Thursday, May 31, 2012

Are They Friendly?

This is my LEAST favorite question to get asked while walking Badger and Mushroom. It's a trick question. Answer yes, and the person will assume you gave them permission to approach. Answer no, and they may think you have a stereotypically aggressive pitbull. But what if my dogs are friendly, but I don't want them meeting people?

I tend to say "Yes, but [insert excuse]". This strategy has not been successful. People either hear the "Yes" and immediately start approaching or they try to argue with me about the validity of my reason. Llamaentity says "No" and walks on, ignoring the scowls and glares.

Yes, but the black one is a jerk

It's not that Badger and Mushroom aren't friendly. They are. They love people so much that they'll jump all over them for attention. We're trying to train out the jumping behavior by not reinforcing it or letting others reinforce it.

Mushroom is reactive on leash toward other dogs, but this also doesn't mean she's not friendly. She can play appropriately with dogs of all sizes when off leash. But again, we don't want to reinforce on leash lunging or barking, so we try to give other dogs a wide berth and distract her.

The question I wish people would ask is "Can I meet your dog?" That way, I can safely say "No, (s)he's in training" without any implication that Badger and Mushroom are unfriendly or aggressive. We've only had this question asked to us one time, by a little girl in Petsmart, back when Badger was a tiny puppy. We explained to her that she could pet Badger after he sat, and the entire interaction was quite pleasant.

I'm considering sidestepping the "Are they friendly?" question altogether and saying, "They're in training and need space."

Will behave (temporarily) for treats

Do you have a way to discourage someone from approaching your pitbull-type dog without reinforcing negative stereotypes?


  1. Yes I hate that to. I especially hate it when someone asks me when I'm alone in the woods with Trinity, just incase there crazy & want to follow us home (I think of odd stuff like that). Or when I'm at home with her you never know whos checking out your house to rob you. I think Ive watched way to many crime dramas ;)

    1. We haven't run into too many creepy people in the woods, which makes me wonder if maybe *I'm* the creepy person in the woods.

  2. My answer always starts with "He's in training" followed by "he's friendly but needs to behave while getting attention." Either people walk away or usually they just wait for more instruction so they can pet Corbin. He's a good boy, but this short conversation usually gives him enough time to look at the person before they pet him, so it works out well!

    1. Thanks for the advice! I will be trying this.

  3. I have had this problem with Schultz. He can be friendly or he can be very fearful, it is still somewhat unpredictable to me. I tend to just tell people he is shy of strangers. If he is getting excitable about other leashed dogs I just tell the owners that he is friendly but can play too rough for another dogs liking, which is very true. It seems to work for me but I still struggle with getting people to keep there off leash dogs away from us during a walk without making it seem like Schultz is dangerous.