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Bobby had a reaction I’ve never seen before. Our neighbor across the alley, who is very nice, and we’ve known for several years came to say to “Hi,” to Bobby. It is only the second time he had direct contact with Bobby. We are working on polite greetings so I had him sit and then the neighbor put out his hand and Bobby sniffed. Normally Bobby is quite polite with the exception of his favorite people, to whom he exhibits more excitement. I am noticing he is becoming a bit more reserved with strangers, especially if they are too fast or go in for the top knot. He really does not like being petted on his head but the neighbor approached him slowly, let him sniff but respectfully went no further. Right at this point Bobby actually backed up and then turned his head. It was so apparent he was bothered. It was probably a polite response in dog language but I was genuinely surprised as Bobby has never reacted quite like that. He obviously was uncomfortable but didn’t growl or try and run. They have a dog who sometimes barks at Bobby when we walk by their house and Bobby just ignores it. It’s actually been awhile since I‘ve seen their dog so it’s really not a regular issue. Do you think it was their dog’s smell? Is Bobby just becoming more reserved? The neighbor works in their garage a lot, a funny smell maybe?
Thoughts anybody? As a person who has hopes of him being a therapy dog, should I be concerned? He can be a cautious dog but he is usually all about meeting people. I was surprised.
 

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Poodles have a bit of a reputation for being aloof around non-family members, but of course individuals differ.

Why Does My Dog Duck When I Pat Him on the Head? is one of many Internet articles that discuss this. That one is by AKC. It explains why, and goes on to say:

"Teach Your Dog Head Pats Are a Good Thing - The simplest way to do this is to use a clicker to click and then immediately treat whenever you reach toward your dog. Or, in lieu of a clicker, just say a positive short praise word, like “yes” and then treat."

Fine for therapy dogs, but I can't say I'd want mine so friendly with strangers that it accepts food from anyone. Someone could do a 'grab & run' with your poodle if it's small enough or even a good sized dog on a leash. When Bella was a puppy, I went for a walk and a 10 or 11 year old girl begged to hold her. Bad idea. The kid was impulsive and wanted to run off with her, but her mom quickly made her give Bella back with the kid now whining "But Mom, I want a little puppy!"

Mine are toy poodles, and their heads are so small that I have never reached over to do the head pat. It just feels like I'd be thumping on their brains and a little disrespectful. As a kid, I didn't like it either. For your Bobby, I'd just tell others he's head shy and doesn't like it.
 

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Turning his head was likely an appeasement gesture, which (I think) is a perfectly appropriate thing for a well-socialized poodle to do.


Maybe the neighbour had an imposing vibe. Tall? Silhouetted by the sun? So many possibilities.

I've started kneeling when I meet dogs, angled slightly away. This seems to invite them more into my space.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank you PTP and Vita. I wouldn’t be terribly concerned if we didn’t have therapy dog goals. Bobby, while head shy and sometimes reserved, it doesn’t present issues in my mind. I will talk to the trainer when he starts his CGC class and see if the head patting thing and head turning will be an issue. I know they have to offer polite greetings but not sure exactly what that entails. Is scratching under the chin acceptable? He likes that. He likes his ears scratched too. I wonder if we are allowed to say that during the test? That’s my biggest concern for his ability to pass the test along with the opposite response which is excitement. If it will be a problem I will begin with the training ideas you suggested, Vita. I do tell people where Bobby likes to be petted when he’s uncomfortable. PTP, the neighbor is tall and the sun was low so who knows what Bobby was thinking. I think it was the smell though or maybe the combo.
I sure do wish dogs could talk so he can tell me why he didn’t like our nice neighbor. 😉
 

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Fine for therapy dogs, but I can't say I'd want mine so friendly with strangers that it accepts food from anyone. Someone could do a 'grab & run' with your poodle if it's small enough or even a good sized dog on a leash. When Bella was a puppy, I went for a walk and a 10 or 11 year old girl begged to hold her. Bad idea. The kid was impulsive and wanted to run off with her, but her mom quickly made her give Bella back with the kid now whining "But Mom, I want a little puppy!"
I was at a park with my pup and was surrounded by a group of children. Things were OK; however, there was a young boy, about 10-12 years old I'm guessing, who twice asked if he could take Rocky down the slide with him. The first time he asked, I thought it odd because the slide was about 20 feet, I thought he's too old to be so excited about going down a slide and why the heck do you think a dog would enjoy going down a slide? The second time he asked I had the realization that he may want to run away with Rocky. It was an eye opener to realize I can't trust all children - Rocky was comfortable being held, petted and the center of attention.
 

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I can't speak to the accuracy of this, but it sounds promising for you (and also reasonable):

"You are to command your dog to 'sit' for this exercise. I recommend that you courteously instruct the Evaluator to approach your dog from the side and to pet your dog under the chin or on its chest, in keeping with generally acceptable protocols of human/dog interaction. Under no circumstances should your dog be expected to tolerate a fast, direct approach from a stranger making direct eye contact with your dog, with the intent of 'patting' your dog on the head. This exercise, and Test Item 3: Appearance and Grooming, are the only exercises when the handler is allowed to physically touch their dog. You may place your hand gently under the collar of your dog to encourage it to stay in the sit position while being touched or groomed by the friendly stranger, and you may repeatedly give the 'Sit' command and praise. However, you may not force your dog to maintain its sitting position by placing your hands on its body or pulling on the leash."

 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thank you so much for this information, PTP! Very helpful, definitely quite reasonable and so encouraging! 😊
 
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