My friend passed along this frustrating tale of walking her dog in Brooklyn over the weekend, and I wanted to share her story with you and get your take on the right and wrong . . . and the best solution:
Q: While walking my dog on Saturday afternoon down a side street, I stopped to pick up my dog's poop and, while I was taking care of his business, a child about four or five years old came up behind me and reached for my dog with her spare hand holding a bagel. I turned around right as my pooch went for the bagel and was able to pull him away before he grabbed it. The adult said nothing, gave me a "look of death," and dragged the child away by the other hand. I was shocked! If my pooch had grabbed the bagel, I'm sure it would have caused a scene, nevermind if the pooch wasn't as friendly as mine is. Shouldn't the mom pay more attention to her kid and not let her approach a strange dog with hands out . . . especially while appearing to offer food? What do you think?
See my answer when you read more.
A: First off, no child or adult should ever pet a dog without checking with the owner first, so I'm siding with the dog owner here. Parents of both four-legged and two-legged kids must remain alert at all times on busy sidewalks. As smart as pooches are, they can't be expected to tell the difference between you holding food out for the pet to take and a stranger appearing to do the same thing.
My best recommendation whenever you're on a busy sidewalk is to be mindful of what's coming up next. If you see children (or any distraction that could cause tangles and scenes), switch hands and walk on the sidewalk with your pup on the opposite side of the approaching people. This may mean walking with a dog's leash in the hand closest to the street or the hand closest to the buildings. It may sound harsh, but you can also address the approaching parent with "watch the hands" before the child gets close enough to reach out — although they may be miffed by your directness, it's better that than tears (or worse!) afterwards.