Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Is It Every Okay to Approach a Dog We Don't Know?

Is it ever okay to approach a dog that we do not know? What is a dog’s instinctive response when we approach him? How can we protect a dog that we see is playing near traffic?

A few days ago I was talking to a young man named Steve

When Steve was younger, he had seen a dog off-leash and near traffic and, worried that the dog might get hit by a car, had walked toward that dog to try to grab her by her collar to bring her home. That dog had run in exactly the opposite direction from the approaching person and had run into the street. 

Sound familiar?

a dog

That dog died.  And for years after that, Steve felt badly.  Even as he was telling me about it, his voice trailed off as he seemed to contemplate the scene, saying, 'I felt badly about it."

But one thing is for sure: Dogs don't like it when people whom they do not know approach them, especially if they approach the dog suddenly and the owner is not there to tell the dog that this person is "okay".

This is the case even if the person approaches the dog in order protect him or her.

The dog's instinct is to run away from this person which, sadly and unfortunately, may mean that the dog runs right into exactly what the person is trying to protect him from: in this case, into the traffic.

Dogs perceive the person - though a good person with good intentions - as a threat, and ignore the danger of the traffic.

Steve said that the best thing to do if a person sees an off-leash dog that is about to run into traffic is to stand still and firmly say "Come" to the dog, and it's even better if you can get a bone or some treat to entice the dog to come to you. 

Also, everybody else should move away from the off-leash dog, further away from traffic.  Joey would say that Steve has it right. Especially the part about offering the dog a treat.

So I guess the answer to the question is: Don't approach a dog that you don't know if the dog's owner is not there with the dog -  even if you are trying to help the dog.

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