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Hello, Nice to Meet You!: How to Greet Unfamiliar Dogs

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

I'm not really sure the origins of "put your hand out for the dog to sniff you". Maybe from the horse world? But I digress; the fact is so many people I meet in public have no idea how to greet a dog they don't know. At best this is annoying to the dog, at worst you can get seriously injured. Here's some tips on the proper ways to go about making friends.

First, please, don't put your hand in a dogs face. For starters they smelt you a ways off, they don't need your hand to smell you. Also, think of it from the dog's perspective. This strange person walks up to you and then reaches towards your nose for seemingly no reason. Its weird and frankly rude. In fact don't bend towards the dog at all. Simply stand to the side of the dog and let them investigate you. Make no moves toward them to touch them until they feel comfortable, and when you do touch them on their back or under their chin. Most dogs do not like being reached over their head from a stranger. Move naturally, not quickly and not overly slow. We tell our clients, "Don't be "weird", just act natural and calm".

When you ask to pet someone's dog, wait until they have actually answered. Full stop. I get this all the time working dogs in public, "Can I pet your dog?" as they are already reaching in to do so. Generally these people are met with a "No thank you, this dog is currently working". You'd be surprised how many people do not like this answer. As if dogs are in public simply to be pet by everyone. The fact is this is a huge safety concern for all involved. Maybe that dog is working on socialization issues and isn't comfortable with strangers yet, your coming in and invading their space can actually set them back in their work. Maybe they are a service dog that needs to be paying attention to their owner (yes, even in a vest I STILL get people that reach in while asking). It is not your right to pet any dog you see, and it is unfair to think all dogs MUST accept anything a stranger does.

Please teach your children as such! I will be posting a blog about child dog interactions but I will briefly touch on it here. Dogs do not have to be comfortable with children. Full stop. Not every dog is suitable for children, and not all children are suitable for dogs. NEVER allow ear or tail pulling, climbing on the dog (even dogs bigger than the child), the child being anywhere near a dogs food bowl; your dogs will put up with these behaviors, until they wont. And that never ends well for the dog. Do not allow your children to run up to unfamiliar dogs, or familiar dogs for that matter. It is your responsibility, not the dog, to manage your child in such a way that they are safe. For your children and the dogs' sake, be very careful! Err on the side of caution and if you feel you can't control the situation do not allow the child and dog near each other. As a mother and dog owner myself this is something I am deeply passionate about and specialize in. Please reach out if you are having dog child issues.

Respect the owner's wishes, always. Ask, pause, if they tell you no be polite. if they say yes, move closer and to the side of the dog and let them get to know you on their terms before moving to touch them. Do not come towards them head on, this is considered rude in dog language and generally would start a dog confrontation. Do not make direct eye contact, this is also rude in dog language. Act calm and natural and thank the owner for letting you meet their dog.

For the Dogs,

Christina, DTFC

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