Pet sitting and dog walking have to be among the best jobs in the world. You spend time with animals, get to be outside and get paid to do both.
I love what I do and wouldn’t change it for the world — but there is 1 thing that drives me crazy: People who approach while I am walking a dog.
I’ll share 2 incidents that occurred recently while I was walking dogs, but first let’s get into why approaching a strange dog is a bad idea.
There are several reasons you should not approach a dog and their handler without permission:
- The dog may have aggression issues.
- The dog may have medical issues.
- If you are walking a dog, the 2 dogs may fight.
- The dog may be a service animal who is currently working.
- The dog may be in training.
In short, there is a lot that can go wrong when you approach a dog without permission, or worse, despite a handler’s admonishments to stay back.
I was recently on an overnight pet sit with a lovely Corgi. She’s a wonderful dog and a lot of fun to sit for, but she has a medical condition where her body does not produce an adequate amount of the hormone cortisol, which regulates stress.
Stress can be very dangerous and wreak havoc on the body, so this dog needs her medication regularly to keep her stress level down.
She doesn’t get along well with strange dogs. From day 1, there’s a slight increase in stress because her human is away. And when I sit for her, we usually take long, rambling walks through the neighborhood. She loves it, and it helps keep her happy.
But this particular week, the temperature was in the 90s — with humidity. This was the week of July 4th, and in the evenings, the neighborhood sounded like a war zone with all the fireworks. In short, this poor dog had a lot of stressors to cope with. The last thing she needed was to be approached by another dog.
One evening, when the temps dropped to tolerable, I took her for a walk to help her burn off some energy and cope with some of the week’s stressors. Unfortunately, about 10 minutes into the walk, we rounded the corner — and there was a woman approaching with her dog. Immediately, I stopped and took my dog well off to the side of the road.
As the woman approached, she allowed her dog to run to the end of the long lead and shouted, “Don’t worry, he’s not afraid!”
Uh, great — mine is. I asked her politely to stay back and to keep her dog separated from mine. She scoffed and continued to approach. The Corgi started barking, growling and displaying generally aggressive behavior. I asked the woman multiple times to stay back and keep her dog away — and was ignored.
In the end, I had to get (extremely) rude. The woman stormed off in a huff, and I took the Corgi back to the house, where I spent the rest of the night trying to calm her. Between the 2 of us, we managed about 2 hours of sleep that night.
I recently started walking a 3-year-old coonhound 4 days a week. She’s sweet and loving, but she’s not trained. She’s very strong and pulls hard on the leash — hard enough to be a danger to herself and to everyone around her, especially her handler.
Since our first day, we’ve worked on the pulling issue, which mainly consists of stopping every time she pulls or lunges. While we are out together, I have to be totally on point and focused. One lapse in my attention, and she could pull the leash out of my hand — or pull us both into oncoming traffic.
Yet the other day, a woman approached us during our walk, shouting excitedly about seeing a dog. The minute the coonhound saw this woman and heard her shout, she lunged (thankfully, not in an aggressive way — she likes people) and almost yanked me off my feet.
I asked the woman to please stay back because we’re training and I needed my dog to stay focused. The woman ran up anyway and started interacting with the dog — who then jumped all over her, creating tangles in the leash and making control almost impossible.
Again, I had to tell someone off who approached a dog I was handling without permission, and the woman stalked off in a huff.
Check out this dog walker’s story:
When to Approach
Approaching a dog should never happen without permission from the handler. If a handler tells you to stay back, chances are it’s for your own safety, the safety of the dog or the safety of the handler.
Yes, it could simply be because the person does not want to be approached — and that is their right as the handler and the person responsible for the dog.
When I assume responsibility for an animal, I take that very seriously. Their safety is my primary concern. If I’m telling you “stay back,” I have a good reason for it.
Many of the dogs I walk have their own quirks. Some are not good with people, some are not good with other dogs, some are not good with men, etc.
By walking up to a dog after the handler has told you to stay back means not only that you’re being disrespectful, but also that you’re potentially putting yourself or others in danger. Please, stay back and ask first.