You have two options. Before you consider your options, first observe the dog and handler. Ask yourself if the dog and handler look like they are on a mission.
Take note of any special equipment the dog may be wearing. Is the dog wearing a vest that states “do not pet” or “adopt me?” Is the dog muzzled or wearing a collar or leash saying “no dogs?”
After you have made your observations, you can either ignore the dog or engage with the owner. If the dog is a service dog, ignoring it is the best thing to do. It is respectful and much appreciated. The handler has heard everything you think to say. Talking to, petting, or even eye contact with a service dog is extremely disrespectful. A service dog is considered medical equipment. Distracting them in any way is akin to pulling on a wheelchair or kicking someone’s crutches. Any dog should be ignored if it wearing equipment stating the dog is working or needs space.
If there are no signs that you should not approach the dog, you should talk to the owner. Not everyone equips their dog with gear warning you to stay away. Some people assume you will be polite and ask. You should. Ask and then respect what the owner tells you. Some dogs may not do well with people or some may be rescues that are working on building confidence. If you approach such a dog, you may put yourself in danger or greatly slow the progress of rehabilitation.
If a dog is muzzled, don’t assume that the dog is aggressive or will try to bite you. There are many reasons to muzzle a dog. My dog is muzzled trained in case of an emergency. If he gets severely injured and needs to receive medical care, I want him to be comfortable with a muzzle so he does not have the added stress of a strange object on his face. We train out in public with it so he associates it with positive and fun experiences. Some dogs eat everything in sight. A muzzle allows them to walk and play safely. Some dogs may be newly acquired and the new owners may not know how the dog will react in new situations. A muzzle allows them to go out and train without putting others in possible danger.
If you are a dog owner and out with your own beauty, please be considerate of others and their dogs.
Not all dogs that are out for a walk enjoy the company of other dogs. A dog in a pet store may not appreciate your dog in his face. A customer in Lowes or the hardware store may be allergic to or afraid of dogs. Be aware of your dog and those around you. Keep your dog under control and near you at all times. Flexi-leashes should not be used in stores or other crowded, confined areas. A short leash is your friend. Pay attention to your dog and your surroundings so you are not a nuisance to others.
A lot of people who take their dogs out enjoy the attention they and their dogs receive while out and about. Fawning over dogs like that is perfectly acceptable. Baby talk and petting are encouraged. Be sure you respect the dog’s space. Do not lean over the dog, put your face on his face, or pull on body parts. Scratch ears, pet backs, and tell their owners how beautiful, cute, and smart their dogs are.
The biggest thing:
Don’t make assumptions. Make observations. Ask permission. Respect others, their dogs, and their space.
The first dog I worked with was terrified of men and lacked many basic obedience skills. We worked together to build enough confidence and skills to become a therapy dog team. That sparked my love fortraining and I have been learning and training ever since. While I advocate for and train with positive methods, I read articles and books that cover a variety of methods. Being well-rounded and well-versedis important as it gives me a basis for addressing the variety of problems and dogs.
Since 2005, I have worked with dogs in their own homes. My work with dogs also includes training dogs at a local shelter and working with Siberian Husky rescues. At the local shelter, I trained the most difficult dogs, those marked with a red tag. The red tag indicated that the dog was dangerous in one way or another. My goal was to make those dogs adoptable or able to be pulled by rescues.