The other day Facebook told me that one of my most popular posts from this week was a picture of how to greet a dog (see picture below) that I had shared, so I thought I’d write a blog about it. I really like this illustration because it pinpoints exactly how to greet a dog in a proper way.
Every so often I am met by either adults or kids in our neighborhood who wants to greet our dogs. Depending on the day my answers vary – sometimes I tell them that yes they can pet or give them a treat, and other times I tell them no. Some react politely to the no, while others become offended and some even yell rude and mean things after us.
Here is why dog owners are allowed to say no to you greeting their dog and why you should respect that.
Before you even start greeting a strange dog you should always ask the owner for permission. If the owner says no, respect it. The owner is not saying no to be mean. Usually there is a very good reason for their response, after all they know their dog(s) best. Maybe the dog is sick, maybe the dog just doesn’t like to be petted by strangers, maybe they get too excited, maybe they are under training or maybe the owner just wants to be left alone that day…for whatever reason they have it is okay, because it is their dog(s) and their decision.
If the owner says yes, here is how to greet a dog:
1. Let the dog come to you.
First you will have to check if the dog is even interested in saying hello to you – Do they come over and sniff you? Do you see a wagging tale and a relaxed body and face? Remember a wagging tale doesn’t always mean that the dog is friendly or happy (Read here about the many meanings behind a tailwag) or are they moving away from you, either on their way to new sniffing adventures or simply because they don’t want to have any contact with you. Don’t come running or screaming towards the dog and don’t provoke them in any way. Stay calm and they will too.
NEVER EVER try to pet a dog that is moving away from you – the dog might be spooked and even worse snap at you out of fear!
2. Make yourself friendly
If the dog seems interested in greeting you, kneel down with your side turned to the dog and let him/her sniff your hand. Bending down over a dog is highly intimidating for a dog. Actually, I would think it would also be highly intimidating for a human. I know I would be scared if a stranger bend down over me. If a sniff of the hand is all you get, respect that. Sometimes dogs just want to sniff you and then move on, and then maybe next time you meet them they will allow a pet.
3. How to pet a dog.
If the dog is interested in a pet, you can start rubbing his/her chest or rear-end. Dogs often turn their butt to you as a friendly gesture for you to pet them. Do not pet the dog on his/her head or back as that can be scary for dogs and do not EVER try to hug a dog or bend down to kiss it. Restraining or holding on to a dog can lead to a dog lashing out, out of fear or frustration, leading to an unhappy experience for both you and the dog.
4. Listen to the owner.
If they tell you that you can give them a treat but that their dog is too excited to be petted right now (after all he is on his own adventure right now), then do that instead. Then you also make a positive association for the dog, telling him that strangers are a good thing cause they give me yummy treats. Let the dog walk away if he wants to, and don’t follow him.
5. Teach your children.
Be a role model and show your children how to properly greet a dog and tell them never to approach an unattended dog. Some dogs react differently to children. Some love them and others are more insecure about them. In our neighborhood, children are constantly running around and playing and often come running towards us to pet the dogs. If there are too many or they are too excited I tell them no to petting our dogs. Imagine how overwhelming and scary it must be to have 20 hands reaching out to touch you!
Read more here about child-dog interaction
As a dog owner it is your responsibility to evaluate the situation and remove your dog from situations that can be scary or overwhelming. Just like children need to have a positive association with dogs, dogs also need to have a positive association with children and that only comes with successful and calm meet-ups controlled by you the owner.
I hope you found this little tutorial helpful and as always feel free to send me questions if you have any,
Do you know someone who is afraid of dogs? Or do you want to know how to greet a strange dog, Then go to this post