogs.  I still rarely allow the general public to engage with my dogs, mostly for my dog’s own safety and comfort.  Most people have no idea how to safely greet, pet and engage with a dog.  And my dogs don’t need to be on the receiving end of that, since I rather like keeping them thinking people are safe, and socially dog aware.

So I encourage you all to practice your own no phrase.  If you’d like I welcome you to try out mine, “No, but thank you so much for asking!”  Others that may work for you could be: “No, he’s in training,” or “No, she’s afraid,” or “No, please don’t,” or keep it short and simple with “No.”  And I encourage you to practice it.  Practice in the mirror, practice to your kids, practice to your dog, practice as you walk your dog down the sidewalk with no one around, practice on your neighbors, practice until it no longer feels socially awkward to advocate for your dog.

 

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