Dogs hate me. Do you hate me?
December 1, 2010 8:15 PM   Subscribe

I met a guy's dog recently. She started growling at me like crazy, barking, and then peed on the floor. I will admit, I am not a dog person, and they make me really nervous. I just don't want to pet your dog, and I think they can sense it. I wonder, though. Do dog people think less of people who don't like dogs?

Do you think you dog is a good judge of character, and therefore my presence making your dog crazy means I am untrustworthy? Is there a way to convince dogs I come in peace, and would really rather peacefully be far, far away from them? Is there a way to convince you, the owner, that I just really, really don't want to touch your dog, and oh my god, is it licking it's mouth while staring at me?
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (73 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
While I don't hate you because me dog hates you, I will be less likely to invite you over - at all. People that are a part of my life get along with dogs. Sorry, that's just the breaks.
posted by Brent Parker at 8:17 PM on December 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

My dogs (or my family's dogs) don't like you, I don't like you. It's one thing if a dog doesn't like men, or is timid because of a history of abuse or what have you, but if a dog likes most everyone and doesn't like you, then I assume s/he knows something I don't and take his/her lead.
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:21 PM on December 1, 2010 [6 favorites]

Do you think your dog is a good judge of character

Absolutely not. My dog is an idiot. For example, the person she hates most of anyone is the landlord, the man who ever so kindly gave her a place to live. I love dogs, but most dogs are idiots. They'll love anyone who gives them a treat or even just scratches them on the nose. With my dog, she's very territorial, so once you've acknowledged her (looked at her, spoken to her, maybe stood still while she sniffs your hand), she's pretty much good- she likes any extra attention, but is OK if you don't want to provide it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:22 PM on December 1, 2010 [28 favorites]

Dogs have their idiosyncrasies. Most love everybody, but some just hate meeting new people, and their owners tend to be aware of that. (I'm a dog person who's elicited negative reactions from the rare dog, and who has seen wonderful dogs have irrational negative reactions to wonderful people)
posted by oinopaponton at 8:23 PM on December 1, 2010

I will not. ever. Trust a person whom dogs do not like.

That's irrational. I wouldn't worry. Most people aren't irrational. I'm a dog person, and at least have the self-respect to trust my own judgment more than that of beings who lick their own butt.
posted by halogen at 8:25 PM on December 1, 2010 [37 favorites]

A dog can sense when someone is directly and immediately threatening a member of the pack (that is, himself and his family.) A dog cannot sniff out that a person is an evil dictator, mass murderer, rapist, thief, etc.
posted by sanko at 8:26 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your question is phrased a little oddly. Are you worried about what the dog thinks of you, or what the dog owner thinks of you? When I had a pup growing up, most of my parents friend's were afraid/disgusted by him ( big beautiful collie, but they were all Indian and there's sometimes cultural stuff there) it was a major downer. It's almost like someone coming over and telling you to keep your toddler away from them. Just uncomfortable. But yeah, like ThePinkSuperhero says, dogs are idiots and will like anyone, or sometimes are idiosyncratic and only like certain people. Cats, on the other hand, if they sense you don't like them, will immediately decide they loooooove you and will snuggle you up like crazy and never leave your side, the lil bastards ( I love cats too).
posted by sweetkid at 8:28 PM on December 1, 2010

I have a dog, whom I love to the maximum capacity I personally have for love. I don't generally rely on my dog to judge character (partly because he's oblivious to a lot of *bad* characters, since he assumes the best of everyone as many dogs do). And that's even though my dog is really even-keeled. If my dog were jumpy and kooky, I would put even less stock in his judgment.

That said, if someone *behaved* badly towards my dog, that would bother me. Probably a lot. If my dog were just going about his normal business in my home, which is also his home, and someone treated him like he was some kind of dirty vicious pariah who should be shut away somewhere or should at least go away, I would probably be quite bothered.

So if you really like this guy, I think you should ease up on this sentiment a little bit: I just really, really don't want to touch your dog, and oh my god, is it licking it's mouth while staring at me?

I would try to be less ... ah ... almost hostile, and hysterical. If you're afraid of dogs, it might be a better approach to just say, "Hey Mike, I'm so sorry, but I'm really afraid of dogs. I'm just uncomfortable with them right now. I'm going to work on that, but I might need to take it kind of slow."
posted by Ashley801 at 8:28 PM on December 1, 2010 [9 favorites]

I don't get people who don't like dogs, but I don't dislike/judge them. My dog, like thepinksuperhero's dog, is an idiot, so I wouldn't rely on her judgment of a person in a million years. Still, if you're anti-dog you probably won't like my house much. As for the second part of your question, there's no way to put a dog at ease if you really truly would rather be far away from them.
posted by headnsouth at 8:29 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm with the other dog whisperers above - my Lab loves everybody, except every once in a while, she doesn't. I trust her instincts.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 8:31 PM on December 1, 2010

Dogs are not a good judge of character, but they are remarkable at sensing your, and their owner's emotional disposition. If you are nervous around dogs, then your interactions with the owner will be less natural and comfortable when the dog is present. The dog then infers (correctly or not) that it's owner is uncomfortable around you. Dogs, being pack animals will want to protect the owner.

It's a strange sequence of events, but if you think about it it makes sense. The dog is built to be part of a pack hierarchy, and it's psychology revolves around fulfilling this role more than most people realize. Since dogs can't process human language they have to take most of their queues from body language. The strange visitor being nervous is a tell tale sign that something isn't right. If the owner is also nervous (often as a reaction to the realization that the visitor is nervous and how it might affect the dog) you have a situation where the dog becomes nervous, and acts out of instinct to protect it's owner.

Anyway, it usually boils down to if you act confident, natural and relaxed around a dog's owner, they will act comfortable around you, and the dog will take that as a queue to act friendly too.
posted by parallax7d at 8:32 PM on December 1, 2010 [13 favorites]

I wonder about that too. I am good friends with a couple who own several, rather large, dogs. Although they have invited me over to their house several times, I've never actually visited, because I am not at all a dog person. I simply do not like dogs. I don't like the way they run up to you whether you want them near or not. I'm afraid of their teeth. I don't really like the way they smell. I don't like that a lot of them drool everywhere. I'm just not comfortable around animals with teeth.

However I do like my friends very much, so I've never told them of my aversion to dogs. I am terrified of offending them. They love their dogs SO MUCH, they have pics of them in their cubicles, talk about them fairly often, etc.

I'm worried about what they will think of me if they knew that I greatly dislike dogs.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 8:32 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

The only person my dog shows signs of disliking is an old high school friend of mine who makes me tremendously uncomfortable but with whom I can't cut ties for various, complex reasons. My dog growls at this person even while I'm being outwardly polite. I've always assumed that my dog is picking up on my concealed discomfort. Is that a possibility in the scenario you described?
posted by pineappleheart at 8:32 PM on December 1, 2010

I'm not a dog person. There have been calm, sleepy, quiet dogs I have halfway-liked, and energetic, crazy dogs I have been unable to stand because they jump and lick and practically knock me over.

I have found that pretending to be okay with the dog can put the dog at ease. Unless a dog is doing something that I just cannot deal with at all (face-licking, repeatedly jumping up on me), I act as neutral as possible. It's innocent until proven guilty with dogs and me--We're okay unless the dog does one of the prior things. I used to be terrified of dogs as a kid, and they could always tell, and back then it was guilty until proven innocent. It's easier this way.

(And to be fair, as a cat person, I am very squinty at people who don't like cats.)
posted by millipede at 8:37 PM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Depends on the dog. My family dog growing up was a really good judge of character, but he didn't like people that I already didn't like, so it wasn't like we ever stopped liking a person we had formerly liked because of the dog. My dog is weird and (other than my roommate and I) seems to prefer cat people/non-dog people and has growled at two of my friends who love dogs and have lots of experience with them. My dog also does not like men. Some dogs are just weirdos.
If a "normal" dog didn't like one of my friends, I would probably just think that my friend is maybe not so comfortable with dogs and the dog senses this, not that the person is untrustworthy or bad. I think it would be really unfair to do so. I love dogs, but I think I trust my own judgment most.
posted by elpea at 8:37 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think it's important to make a distinction here between "dog owners" and "dog people".

Dog people call themselves 'mommy' and 'daddy' to the dog. Dog people have whole wardrobes of clothing for their dogs. Dog people get angry when they are invited over for dinner and their dog is not welcome. These people are often irrational, and ascribe skills to their dog that it just isn't capable of. (like judging character after a few sniffs)

Dog owners, on the other hand, love their pets but treat them as pets, not children. These people will be much more understanding about your fear or dislike.

So which is this guy? A dog person or a dog owner?

Either way, your best bet is to put it out there. If he is offended, then he's probably firmly in the crazy dog person camp and not worth your time. If he handles the situation with grace and humor, then go for it.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:38 PM on December 1, 2010 [15 favorites]

Just say "hey, I'm not comfortable around dogs, can we meet someplace without your dog, or can you put your dog in the other room?"

Expect however that this will put some space between you and the dog's human. It's nothing personal, it's just easier to be with people who are OK around family members.
posted by zippy at 8:39 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dogs have personalities. My (current) crazy dog hates males except for me. My (long-dead) dog loved everybody. My gf thought more highly of me when, the first night I stayed at her place, her dog made a nest of my clothes. The most even-keeled dog was my gf's. She had a depth of feeling and understanding that was uncanny.

I don't believe putting much stock in any one dog's opinion is merited, unless you know the dog and the owner pretty well. Some dogs, like some people, are just weird.
posted by jet_silver at 8:43 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth, I think less of people who, say, allow their young children to run up to strange dogs and prod them than I do of people who seem uncomfortable around dogs generally.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:44 PM on December 1, 2010 [8 favorites]

What parallax7d said. If you start off as nervous and self-conscious, and this affects the way the owner responds to you, the dog will pick up on this, making you more nervous, making things worse. If you're actually afraid of the dog, you will smell bad to the dog, and it won't like you for that reason, either.

I like dogs a lot, but not everyone does. Dogs can be noisy, smelly, scary, untidy, and just plain weird to deal with if you're not used to them. All you dog owners sniffing that if your dog doesn't like anonymous, it must be for a good reason are being pretty unfair. Read this part again:

"I will admit, I am not a dog person, and they make me really nervous."

If someone is generally timid, has cultural issues about dogs or has specific bad experiences with dogs (or knows someone who has had bad experiences), it's going to take them a while to relax around dogs.

OP, what specifically concerns you about dogs? The potential for aggression? Being licked by a weird animal that licks its own butt? See if you can find someone with a dog that is completely the opposite from your non-ideal dog, like a puppy that just wants to cuddle, or a big floppy hound who moves slowly and loves to be petted. Once you're comfortable with a specific dog, other dogs will be easier.

And just tell the owner that you haven't lived around dogs and that dogs can make you nervous. With any luck, the owner is a reasonable person who will cut you some slack without getting judgmental.
posted by maudlin at 8:44 PM on December 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't like dogs either.

At all.

I'm also highly allergic.

But I'm just here to tell you that they don't care whether I like them or not; a lot of them won't leave me alone. What is your worry exactly? That it won't like you and will stay away from you?
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 8:47 PM on December 1, 2010

My dog is likely to pick up on the fact that I may not be comfortable and so, act unfriendly towards you. In future, it's usually good practice to let a dog come to you in it's own time. Don't crowd it, trying to say "hello".

I don't mind people who don't like dogs or are afraid of them. Anyone who's been bitten as a child has good reason not to like dogs.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:50 PM on December 1, 2010

Asking to meet elsewhere is fine, but someone asking me to put a dog in another room in my own home would make me see red and make the dog stressed and anxious. I think this would be true of most dog owners, not just the ones who put them in t shirts.
posted by sweetkid at 8:51 PM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't distrust people who do not like dogs, but I tend not to warm to them. My dog is my friend, and so if you don't like my friend, you and I will probably not become close.

However, if you say to me (or any other dog owner) "I'm sorry, I don't like dogs" and they still try to get you to pet their dog, that person is an asshole. I go to great efforts to be respectful of people's fears and phobias related to my pet. There are clueless dog owners )"Oh, everyone loves Fluffy!") the same way there are clueless parents ("Tarquin is just spirited!"), and I'm sorry you had to deal with the brunt of that.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:54 PM on December 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

I was bitten by my cousins' Cocker when I was eight for no reason. I wasn't touching or looking at the dog; I had just arrived at their house, and was meeting them for the first time when it went straight for my throat. It apparently went into super guardian mode or something? I have no idea. So, since I'm pretty sure the dog wasn't sensing something evil about a shy 8-year-old girl, I wouldn't say that dogs always have some incredible super sense about people.

I would find it strange if my dog did this, because she never has, and I would try to figure out why, but here are some things I would consider: dogs can freak out over differences that don't necessarily occur to us as something scary, such as people wearing sunglasses (no eyes!!! aaaaarrrrrrgh!), helmets, or even hats, people of a different color if the dog hasn't been exposed to that, uniforms, canes or walkers (too many legs!! aaarrrrrrgh!), or anything out of the ordinary that could be interpreted as strange-alien-aaarrrrrrgh! (which is why people try to expose puppies to as many different experiences/people/situations as possible).

Also, if a dog has been tormented in the past by a teen boy or old lady, all teen boys or old ladies can become suspect. Maybe the dog was once kicked by middle-aged, extra tall dude with long blond hair and a red cap, and you are tall, with long blond hair and happened to be wearing a red cap.

So, no, my first thought wouldn't be that there was necessarily something wrong with you. I'd take it into consideration if I didn't know you, but I wouldn't jump to any conclusions. My dog has seen a motorcycle (in silhouette as the sun was going down behind it) at the top of some stairs we were ascending and refused to go forward, perhaps thinking it was the Hound of the Baskervilles lying in wait. She also tried to make cautious friends with a three foot tall red rubbery plastic pony that had been left on the street, and seemed puzzled about the hairless smell-less dog. Those stand out, because she's familiar with most things and so doesn't become afraid or super curious.

Since the dog you encountered peed, this indicates that it was afraid, so I'd say it's most likely because you looked like someone else who scared/hurt the dog, or there was something different about your clothes or person that was unknown and read scary to her. Who knows. Maybe a big long woolen scarf looked like a giant snake around your neck.
posted by taz at 9:00 PM on December 1, 2010 [14 favorites]

If you don't like dogs, you don't like dogs. No big deal. I happen to like dogs, but they are incredibly dirty - they slobber, shed fur, pee on the floor, poop on the floor, puke on the floor, bleed on the floor, drag their butts on the floor. They can also bite, scratch, jump on you, and do all sorts of stuff.

I happen to like dogs, but if I had a friend who does not like dogs I would probably put my dog in a different room if possible, or outside.

It's the polite thing to do.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:11 PM on December 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

In college there was a girl who liked me because her dog liked me, but I think her dog liked me because she already liked me.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:18 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

the time my dog went his absolute craziest in front of a stranger -- some random guy at a get-together, back in college -- the guy went on to rape a passed-out girl a few weeks later. so yeah, I try to take my dog's warnings seriously.

(though as others have said, in your case the dog was probably sensing your anxiety.)
posted by changeling at 9:20 PM on December 1, 2010

I've never been a huge fan of dogs either. I don't actively dislike them, but I don't looooooooooove them. But I've learned, like people, it depends on the dog. A short story:

When I first met one of my best friends many years ago, she had a lab/husky mix named Teddy. I was a little 'oh, great' but not actively nervous. Just a little stand-offish.

But since I just was kind of there, didn't approach the dog, we learnt to deal with each other very quickly. We went from 'oh, hey, it's you' to the best of animal/human friends.

Teddy eventually developed epilepsy. Shortly thereafter my friend moved across the country and I didn't see either of them for a year and a half. When I finally visited, I didn't touch Teddy right away, but said hi and let him be. About 15 minutes after my arrival he came up, cuddled into me and we were pals again.

It was only after that that my friend told me Teddy had changed in terms of personality since the epilepsy, that he was far more aggressive with strangers and new people and she wasn't sure how he would react to me after a year and a half.

Thankfully, he still remembered me, because I had to comfort him through several pre-seizure episodes during that visit.

The point? Some dogs will trust you, some dogs won't. It doesn't say anything about you specifically, or the dog, specifically. It's about the mix. I never thought I'd fall in love with a dog, and then there was Teddy, and he wasn't even mine. Try to chill. You don't have to love them. But the ones who will love you? Will find you.
posted by aclevername at 9:24 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm okay with people not liking dogs, it's people who have a distaste for any and all animals that I would have a very hard time relating to. Then again, I have had some of the most uncomfortable encounters with people who professed to LOVE dogs and knew EXACTLY what it took to get along with my tentative and initially un-trusting dog. Particularly when they knew better than me how to relate to her, and proceeded to make her unhappy and uncomfortable. Weird. So really, dog lover or not, it's about being cool and socially sensitive and not making a big deal about stuff.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:27 PM on December 1, 2010

the time my dog went his absolute craziest in front of a stranger -- some random guy at a get-together, back in college -- the guy went on to rape a passed-out girl a few weeks later. so yeah, I try to take my dog's warnings seriously.

In other words, the OP should watch him/herself very carefully, because maybe that dog was on to something.

Seriously, people take their dogs waaaaaay too seriously in North America, and can be very cavalier about unacceptable behaviour on the part of their pets (such as growling, barking, even biting).

The OP should remember that s/he is the human here, and that dogs will act like the animals they are, sometimes (but not usually) without reason.

What may have happened with you and the dog that peed on the floor was that you did not display the "right" body language, and that you either effectively ignored the dog, or intimidated the dog, probably by staring at it. No big deal.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:28 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

When I was 3, my godmother's dog bit me with no provocation on my part, I was just sitting on the floor. When I was 5, a neighbor's dog attacked me while I was walking down the street with my uncle. Where I come from there is a pretty sizeable problem with stray dogs roaming around and not all of them are friendly - more than once, a dog ran after me with the intention to bite me, and I also saw my young cousins get chased home by an angry stray dog. So, for a long time I absolutely was not a dog person, and because they made me so uncomfortable, friendly dogs wouldn't warm up to me. If any of my friends had given me the "you must suck if you don't like dogs/my dog doesnt like you", they would not be my friends anymore. Even if I didn't have the history with dogs that I do, people are allowed to not be into dogs or cats or whatever. It's not a moral failure.

I have found that as I've gotten older, I've become a lot more comfortable around dogs (probably because it's been a long time since one threatened me). Once I relaxed, they warmed up to me. So it's quite possible that the dog sensed your tension and reacted to it.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 9:35 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

It would kind of weird to come over to my house, knowing I have a dog, and announce that you hate dogs, but I'd be fine if you said something like "I'm not really a dog person," or "I'm a little skittish around dogs, can we meet somewhere else?" I would prefer you not actually be around my dog, as she is very sensitive, so her reaction to sensing you didn't like her would be to follow you around relentlessly trying to get you to like her, then becoming depressed when you didn't respond wholeheartedly. It would just be an uncomfortable situation for everyone. I'd feel like a bad host, you'd feel like you were being stalked and pawed, and my dog would feel like she had done something horribly wrong.

I would definitely not think less of you if she didn't like you. She dislikes men, hats, sunglasses, people who walk differently, loud people, tall people, and children. She may have instincts, but they're buried in the crazy.
posted by wending my way at 9:40 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

People who don't like my dog don't come to my house, period. Yes, she stays crated while I'm not home and she usually stays crated when I have groups of people over...but it is inevitable that she will come out to visit at some point in time. It isn't anything personal against people that don't like dogs, but she is a big part of my personality/family/household.

Also, I think your question is phrased really oddly. It sounds like you had a bad experience with a dog and are now using this thread to try and prove to yourself that the dog's owner wasn't justified in their reactions to you. I just think it's worth saying that to many people, their pets are their children. They are more possessive and just plain weird about their pets than just about anything else, and unless you have animals that you care about that much, you are unlikely to understand that craziness.
posted by kro at 9:55 PM on December 1, 2010

Dogs can sometimes sense when their owners are upset. I know if I act nervous or afraid, my dog will hate people more. This has become a pattern. She notices the KIND of person I get nervous around, and now instantly hates people like that regardless of how I feel now. (For the record: tall men. I'm very sorry, tall people. Especially tall relatives, oops!)

In this case, it sounds like it could be anything. Maybe the dog caught a weird smell, or just growled because you were new. But the more uncomfortable you get, the more it'll probably freak out at you. If you want dogs to "like" you, try being less afraid of them. Relax. Be confident in your space. You don't need to interact, just fake being comfortable. It really can make a difference.
posted by vienaragis at 9:59 PM on December 1, 2010

Some dogs are just crazy. I get along with dogs all the time, but one time I went to this one woman's house and one of her 3 dogs went absolutely batshit when we came in. For OVER AN HOUR that dog kept barking hysterically, never stopped for one minute. (Alas, the owner kept the dog away from us only about 80% of the time... I am fairly convinced that given a few more seconds at any point in time one of us would have had dog teeth in our throats.) The other two didn't give a shit.

I'd let a dog owner know WHY you're scared of dogs, particularly if there's a reason for it like you were attacked or something. I used to be kind of wigged out by certain dogs too. Yeah, they'll be disappointed that you're not a dog person, but if you're genuinely afraid of them what with the teeth and barking and all, the dog owner is a real jerk to not listen to that. In my case, I gradually got used to dogs (I didn't have one as a kid, if you didn't guess, but I have dog-crazy relatives who live in Rowdy Dog House), learned how to deflect the crazier/hyper ones when they jumped on me, petted them, and they eventually settled down and unless I run into a crazy dog, they don't bother me any more.

But dogs, like humans, come on a case by case basis. Some are nicer than others.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:26 PM on December 1, 2010

Do dog people think less of people who don't like dogs?

You have to try to gauge how into dogs they are. For any X, people who are really into X frequently think less of people who don't like X. That's true for all kinds of pets, all kinds of music, all kinds of sports, etc.

People who don't define themselves in part by their love of X but who are casually interested in it aren't going to care so much. A casual dog owner won't give a rat's ass what you think of dogs, but someone who thinks Sparky is a member of the family will not cotton to someone who dislikes dogs in general and therefore dislikes their child Sparky.

Do you think you dog is a good judge of character,

Many dogs are a good judge of whether you (another mammal that has just approached) are suddenly nervous. Their noses are about 100 times more sensitive than ours, so they can instantly smell when your armpits suddenly moisten and start exuding signal chemicals you don't even know you have. They're also watching your body language shift from casual guy out for a stroll to nervous guy worried about being bitten.

There's nothing you can do about this but try to relax around certain dogs. Learn to tolerate Fifi the poodle and put her at ease about you if you want to get into Fifi's owner's pants, teach the neighbor's barky watchdog that you're a pal and not a threat if you want it to shut up when you're coming and going, but say to hell with all of the other dogs in the world.
posted by pracowity at 11:18 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

A reasonably simple way to tell a dog that you come in peace is just to ignore it. But, if the dog thinks you come in peace, it's might well like you and want to visit you.

I don't care one way or another about people who merely don't particularly like dogs but can put up with them. But, yeah, I'd probably think less of someone who had an active aversion to dogs, at least unless I knew that they had some reason for it, like being allergic enough that being around dogs makes them all sniffly or that they'd been bitten.

In the US, dogs are common enough that, in the absence of a real reason otherwise, adults should have learned be able to be around them without being nervous and weirded out. Being nervous around and actively aversive to dogs is, in modern American society, kind of like being nervous around cars or trees or teenagers. I don't think dogs are good judges of character at all, and wouldn't think you were dangerous or crazy because my dog barked at you. I just think people who really dislike being around dogs are, in the absence of a concrete reason for that dislike, kind of weird.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:40 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am not a dog fan. I have met dogs that I get along with swimmingly, and I have met dogs that I' rather not meet again. I avoid larger, scarier looking dogs. When I say I'm not a dog fan it's because I have a hard time understanding dog (body) language. I speak fluent cat. ;)

But friends do have dogs, I have handled dogs (dog sitting when younger, so I do have the basic "hello dog" communication down), and dogs often love me to the point of the owners getting wigged out by all the attention I'm getting. When meeting a new friends dog for the first time I will always say hello with a soft voice and a slowly outstretched "go ahead, smell me" hand with the back of the palm up allowing the dog to come to me. I never pat them on the head, if I pet the dog it will be on the shoulder, I never hover above the dog, getting too close and in effect cornering them from above (I would feel threatened by that wouldn't you?). So I stay a few feet away so that the dog comes to me for the greeting. It's not just to make the dog comfortable with me, but because I want to know if I'm comfortable with the dog. A stupid as some dogs are, they all "feel" that this is the moment we check each other out, that I am giving them ample time to check me out, and this might be why so many really like me so after the initial meeting.

Not once has a dog disliked me, so to answer your questions "Do you think you dog is a good judge of character", after many dog meets I know that many dog owners put a lot of weight into how you handle their dog. They'll be pleased as punch if their dogs loves you, but this doesn't mean it's because they think their dog knows better than them, it's because you have shown basic animal respect, and treated their beloved pet well, and this makes you a good person. If the dog has issues with you, it might just be having issues in general, and this may not reflect badly on you at all. Do try and get along with friends dogs if you like your friends, the dog is part of who they are. Ask your friend how to say hello if the initial greet went badly - dogs are different.
posted by dabitch at 12:32 AM on December 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Does it make you feel better to know that the peeing was very likely submission pee and that dogs lick their noses (in conjunction with averting their eyes) as an appeasement gesture?

For most dogs, if you completely ignore them, they will leave you alone in favor of something more interesting. This means : No eye contact. Hands at your side. Look at the ground. Don't move. Don't talk. Don't do anything. Completely immobile. You'll be left alone in less than 5 seconds. Talking to the dog in any way (including giving out commands), trying to make "go away" hand gestures, and all of the other things people usually do to convey their discomfort will usually engage the dog and make you an interesting subject, but if you are completely disengaged, then the dog will leave you alone, and as long as you continue to ignore the dog, it will ignore you.
posted by hindmost at 1:57 AM on December 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

I don't care if people don't like dogs. Irrational shrieking "get it away get it away!" would be weird, but I've never run into anyone who does that. I would not think all that badly of the former; of the latter I'd be wary.

We have one dog who is not a people "person." If you're around for a couple of hours, she might warm up to you a bit, but all she wants out of life is food from a trusted source and something to herd. ("Warm up" means she might accept a treat from your hand, definitely not petting.) Heck, she won't cuddle with us--about two minutes of a-scratch-behind-the-ears per day is about her limit, and you get the sense she's tolerating it as a favor to us. She's a good-natured animal but just doesn't like being touched all that much. Some herd animal might try to escape while she's distracted, after all.

The most annoying people, frankly, aren't those who don't like dogs (I mean, that's anyone's prerogative) but people who do like dogs but have absolutely no idea how to act around them, and have only avoided death and dismemberment because most dogs are pretty easy-going.

If you're one of these "dog lovers" and you loom over our aforementioned female collie, loudly talking in baby talk and trying to pet her, you're going to get shown big teeth and get a "back off, right now!" snarl if she has no way to escape. It's OK once, but if you continue to try to be "friends" (because "dogs love you") despite my requests to let the dog come up to you in her own time (if she comes up at all), I'll be thinking how nice it would be to have someone over who doesn't care for dogs instead.
posted by maxwelton at 2:24 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dogs looooooooooove me. I am terrified of them. They jump and jump and JUMP when they see me and want to lick my face and nuzzle my legs and I swear it doesn't matter one bit what I think of them, or the fact that I'm frozen in terror and unable to get a word out.

But, when they're under control I've learned (after a ton of practice) to pretend to be happy long enough to let them walk by me, and can now smile at yippy little things behind other people's doors in my neighborhood, and the occasional sedate older dog in the corner doesn't bother me that much these days. It helps to try and moderate your body language.

All the dog owners I know well enough to hang out with at home have, by definition, let someone who is panic-attacky around space-invasiony dogs stop by. Usually they put the ones who won't leave me alone someplace else.

(For the record: it was about the size of a pit bull, I was seven or eight years old, my scooter ended out being stolen while I was running for my life, and animal control made those people put a ten-foot fence in to have their dog outside unattended. I had to walk by that house every single day on the way to the bus stop. He barked like mad every single time. I still have occasional nightmares about him breaking his rope, twenty-odd years later. I do not have to like your dog.)
posted by SMPA at 2:31 AM on December 2, 2010

i wouldn't think less of you if you didn't like dogs and/or are afraid of them, but you probably wouldn't be over at my house very much—either because i wouldn't tend to invite people over who would have a problem with my dog being around or because you were too uncomfortable with my dog to come over.

i would however, be hesitant about dating someone who actively did not like dogs because my dog is a big part of my life. he's my best friend and constant companion, and someone who would also presumably become a big part of my life has to, at the very least, not be uncomfortable around my dog.
posted by violetk at 3:06 AM on December 2, 2010

The respondents here that say they would not like you if their dog did not like you truly shock and appal me, and remind me why I often have a problem with dog people. I think that judging a human being based on the reaction of a dumb beast is a far better indicator of poor character than, well, the reaction of a dumb beast.

But, in response to your question, the idea that a dog is a "good judge of character" is just preposterous. I've had some dogs who seem to like me and others that seem to hate me and others that barely seem to notice me at all. Did my character change? Or is the idea that dogs can judge my character just , if you'll pardon the pun, totally barking mad? Not hard to figure out really - at least it isn't when you're not the sort of person who considers their pet to be some sort of psychic marvel. And frankly I don't think you should be terribly concerned about what such people think of you.
posted by Decani at 3:26 AM on December 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

As you can see, dog people will think less of you for not loving their dog. Even family - I really dislike touching animals and my familt cannot let it be. My daughter is terrified of small skittish creatures and, again, they can't let it go. There's a perpetual push to make the two of us socialise with animals that makes us upset and anxious because they have deluded themselves into thinking a dog is family to me as well. It may be their familt, but it sure as hell isn't mine.

So can dogs judge character? Rapists and murderers and theives own dogs. It doesn't mean a thing.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:41 AM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

i'm with you. Don't like dogs and generally will not touch them or pat them (except poodles - cause they feel liek teddybears)

Some dog owners seem to take offence at this I've noticed. I think they are a bit funny in the head.
posted by mary8nne at 3:55 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Former dog phobic here - they pick up on your fear, so as I grew less afraid they grew less jumpy. There doesn't seem to be a way around that - breathing exercises when you're around dogs or something like that?

Judge of character - no. A friend's dog, that I'd known for ages and was fine with went on a huge barking and growling spree at me when I went round there in fancy dress. I looked more threatening because the costume made me bigger, but I wasn't a threat, my character hadn't changed.

Dogs have become more explicable as I've become more relaxed around them. Dog people on the other hand have remained very strange. It seems more acceptable to dislike a dog person's partner than to dislike their dog (and I'd agree with the distinction between 'dog person' and 'dog owner').
posted by Coobeastie at 4:29 AM on December 2, 2010

My German Shepherd doesn't like anybody over the age of 13. My new Pug loves everybody. I don't take that as a judgement on the person they're meeting. The German Shepherd is just very cautious and protective and the Pug is dumber than a box of rocks.

Whenever somebody comes over to my house I ask them if they want me to put the dogs away.

I love my animals, but they are just animals. The comfort and welfare of my guest is more important than possibly hurting the dogs' feelings (and really, they'd rather be curled up on my bed anyway.) This does not apply to people who I want to leave quickly or who I don't feel comfortable around. The big dog is part of my security system and stays where I need her, of course she is well trained and stays away from people if I tell her to.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:39 AM on December 2, 2010

it's been my experience that in the US, it's perfectly acceptable to really, really hate cats, but if you simply don't care for dogs, people think something's wrong with you. I quit saying I don't particularly like dogs because of the shocked--almost offended in many cases--reactions and just say I've been bitten and attacked without provocation (which is true) and that i'm nervous around dogs.
posted by lemniskate at 5:53 AM on December 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Unfortunately, my dog does not react charmingly to a lot of people, and I don't think it has anything to do with character. There are certain classes of people she's slightly more likely to warm up to than others (our best luck has been with middle-aged women like myself). I absolutely would not judge a person based on how my dog reacts--she's just a "reactive" dog (young, former stray) and is very easily pushed into fear/defense mode--which looks a lot like what you describe--growling/barking, the occasional "submissive pee". She's actually more likely to react poorly to "confident" dog-lovers--someone who approaches her directly, addresses her directly in an animated tone of voice, and makes eye contact and/or physical contact.

I would totally prefer that people who are not familiar with her not touch my dog! I get really uncomfortable when people are too forward with her, or let their squealing toddlers come running up to her when we're in the middle of a game of fetch.

And if you were my guest and would rather just not deal with my dog at all, I'd happily put her up for your comfort. In fact, if there's anyone I'd judge, it's people who trivialize or can't accept that other people may just not like certain animals.

The dog is licking its lips and staring at you because it's nervous and would prefer that you not touch it. So you're both on the same page--great!

For future reference, there are a few things that you could do to signal to unfamiliar dogs that "you come in peace"--a low, calm tone of voice is actually better than a friendly-but-excited "hey, doggiedoggie, aren't you just the cutest!!11!), don't make direct eye contact, and basically do your best to just ignore the dog.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 7:06 AM on December 2, 2010

To echo what Coobeastie said. A family pet that I had formerly lived with went nuts when I returned home after two months wearing a hat and having grown my beard out. The combination of hat and beard had turned me into a monster.

I'm not a generally dog person and dogs seem to respond to me according to their fundamental psychology anyway. The friendly ones drool on me; the insecure ones growl at me; the well-trained ones take cues from their humans; and the fear-biters are the worst because they'll be friendly until something innocuous sets them off, then I'm asking you for your rabies certs and a ride to the clinic.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:13 AM on December 2, 2010

My dog is not the best judge of character, especially if you have a treat in your hand, so he decides which tree is best for peeing and I make the judgments about people.

Having said that, I don't have many friends who are either terrified of or dislike animals simply because I have seven cats and a dog. Animals are kind of my thing, and I don't think a lot of people are close with other people who hate the things that they love.

You are afraid of dogs and I respect that, I would never grab him and force him on you or anyone like you because that is appallingly rude. However, I find it equally rude that some people expect that I shut my animals up when they come to my home. It is their home too, and quite frankly, I am far more concerned about the health and well-being of my animals than of some random visitor. The solution here is that we hang out somewhere else that is pet free.
posted by crankylex at 7:25 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm one of those people that dogs don't like. Consequently, I'm not too keen on dogs. I don't know who started it first but it has been this way for a long while. I don't try to give off the "I'm not a dog person" vibe, but I never considered that the owner would think less of me because their animal snarls at me. This is an eye opener and I'm genuinely a kind person.

Oddly enough, I consider myself something of a cat whisperer. I've had cats sleep on my lap that people told me were psychotic and to date I've only encountered one cat that wouldn't let me approach it. If there is a cat <> dog continuum I think I'm on the extreme left.

I have no pets, oddly enough. Kids keep me busy enough already.
posted by dgran at 7:57 AM on December 2, 2010

I am a dog person, formerly a dog hater. I was where you are now. But then I met a dog who loved me and that was that. Now I love her and pretty much all dogs.
I don't think I would really think much about any of my dogs disliking you. Or of you disliking them. I don't care. However, you need to be upfront and take responsibility for your decisions. If I invite you over and warn you (as I do everyone) that I DO have 4 dogs and there IS hair on the couch and you WILL be hopelessly, uncomfortably worshipped by one for a little while and you accept that invitation? And complain publicly or privately about the dogs? There's no point to that. And it has nothing to do with the dogs.
posted by hecho de la basura at 8:03 AM on December 2, 2010

I don't think dogs are good judges of character, but as other people have said, I think they are keen judges of emotional valence. I do believe that my dog picks up on my anxiety when we are, say, walking past the emotionally-disturbed man who lives in the neighborhood and shuffles around muttering curses to himself. He doesn't like that guy because he knows I don't like him. Similarly, he knows when unfamiliar people are afraid or uneasy around him, and he is likely to tense up around them, or even bark at them (which he is NOT ALLOWED to get away with, but sometimes he does it anyway). He does not have human intelligence by any stretch, which is why he's on the collared end of the leash, but animals aren't stupid automatons either.

I have friends who dislike and/or fear dogs, and I certainly don't think any less of them (although I don't hang out with them as frequently as I do with friends who like dogs and/or have dogs, since I have limited free time and I like to have my dog with me when I'm doing outdoor stuff). I just am unlikely to have them over to my house, because I have a large dog there, and he will bark and howl all night if I try to confine him to a room when we're in another room. When I hang out with them, I hang out with them in dog-free situations.

I would, however, think less of someone who didn't care for dogs, pretended that everything was cool, and then came over to my house and freaked out about the dog. If you don't like dogs, just be honest. Say "Hey friend, I like you a lot, but I'm really not a dog person. Would it be cool if we hung out at my house (or the coffee shop, or whatever) without Fido?" And really, do you even want to be friends with someone that won't respect your preferences and/or lets their friendships be dictated by the whims of an animal?
posted by kataclysm at 8:13 AM on December 2, 2010

I'm going to nth what everyone else is saying about the coming over thing. I have three medium to largish dogs and a small house. If you come over to my house you're going to have dogs around you - and dog fur and dander, too, alas, not to mention the cat dander. I'm sorry if you are allergic or if that makes you uncomfortable but honestly, there's little I can do about it. This is their house too and locking them up is a big pain in the ass that makes them miserable. So, when we hang out we will have to not be at my house. I don't judge people on it; I mean, whatever, just because I am the crazy dog lady doesn't mean everyone has to be, but it does mean that you're going to be one of those friends who don't come over. That's cool. I don't as a general rule take the dogs with me anywhere other than hiking and there's a whole big dog free world out there to hang out in. I have one friend who is afraid of dogs and she doesn't come over; when I see her it's at the bar or the coffee shop or something. I don't think less of her but yeah, I don't see as much of her as I do my dog loving and dog neutral friends.

Do you think you dog is a good judge of character, and therefore my presence making your dog crazy means I am untrustworthy?
One of my dogs absolutely loathes one of my oldest and closest friends and she will bark at him nonstop when he's over here, so for him I do lock her up. He is the only person she reacts to that way and I know it's not him. It is, I think, the smell of construction dust that reminds her of someone who was evil to her before she came to me. The other two dogs adore him and I think I would have figured out his secret evil alter ego sometime in the last 25 years if there was one. So, no, his presence making my dog crazy doesn't mean he's untrustworthy.

For the most part, my dogs are extremely friendly and social, which I grant you can be annoying as hell. They love having people over. They want to be petted and talked to. And all dogs are individuals; each of mine react differently to different people. If all three of them immediately hated somebody I would be surprised, yeah, and think that possibly he was in fact a reptile alien, but that has never, ever happened and so no, I don't really think my dogs are tremendous judges of character.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:19 AM on December 2, 2010

I think less of you if you don't like MY dog. Yeah. I don't really care what you think of other people's dogs because I'm not such a huge fan of other people's dogs either unless I'm really close to the person in which case I learn to love their dog.

My dog is super important in my life, if you were dismissive of that we probably couldn't be close. Now, if you were unsure at first but made at least some effort to pet or say hi to my dog that is different because I'm of the opinion that he will win you over eventually (yep, I'm one of THOSE people) because he is freaking adorable. I'm perfectly fine with hesitation because like I said, I don't really like new dogs either. Grew up incredibly afraid of them, the fact that I let one sleep next to me every night still weirds me out sometimes.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:21 AM on December 2, 2010

Do dog people think less of people who don't like dogs?

I am most definitely a dog person. My dogs are members of my family. To be honest it isn't that I think less of people who don't like dogs, so much as I think more of people who do. My father-in-law really does not like dogs. This doesn't bother me in the slightest and when he comes to visit I keep my dogs away from him. I still love him to death and love to have him over. On the opposite side of that coin, when people who I generally don't care for are big dog lovers, I find myself cutting them a break. You know, trying to give them a second chance, reevaluate my opinion of them.

Do you think you dog is a good judge of character

No, not really. I have four dogs, three of which love everyone that they meet and the fourth is a little skittish and rarely gets on with most people. That being said, on the rare occasion when the skittish dog warms to someone, I do tend to take that as sign that that particular person is a good and decent person. Especially if it's a man, since he really doesn't like men other than my husband. But I certainly don't think ill of anyone he doesn't like, since he rarely likes anyone. That would be silly.

I think that if you have a problem with dogs and are upfront about it, you are less likely to be judged. If someone decides that they don't like you based on their dogs reaction to you, then they probably aren't worth your time anyway.
posted by citizngkar at 8:38 AM on December 2, 2010

"Do you think you dog is a good judge of character, and therefore my presence making your dog crazy means I am untrustworthy?"

No. My parents' dog loved EVERYONE except the high school band director, who was like the nicest man on the planet. NO IDEA WHY.

"Is there a way to convince you, the owner, that I just really, really don't want to touch your dog, and oh my god, is it licking it's mouth while staring at me?"

I've become highly allergic to dogs and I never, ever touch someone's dog; if I have to, say because the dog is jumping on me and I'm encouraging it to stop, I have to wash my hands pretty thoroughly and immediately. Nobody has considered this the SLIGHTEST bit weird; most people restrain their overenthusiastic dog from being my BFF even before they know I'm allergic, and nobody thinks it's remotely odd that I don't want to touch the dog. And, FWIW, nobody's ever been offended by my immediate hand-washing after dog touching. I usually say something like, "You have a beautiful dog, but I'm very allergic!" just so people don't think I'm being weird, but nobody's ever said anything even when I don't happen to say that.

If I were you, I'd probably say, "You have a beautiful/friendly/very active dog, but dogs make me very nervous!" and then I'd joke, "Phew, I can admire him so much better from six feet away!" 99% of dog owners will call their friend to heel and try to keep him from molesting you ... it's just good dog-owner manners. Being afraid of dogs is not a weird thing. I mean, I've met people who are terrified of KITTENS. (Sharp little claws and teeth!) Most pet owners understand that not everyone is an animal person.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:49 AM on December 2, 2010

The problem with a lot of dogs is a lack of training on the part of the owner, which results in the dog running the show and behaviors like you've run into. Nearly all of the dogs I've had problems with (and I include good-natured dogs who just couldn't stop jumping on people) had a total lack of any kind of obedience training. Initial excitement is understandable, but the dog can't continue to be a nuisance.

I'm not saying that all household pet owners don't train their dogs, but at least in my personal experience, that is the overwhelming norm. I grew up with dogs and used to volunteer at a shelter. But I seldom enjoy interacting with an untrained dog, even if it belongs to a friend or family.
posted by Wossname at 9:38 AM on December 2, 2010

Do you think you dog is a good judge of character, and therefore my presence making your dog crazy means I am untrustworthy?

Dogs have a really good sense of off or awkward behavior. Yours would fall into that category, because you're iffy on dogs. You don't know how to act around them, and they can sense something is not quite right.

In your case, I wouldn't think it makes you untrustworthy because it's actually pretty understandable. In people terms, you're the guy who won't shake hands, or stands by himself at a party (switch for appropriate pronouns if necessary.) So it just throws them off. It's like sometimes shyness throws people off, or they misread it. No biggie, just a misunderstanding.

But if I couldn't figure out a reason I could understand for that response, I would always be wondering a little bit what was off that the dog saw that I couldn't.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:52 AM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have raised and worked with many dogs.

Dogs are not psychic and dogs are, often, incredibly poor judges of character (even a well-trained dog will, on rare occasions, attack a child or elderly person). They have very small brains and anyone who ascribes human characteristics to their dog is doing the animal a disservice. These are the people you see walking very large dogs on very small leashes.

A dog owner who permits their pet to bark at you or assault you in any other fashion is a poor owner who doesn't know how to control their pet. This is not your fault. If an animal is making threatening sounds or motions toward you, you have every right in the world to feel uncomfortable. If someone had a pet lynx, and it started growling and hissing at me, I would be fully justified in thinking, "Hey, maybe that large, toothy cat is going to attack me."
"Just ignore her, she barks at everyone," is a sign of someone who should not be a dog owner. I say this as a dog lover, because one of the saddest things I can imagine is an animal that goes out of control and bites someone and must be put down because their owner didn't care enough about their pet to train it properly.

To summarize - you are within your rights to demand that someone control their pet, or remove it to another room, or reprimand it if it makes threatening gestures toward you. When the owner is present it is completely unacceptable for a pet, any pet, to threaten another person. Best of luck.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:10 AM on December 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

In people terms, you're the guy who won't shake hands, or stands by himself at a party (switch for appropriate pronouns if necessary.)

You are anthropomorphizing. But if we want to play this game, then in people terms that makes the dog into the asshole at the party who's trying to start a fight against the host's wishes.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:12 AM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Asking to meet elsewhere is fine, but someone asking me to put a dog in another room in my own home would make me see red and make the dog stressed and anxious. I think this would be true of most dog owners, not just the ones who put them in t shirts.

I agree with this completely. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine stopped by my apartment with her friend who I'd not met before (we'll call him "Tom"). Tom (30-something, super tall) was incredibly uncomfortable around and afraid of my small (12 pound) mutt, to the point where he would stand up and turn away when my little guy tried to bring him a ball to throw. (I assumed he had experienced a dog bite or had some other reason for his fear, but he told me that wasn't the case).

Tom was making such an issue of his discomfort that I ended up putting my dog in the bedroom. A couple of hours later, I told Tom that I needed to let the dog out to feed him dinner. Tom made no move to leave, seeming unconcerned with the fact that my dog was being exiled for his comfort...he finally left, after I'd commented on needing to let the dog out a few more times.

The moral of the story? If you are so uncomfortable around dogs that I have to shut my dog away, you will wear out your welcome much more quickly than you would otherwise.
posted by mingodingo at 10:16 AM on December 2, 2010

It's late in the thread now, but I wanted to say I posted my first comment in haste, and I regretted they way it came off. I so didn't mean to say my dog is this amazing bad person hunter, and therefore.... No. I understand that not everybody's a dog person, and while I don't "get" it exactly -- since my dog-loving impulse is truly as deep as my baby-loving impulse -- it has nothing to do with whether I like or dislike you as a person. I'm aware how dogs react to people with dog anxiety; it's in your posture, and breathing, and eye contact, all of it equaling "I don't like you" in dog language. just because my dog judges you doesn't mean I do.

But. My dog really did go crazy in front of that guy at the party, lunging at him over and over, and I've never observed my dog do anything like that before or since. What made it so strange was that the guy wasn't acting scared or aggressive; he was trying to make friends with my dog, albeit in his creepy mellow "c'mere baby" wannabe beatnik sort of way. As ATL said above me, it made me wonder then -- why this guy, out of everyone there? And then, when we heard what the guy had done... it really made us think. If my dog had that same reaction again -- lunging at someone who wasn't acting scared or aggressive or in any way unusual -- well, I might be inclined to listen to him.
posted by changeling at 10:24 AM on December 2, 2010

I've got dogs, and one of them has issues.

He growled at A BABY. He growled at an elderly man with A WALKER. He growls at ROCKS.

A lot of dogs also don't like men, especially men who wear dark clothes, and people who look different or act differently than their owners.

People who rely on their dogs to know who to, just wow! Many dogs I know will take food from strangers, and that stranger will become THEIR BEST FRIEND. I'm pretty sure if the stranger was a wifebeater, child molester, rapist, serial killer, etc. etc., the dog really wouldn't give two shits, unless it was a SUPER DOG.

Most dogs aren't super dogs.

Some dogs love their owners, owners who beat them on a regular basis.

Just sayin.'
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:40 PM on December 2, 2010

Is there a way to convince dogs I come in peace, and would really rather peacefully be far, far away from them? Is there a way to convince you, the owner, that I just really, really don't want to touch your dog, and oh my god, is it licking it's mouth while staring at me?

Oh yeah, for those of with "reactive" or "troubled" dogs, we actually thank you for not approaching our dogs, or trying to be buddies with them. I in fact wish everyone were this way. Somehow the notion got around that all dogs should be friendly with strangers, and strangers should just go up to them and pat dogs head and dogs will be lick and wag their tails, etc. etc. got strangely popular.

For those of us who are trying to train our reactive dogs, random strangers coming up to them REALLY SUCKS SOMETIMES. It undoes all the training we've done for the past weeks/months/years and instead of the calmness we're aspiring towards, we've taken another step backwards, because the dog will bark/growl/lunge, etc.

So you are just dandy staying where you are and ignoring us. If I do bother you, it might be to ask them to sit and toss them a treat (that I will hand over to you.) And then we'll be on our merry way.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:49 PM on December 2, 2010

Oh, and just to pipe in (a THIRD TIME!!!)...I stopped trusting dogs after I started realizing many dogs don't like people who are of a different skin color than their owners. I've known a dog who barks crazily at white people, another dog who growls at anybody dark-skinned....

And it's not that the dogs were trained to be prejudiced. Many dogs just don't like people who look "different."

So if my dog (or any of my friends' dogs) growls at you (and you're just another stranger at a party or on the street), I never think "what's wrong with that person?" I just think it's another unfortunate quirk that the dog has.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:55 PM on December 2, 2010

If you say you "don't like dogs" I'll think you're a jerk. You're writing off an ENTIRE SPECIES. I've met individual dogs I didn't like -- cats and people too -- but I'm generally on reasonable terms with most of them, and -- like ROU Xenophobe -- I think that's a standard social skill in most of North America.

If you tell me you're "uncomfortable around dogs," fair enough. Maybe you've had a bad experience; maybe you're unfamiliar with them and can't read their body language. No problem; we'll just get together somewhere other than my place.

I won't "put my dog out of the room" for anyone, mind you. He lives here; you don't.
posted by tangerine at 3:05 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Chiming in late, but I am pretty sure my dogs take fear as a sign of aggression - so that if they come across someone who doesn't like/fears dogs, they try to defend me.
posted by Pax at 10:45 PM on December 4, 2010

(or what parallax7d said)
posted by Pax at 10:48 PM on December 4, 2010

Also, as a lot of people have said, I have nothing against non-dog people and I understand the fear/ick-factor stuff, but for me, a potential partner probably wouldn't make it past go if he didn't love dogs, just because they're part of me and my home.
posted by Pax at 10:57 PM on December 4, 2010

Here, I'll simplify the psychology for you:

(1) (Most likely) You were invading the her territory. Intruder! You were standing next to her beloved owner. Unknown quantity = threat to owner! The dog was watching you intently the moment you came into range. You didn't send out anything she recognized as friendly signals. So she became uncertain, defensive, fearful, upset, and you got the defensive growl. [this was not a Totally Happy Dopey Dog type of dog]

(2A) (Less likely but easily possible) You look, act, or smell like someone she had a bad experience with long ago.

(2B) (Less likely to unlikely) She was watching both of you. She sensed her master was uncertain about you, so you got the growl.

(3) (Least likely) You're the dog Anti-Christ


(1) Learn how to speak Dog. (This is not how dogs speak to each other. Though you could do that too.) This is the collection of signals (body language and voice) that humans send out that dogs key in on. This is not a universal language. It varies based on what the dog is used to seeing and hearing. Hang out with dog people and watch what they do, and how they do it. And you have to watch dogs, too, and be sensitive to them, and their ways, and quickly know when something isn't working so then you change it.
posted by coffeefilter at 3:24 AM on December 6, 2010

« Older Point me in the right direction!   |   Tell me what it is like to live in Charlottetown? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.