Originally Posted by GordMay
If your (restrained) animal sees new encounters with people as a fight or die situation – you have sadly failed that animal, and have no right to expose the public (nor that animal) to that natural (but unacceptable & illegal) response.
I agree completely with your statement, Gord. And since I contributed the "fight or die" phrase to the discussion, I'd be remiss if I didn't explain myself better. I had written the following:
Originally Posted by TaoJones
As to the notion of approaching a dog on a leash without asking permission, I wouldn't recommend it either. From the dog's point-of-view, you are invading his/her territory. Furthermore, the dog feels trapped by the leash, so his "fight-or-flight" option is reduced to "fight-or-die." What's more, a dog may interpret your approach as a threat to "his" human at the other end of the leash, and react violently in defense.
What I had meant to convey was that a dog on a leash feels cornered, and if a stranger approaches, the dog may
interpret that as aggression. Further, the dog may
react aggressively to that because his option to flee is taken from him/her by the leash, therefore don't assume it is OK to approach a dog you don't know, and who doesn't know you.
Most dogs with even a modicum of socialization will not react that way, thankfully, but it is best to keep in mind that our four-legged friends have evolved from wolves, after all. What's more, dogs retain a collective memory of countless depredations visited upon the family Canidae
A dog may even react aggressively if he is experiencing pain or discomfort for some reason. Most often, what many people call an "attack" is merely a warning display meant to strongly convey the message that the dog doesn't want his space invaded.
Most people correctly interpret the dog's message, especially if it's a harmless-looking little Shih Tzu. But when it's a Gran Canaria or a Rottweiler, for instance, real fear can be delivered along with the "back off" message, and the human ego doesn't take that well.
The correct approach is to ask the owner's permission to "invade" the dog's space and pet the animal. If permission is given, s-l-o-w-l-y present the back
of your hand to the dog so that he can get a good whiff of your scent.
Do not hastily reach to stroke the top of the dog's head
with your palm. Even a well-socialized dog may instinctively regard this as intent to strike a blow (see collective memory, above). Most dogs will duck away, but some may bite. This is your fault, not the dog's.
I hope this additional information more clearly imparts what I had meant to state.