Shannon Kidd

We live in a city that boasts 33 dog parks and earns frequent online mentions as the number-one city for dogs, so it’s safe to say the average Portlander feels a special admiration for humanity’s best, most ignorant, smelly, and gluttonous friend. But how does one harness and direct their over-abundant affection? (In other words, how can you pet all the dogs?)

Let’s start with service animals and what not to do: Generally speaking, when you see a service animal, they are doing their job. Strolling up and petting these typically well-behaved and cordial mutts without checking to see if they’re on break is similar to walking into a strip club and striking up a discussion with a dancer while they’re giving someone else a lap dance. We can all agree that would be awkward and distracting. Even if a service animal is on break, stop to consider whether or not a barista would enjoy you interrupting their smoke break—even if you’re interrupting to hand them a tip for services they haven’t yet provided.

While we’re here, let’s talk consent. Despite what some people seem to think, not all dogs want your filthy, sweaty hands all over them, or your breath scented with food that they’ve been denied being mockingly forced into their nostrils. So approach all dogs with a sense of courteous caution. Also, just because the dog consents doesn’t mean its human companion is thrilled by the prospect of you harming or abducting their dearest friend. The average pup is about as smart as a human toddler, so chances are that super friendly corgi begging for pats hasn’t yet learned about stranger danger. In other words, a dog’s human is more than just a friend; they’re guardians, and you should always always always seek the consent and guidance of a toddler’s legal guardian before treating them as your own.

And now, some specifics: It’s a good idea to observe the relationship between dog and guardian before you ask permission to invade their space. If the dog is small and being carried in a stroller, puppy Bjørn, or similar novelty, their guardian likely considers it to be their child and, whether or not you agree, etiquette dictates that you play along—at least if you want to enjoy some sweet doggy kisses. If the dog is large and allowed to roam free, its guardians are free-range parents, which is great—but approach these dogs with extra caution. All that freedom means additional confidence in their doggydom, which could translate to anything from a face covered in slobber, to a leg drenched in cum, to a broken arm. If the canine is particularly small and roaming freely instead of staying in its natural habitat (its guardian’s lap), feel free to pick it up and throw it back at its human companions.

I’m just kidding about that last part, but seriously—that shit’s unacceptable.