“All Dogs Love Me” People

Protecting your dog from these hazards
By Karen B. London PhD, June 2018, Updated June 2021

People who refuse to leave a shy or fearful dog alone because they swear that all dogs love them are a real nuisance. It’s frustrating that there are so many individuals out there who refuse to listen to guardians who stated clearly that they do not want anyone to approach or pet their dog. Discussions about how to handle such people are a regular part of my work.

I’m always eager for new ways to communicate useful strategies for managing the challenge of people who won’t listen and are sure that despite the guardian’s objections, the dog will be so happy about interacting. That’s why I was so delighted that Behavior Consultant Glenn Pierce at Best Friends Animal Society directed my attention to a wonderful 90-second video from 4Paws University called “Dogs Love Me: Protecting Your Dog From Well-Meaning Dog Lovers”

The video illustrates how to prevent people from coming up and petting your dog against your wishes. There are two steps. One, call your dog to come to turn her around so that her back end is facing the person and she is farther away. Two, offer your excuse about why the person shouldn’t approach. Excuses can be any true statement such as, “She’s in training,” or “She’s afraid of strangers” or even an untruth such as “She’s contagious.” I’ve always been amazed at how mentioning emotions does not deter people (“She’s afraid and if you approach it will be more than she can handle.”), but telling people about a physical issue makes them back off (“She fell while hiking and her back hurts too much to be touched.”) It’s not clear why people understand physical pain but not emotional pain, but since it’s the case, an excuse that mentions the physical can sometimes do the trick. I know that not everyone is comfortable telling a lie under any circumstance, but I personally have no problem doing so to protect a dog.

Having people ignore instructions not to approach in the face of clear statements about the dog’s discomfort with strangers is a common experience for anyone with a shy or fearful dog. This video offers a way to protect your dog from that sort of human thoughtlessness. Do you think the strategy demonstrated is useful?

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life