My family has a very cute Brussels griffon dog. The breed is uncommon where we live, so he attracts a lot of attention. Many people are eager to touch him, which our dog doesn’t like. When people ask to pet him, we say he’s not friendly or joke that “he doesn’t like people messing up his hair.” Still, people try to touch him anyway, and our dog growls or snaps. Then they’re upset! Should we train our dog to be friendlier with strangers or be more direct with them? —Troy
Assuming your adorable dog is on a leash and doesn’t snap without provocation, no need for further training. Simply amend your response to include the word no. (May I touch him? “No, he snaps.”) Skip the cutesy grooming talk; it minimizes the danger. For the rest of us: It can feel great to smile and nod at passersby on the street. But that doesn’t give us license to touch them, their dogs, or their children. It’s called personal space, people.
—Adapted from “Social Q’s” in The New York Times Magazine