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How to Greet New Dogs

  • Heidi

10 Tips to Ensure a Positive Encounter

Close-up of a dog's face
Photo by David Schap

It can be hard for a dog lover to curb their enthusiasm when meeting a new four-legged friend. However, it’s important to take the right steps when greeting a strange dog for the first time.

Each dog and dog encounter is unique. While many dogs love people and making new friends, some experience fear and apprehension with strangers. There are also physical impairments like vision or hearing loss that can add anxiety to a dog’s interaction with a stranger. When a dog is afraid, they are more likely to bite, and a bad interaction can lead to more negative interactions in the future.

Before interacting with a dog that you don’t know, it is vital to speak with their human. By taking this very important first step, an owner can provide valuable insight into a dog’s personality and demeanor. Once this communication has been established, be sure to pay attention to the dog’s signals. Following these simple steps will ensure a positive experience for both you and the dog you are greeting.

  1. Ask for permission. Do not approach a dog before speaking with their human first.
  2. Don’t be afraid. Dogs are keenly aware of human emotions and can see them as examples of how they should feel. If you are afraid, a dog may become afraid.
  3. Avoid eye contact. While many humans see eye contact as a way to gain trust, dogs can see it as aggressive.
  4. Approach from the side. Standing side by side with a dog instead of facing them can help gain a dog’s trust because they think you’re mimicking their behavior.
  5. Squat or stand. Do not crouch or bend over a dog; this can appear menacing. Instead, squat or stand near them.
  6. Let her approach you. When and if a dog feels comfortable with you, she will approach you when she’s ready and will feel more in control of the situation.
  7. Offer a hand. Offer a closed fist for her to smell, this will appear smaller and less threatening than an open hand.
  8. Pet with care. Don’t pet a dog’s head or backend unless the dog encourages it. Chin scratches, neck rubs, or chest pets will keep your new friend feeling relaxed and comfortable.
  9. Read her signals. When a dog is done with an interaction, they will often let you know by changing positions, so your hand no longer touches them.
  10. Know when to stop. If a dog backs away from you, seems afraid, or exhibits signs of aggression, immediately stop what you’re doing and give her space. Meeting strangers can be fearful for some dogs, be respectful of their feelings.

To learn more about positive interactions with dogs, contact our Obedience Academy for tips.

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