Dogs are a gift to us – one that often times we, as humans, don’t even deserve. They are loyal, loving, trusting, and just plain cute and cuddly creatures – it’s no wonder they’re called mans best friend.
It’s no surprise that most (sane) people truly can’t resist the urge to immediately detour from their path in order to give pets and coo over every single dog they pass in the street, at the park, or really anywhere else. I know I do it.
This is usually harmless, and dog owners most times welcome (although sometimes just tolerate) the attention their furry friends have attracted. However, not knowing how to properly greet a dog can result in a less than desirable situation. After all – dogs are animals, and accidents can happen.
A How-To Guide
In an attempt to eliminate those accidents, we’ve decided to give you a little introduction, some of our go-to tips, on how to properly greet a dog.
- Always Ask First
This may seem like common sense, but in fact many people approach dogs in public without even asking consent from the dogs owner. Not only is it a proper courtesy to ask permission to interact with someone’s pet, but additionally, no one knows a dog better than it’s owner. The owner will more than likely let you know if the dog will be accepting of attention, or if it’s better to leave him or her be.
- Avoid Direct Eye Contact/Movements
Once you’ve gotten permission from the dog’s owner to approach the dog, you can, but make sure to be aware of how you are doing so. The first tip is to avoid direct eye contact – aka don’t stare – and to approach the dog from the side, rather than head-on.
Dogs tend to interpret direct eye contact and head-on approaches as a challenge. This can put the dog on edge and shoot them into defensive mode.
- Don’t Hover
We know you don’t like it when people hover over you, so why would you think a dog would be any different?
Rather than bending over top of the dog, it’s best to lower yourself beside the dog so you are more at eye level with them. This way you are seen as less of a threat and the dog is more likely to feel comfortable with your presence.
- Let the Dog Approach You
Lastly, but still importantly, let the dog guide the interaction. Before petting the dog, let him sniff your hand. If after this, he wants you to pet him, you will know – and if he doesn’t, you will also know.
If the dog begins to retreat, let it. Don’t chase after the dog or try to force an interaction. Your no-longer wanted attention may be seen as a threat, and could cause the dog to become irritated or defensive.
This may seem like a lot of cautions to take – it’s just a cute little dog after all, right? Wrong. Approaching a dog the wrong way can intimidate, frighten, or anger it, and if it becomes irritated or defensive, it can become dangerous. Dog bites, while typically not fatal, can leave permanent physical, and even mental damage.
Always approach new dogs with caution and let the dog decide if they want your attention or not – usually doing so will end with lots of puppy love… but if it doesn’t, there is always going to be another dog, another day.