Here’s what we’ve learnt these last few weeks walking Napoleon through the streets of Toronto..
As we live downtown in a busy neighbourhood, Napoleon meets a lot of people on his walks. Having a dog has really changed our city living experience – a lot of strangers will start up conversations and ask questions about Napoleon. He’s a great conversation starter and Steven and I have really been enjoying meeting so many new people. However, we quickly learned that stopping during our walk every time someone wants to pet him was teaching Napoleon to expect to be pet by every stranger that walks by, and resulted in him being easily distracted by pedestrians and frequently stopping. To get him back on track, when someone tries to pet him or stop us during the middle of a walk, we say that we’re training him to walk and cannot stop – most people laugh and completely understand. Now that we’ve been more careful about when we let him stop to be pet, we’ve seen a huge improvement. Napoleon is walking like a champ!
Our biggest pet peeve has been people that don’t ask if they can pet him and even more frustrating, strangers that try to train or discipline Napoleon without permission. Before having a dog, I don’t think I usually asked before I pet a stranger’s dog, but after having a dog I now realize how important this simple etiquette is. I was training Napoleon on a side street with less pedestrian traffic, I was leaning down and had treats and was speaking commands, it was quite obvious that we were in the middle of a training session and a woman came over unannounced, started petting Napoleon and said “I know I’m interrupting your training session but you are just the cutest”. It was frustrating because Napoleon wasn’t doing a good job listening to my commands in that moment, and this woman was rewarding him with attention for it. This may seem like a minor incident but it becomes annoying when this happens several times during one walk. Please ask before petting a stranger’s dog, and don’t be offended if they say no.
The worst situation we encountered was a stranger who used force to discipline Napoleon. I was so shocked I was at a loss for words. I was walking down the street and these two women walk over to Napoleon and start petting him. I pulled him back a bit and said “No Napoleon, you need to sit first before you get pet”. He was excited and was having a hard time sitting. I was using the command and hand signal to get him to sit when suddenly one of the women starts pushing down forcefully on his butt and his neck in an attempt to get him to sit. This was absolutely unacceptable for a stranger to do – punishment and/or learning behaviours by force was not how we were training Napoleon, and I did not know this woman or give her permission to touch my dog like that. A stranger would never come up to you and start spanking or disciplining your child in the playground, so why does a stranger feel like they have the right to do whatever they want with your dog?
I took Napoleon by the leash and took him away from the situation, but I didn’t say anything to the woman. I felt like I didn’t know what to say because I was so shocked. I want to come up with a quick, go-to thing to say for the next time this type of situation happens, but have found it difficult. Do I say “don’t touch my dog like that”, “my dog doesn’t like being handled that way”, “stop”, or do I just say “let’s go Napoleon” and walk away? I feel like I want to indicate to the stranger that what they were doing was wrong, but at the same time, I don’t want to be too confrontational.
What do you think? Tell me what you’d say in the comments below.