A client recently shared a story about her dog biting a stranger. The stranger approached, leaned over and reached his hand towards the dog in one fell swoop to allow the dog to sniff. The dog was startled and bit. Obviously upset, she asked what she could have done to prevent this.
As dog owners, it’s our responsibility to be advocates for our dog. Things can happen in a blink of an eye; unfortunately, the reality is that many humans do not know how to properly greet a dog.
Sophia Yin, DVM, a renowned author and expert on animal handling and behavior notes that “all would be well if humans heeded the two golden rules—never pet a dog without owner permission, and always let the dog make first contact. Instead, well-wishers approach too quickly, crowd too closely, or loom over like a thunderstorm ready to dump its load.”
Many of us were taught that the way to meet a dog is to approach and push your hand towards the dog to let him sniff. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work well with all dogs.
So, what is the proper way to meet a new dog?
Don’t run or move quickly towards the dog. Remind children not to squeal, jump or wave their arms around.
Don’t lean over the dog and don’t push your hand towards the dog’s face.
Don’t pat the dog’s head, wrap your arms around him in a big hug or try to grab a foot to “shake.”
Don’t scare the dog with your tone of voice or by staring at him.
Turn your body away from the dog and don’t make eye contact.
Allow the dog to approach you. If he doesn’t approach, he may be nervous or simply not interested in a meet and greet.
Don’t pat the dog on top of his head; scratch his chin or pet his back or side instead. Be aware of the dogs’ body language.
Dr. Yin notes that the dog should be “relaxed and his gaze should be steady and soft. His tail should either wag or hang loosely down. If humans would let dogs approach them at their own pace and would even make treats magically appear on the ground around them without pressuring the dog to allowing being petted, they would experience many good dog greetings and help Fido experience good greetings too.”