Can I Pet That Dog

Dogs are beloved pets for many people. Their friendly, affectionate nature makes them appealing companions. However, not all dogs are open to being petted by strangers. As a general rule, it’s best to ask for permission before petting an unfamiliar dog.

Reasons to Ask Before Petting

Owner Preferences

Some dog owners prefer that strangers do not pet or interact with their pets without permission. They may be training their dog not to approach strangers or their dog may be unfriendly to unfamiliar people. Asking first respects the owner’s wishes.

Dog Comfort Level

Not all dogs enjoy petting, even from people they don’t know. A dog may be anxious, poorly socialized, or simply not in the mood. Petting an uncomfortable or frightened dog can provoke growling or snapping. Asking gives the dog a chance to walk away if they don’t want attention.


You cannot tell if a strange dog is aggressive just by looking. A dog that seems perfectly friendly could still react negatively if startled or hurt. Asking lets the owner warn you if their dog has any issues before petting to prevent bites.

How to Ask to Pet a Dog

Make eye contact with the owner, not the dog, and ask politely, “May I pet your dog?” Wait for them to respond before interacting with the dog. Respect their answer if they say no and do not pressure or plead with them to change their mind.

If they say yes, approach the dog slowly and let it sniff your hand before petting gently. Stop if the dog seems scared or tries to move away. Also immediately stop petting if the owner asks you to.

Asking first is always a good idea when encountering an unfamiliar dog. It shows consideration for both the owner and the dog’s feelings. Following their lead makes petting more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Signs a Dog Wants to be Petted

While you should always ask first, some behaviors indicate a dog is open to being petted. If a dog approaches you with a wagging tail and solicits pets, they are giving you permission. Other welcoming signs are a relaxed body, soft eyes, and leaning toward you.

How to Pet a Dog Safely

Once given the okay to pet a dog, make sure to do so properly. Pet their chest, shoulders, or back, avoiding sensitive areas like the face or tail. Use gentle strokes and pay attention to the dog’s reaction. Stop immediately if they stiffen, growl, or try to move away from you.

What to Avoid When Petting

Do not make direct eye contact with a dog as that can seem threatening. Do not pet a dog without letting them see and sniff you first. Avoid crowding them or looming over them. And never pet a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.

Petting Etiquette for Service Dogs

Service dogs have special rules. Never distract them from their job by petting, speaking to, or offering food without the owner’s permission. The recommended way to interact with a service dog is to ignore them and speak only to the handler.

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