It is basic respect if you see a dog in public that you want to pet to first ask the dog’s owner for permission. Sometimes, the owners will politely decline (for reasons they do not even have to explain), and that is okay.
One man shared his unpleasant experience with a woman and her child who insisted on petting his dog while he was at a store, claiming that her son was “just a kid” who was entitled to touch the dog since he “loved” them. Now, the man is wondering if he was wrong for the way he reacted.
The man was with his service dog when a mother and her child approached him, asking if they could pet him.
Sharing his story to the subreddit, r/AITA, the 20-year-old man revealed that he has severe PTSD and struggles with anxiety and depression.
“I don’t go out much. If it gets loud, I’ll have a PTSD flashback/anxiety attack and collapse,” he admitted. To help deal with his issues in public, the man revealed he has a service dog named Rex, who alerts him when he is about to have an anxiety attack. “He’s done really well with commands and alerting me,” the man wrote.
One day, the man needed to pick up groceries and his medication at a local store, and he and Rex took the trip. “Rex had his service vest on, stating to not distract him as he was working, and that he was a service dog,” he shared.
Photo: MAKSYM CHUB / Shutterstock
While at the store, the man encountered a family in one of the aisles, a father, a mother and a little boy who looked to be around six years old. “The entitled kid tugged on his mother’s arm, pointing at Rex and screaming he wanted to pet him,” the man wrote. “The mother hushed the kid, & upon seeing me and Rex, she made her way over.”
As she approached the man, Rex signaled to him that his heart rate was starting to spike, and he rewarded him with a treat. The woman then asked the man if her son could pet his dog since he wouldn’t stop “whining” about it, and it would be quick.
The man politely told her no but her response was alarming.
“Well if you’re gonna bring a dog in here, wouldn’t you expect a little kid to wanna play with them? Don’t be so selfish and let my kid pet him,” she said to the man.
Photo: FatCamera from Getty Images Signature / Canva Pro
At this point, the man’s anxiety was growing worse, and his dog began pawing at his leg, signaling him to sit and calm down to bring down his heart rate. “I went to go to the counter for my medication, moving to go down another aisle to get away from the kid,” the man wrote. “As soon as Rex was out of the kid’s vision, he began SCREAMING at the top of his lungs, ‘Mommy! I wanna pet the puppy!””
After the man retrieved his medication, the woman asked him again if her son could pet the dog, and once again, he told her no. “If he is distracted it could be life-threatening for me,” the man explained. Still, the woman was not satisfied with his response.
“How dare you?! Why must you be so selfish? My kid is only six years old and loves dogs, let him pet your dog!” the woman yelled at the man. She also threatened to call animal control unless he let her son pet the dog. At this point, the father intervened and apologized for his wife and son’s behavior. “I heard her continue to scream, threatening to call the police and animal control on me,” the man recalled as he left the store.
After the interaction, he sat down with Rex’s head in his lap for 30 minutes until the anxiety symptoms eased.
The majority of people agreed with the man since his dog was a service dog who could not be distracted by people petting him.
“A service dog is not the same as a pet. And even if your dog was strictly a pet, that doesn’t mean strangers are entitled to pet him,” one Reddit user commented. “Your dog has a job, and it’s not to mitigate the tantrums of strangers’ children.”
“I don’t care if your dog was a service dog or not, no one is entitled to pet your dog if you don’t want them to,” another user pointed out.
Other people noted that the child was going to have a pretty difficult life if his mother never wanted him to be told no.
“Just because a kid loves dogs does not mean that he has the right to go and pet every dog he sees, and the sooner he learns that, the better his life will be,” one user commented. “Your kid does not walk on water. The world does not revolve around them nor should it,” another user wrote.
If a child is told no, they may be upset, but more often than not, their life will not be in danger. If a child disregards a person’s request not to touch their service dog, the person’s life very well could be at risk.
Photo: 24K-Production / Shutterstock
The dog, if distracted, may miss an important signal that could imply that their owner is experiencing a medical emergency.
But beyond working dogs, we should be able to control our cuteness aggression long enough to refrain from touching a dog we see in public, even if they are not a service dog. You wouldn’t touch someone’s baby in a stroller in public without their parent’s permission. The same applies to dogs.
You must always get consent before touching and petting them.
Megan Quinn is a writer at YourTango who covers entertainment and news, self, love, and relationships.