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How to answer: “Can I Pet Your Dog?”

How to answer: “Can I Pet Your Dog?”

I walk my dogs daily in my neighborhood where we often encounter children playing.  It’s common for them to run toward me expecting a happy, furry greeting as they shout cheerfully, “Can I pet your dog?”  My pets aren’t used to kids and, I don’t know if the children have been taught to approach dogs. 

The answer when walking Davy, my German shepherd, is a clear, “No… We are in training right now.” I would never put him at risk.  Sometimes, I will ask the children if they want to give Davy a treat for doing something I ask him to do.  Then I will hand them a treat and ask Davy to perform one of his tricks. A good spin left, spin right, down, sit, or paw always elicits a smile from the audience and the children can toss a treat on the ground in front of him for his reward. 

With my Walker Hound, my answer to the petting question is, “You can try, but she is very shy.” I’m careful with my dogs around children.  Ginger is skittish of many things.  I ask the children to let her choose to approach.  Then I give them a treat to offer her.  She is getting good at this because she is greedy about yummy food, but not because she likes other people.


In both scenarios, I make it a good experience for everyone.  I know my dogs well and understand their body language.  But I am aware that most dogs don’t like close encounters with people they don’t know well.   I am happier keeping mine in our comfort zone. 

Ginger is a rescued Walker Hound that was found running down HWY 70 in Havelock.  The story I concocted about her previous life is that she was never socialized well and didn’t turn into a good hunting dog.  When she went missing from her pack – no one ventured to find her.  I met her at a local rescue where she was in foster care.  She hid behind her foster Mom’s legs when I went to see the pets available. “I’ll take that one,” I said and took her home.  After ten years, she is still shy. 

Davy, my GSD, got a great start in life.  Good breeder, excellent lines, and a caring home.  He joined my family when he was nine weeks old.  I followed the “puppy right start to do” list so was able to shape his experiences.  His exuberance, high-energy, low impulse control, and loud bark are in his genes.  He is a good dog for me, but not a magnet for petting by strangers.  He gets a lot of attention for his good looks, but I keep him at a safe distance from people on our walks.  

Do your dogs enjoy being petted?  Do they like strangers?  Have they been socialized to children?  What does your dog want to do? Some dogs love attention from people of all ages and sizes and some don’t.  Can you read your dogs body language well enough to know if they are “into” greeting strangers or not?  If that stranger is young, do you know if their parents have taught them how to approach dogs?  These factors contribute to a pleasant or unpleasant experience for a pet.  This is one area when I chose to play it safe.  When children ask me if they can pet my dog, my answer depends on what benefits my pet in that moment and whether they consent to the greeting.


Happy Pet! Happy Home!

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Pet Tips for Spring

Pet Tips for Spring

Spring has arrived! Here are some tips to keep your pets safe and happy as the weather warms up.

  • Use pet-friendly products for spring cleaning; follow the directions for cleaning and storage.
  • Hide the antifreeze. If you suspect your pet may have come in contact with or ingested a poisonous substance – call the Animal Poison Control Center immediately at (888) 426-4435.
  • Clean up the yard. Pick up sticks and acorns that you pet could chew on. These can cause harm to your dog’s mouth and throat. Remove leaf litter where ticks and fleas could hide. Make your yard and garden unattractive to snakes by keeping them tidy.
  • Cats and screens: Be careful to use strong and sturdy screens in your windows and have them fit snugly. Curious cats can pry screens off their hinges and storms can blow screens off their frames.
  • Never leave your pet in a parked car. Travel with pets inside the car (not in the back of a pickup) and in a secure crate or seat belt harness to keep them safe, unable to stick their head out the window, or interfere with your driving.
  • Watch your pet for signs of seasonal allergies. Pets can be allergic to pollen, dust, grasses, and plants. For many pets, this reaction shows up in skin issues. You may notice itching, minor sniffling and sneezing or life-threatening anaphylactic shock from insect bites and stings. If your pet suffers each spring, see the vet to ease their suffering.
  • Flea and tick control. Check your pet for these pesky critters regularly – especially after they have been in tall grass.
  • ID tags will help your pet be returned to you, if they go astray.
  • Xylitol poisoning: there is a significant increase in pets being poisoned by ingesting this artificial sweetener. A tiny amount can be fatal. It can be found in some sugar-free gum, candies, breath mints, baked goods, pudding snacks, cough syrup, children’s chewable or gummy vitamins and supplements, mouthwash, and toothpaste. Xylitol is also showing up in over-the-counter nasal sprays, laxatives, digestive aids, allergy medicines, and prescription human medications, especially those formulated as disintegrating drug tablets (sleep aids, pain relievers, anti-psychotics, etc.) or liquids.
  • Prep for storms. Gather your hurricane kit together, teach your pet to go into a crate or carrier, and have important papers handy. If your dog is frightened of thunderstorms, ask your vet about medications that can ease your dog’s fears.
  • Standing water can cause health concerns (Leptospirosis) so don’t let your pet drink from puddles. Steer clear of communal water bowls.
  • Blue-green algae – keep your dog out of water sources that have been known to be contaminated with this toxin. Always wash your dog after swimming outside. Last August three pets died hours after swimming in a pond in Wilmington, NC.
  • Sign up for alerts from Dog Food Advisor regarding pet food recalls.
  • Take your dog out for a special treat to any of our beautiful parks.

Happy Pet! Happy Home!

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