As dog lovers, we all get excited whenever we see a furry face or a bushy butt out and about. We understand that the urge to run over and pet them can be overwhelming, but not all dogs will understand our joy and it may come across as threatening to them.
We’re glad you’re here to learn proper etiquette in meeting a dog for the first time, and we’re confident that your furry friends will grow in number after reading our guide!
Why you need to learn how to greet a dog for the first time
Like humans, dogs have personalities. Some may enjoy and bask in any attention they receive regardless who it comes from, while others may be shy or fearful around strangers, or may not like being fussed over at all.
The primary reason for this guide is safety. When put in a situation he doesn’t like, a dog may fall back on his survival instincts – barking, or worse, biting. We want to help prevent any unfortunate incidents. The secondary reasons for this guide are to show our furry friends the respect they deserve and to make the befriending process as smooth as possible.
That being said, let’s jump right in!
How NOT to greet a new dog you’ve just met
Imagine seeing a fluffy dog while out on a walk, what do you do? You make a beeline towards the dog, gushing how cute he is, can’t tear your eyes away him, and probably try to pet him on the head as soon as you get near enough. This is the worst possible way to approach a dog you’ve never met before, and here’s why.
Put yourself in the dog’s place – a stranger approaching at a rapid pace, making loud, high-pitched noises, staring at you directly in the eyes and invading your space. A lot of dogs will find this behavior quite threatening and may get scared or defensive. Notice that some dogs will back away suddenly or growl in these situations. While your intentions are completely friendly, all they may see is a large stranger looming closer and attempting to take hold of them.
Here is a list of behavior to avoid when meeting a dog for the first time:
- DON’T approach a dog suddenly or rapidly
- DON’T make loud noises such as squealing or clapping
- DON’T look him directly in the eyes
- DON’T pet him on the head immediately
- DON’T pick him up
- DON’T kiss or hug him
- DON’T approach him from behind
Proper way to greet a new dog
There are just 2 simple rules for a successful doggy meet-and greet: always get the owner’s permission and allow the dog to approach you first. If you keep just these two rules in mind, you can avoid any awkward situations or unsafe incidents. Below is a step-by-step guide for proper doggy greeting etiquette.
- Get the owner’s permission – always, always ask for permission before approaching a dog. It’s the polite thing to do, and the owner will appreciate this gesture. Equally important, an owner knows his dog, and will be able to warn you if his dog is not comfortable being touched or doesn’t like strangers. If the dog is tied up and the owner is not around, wait for the owner to return so you can ask for permission.
- Stay relaxed – put on a smile, make sure your body is not tense. A dog will be able to read your body language; by staying relaxed you signal to him that you’re not a threat.
- Don’t look him in the eyes – looking a dog directly in the eyes is a sign of aggression and the dog will tense up.
- Squat to his level – you can approach a dog up to about 5 feet away, no closer. Observe his body language to see if he’s okay with this; he should be relaxed, no teeth bared, no growling, tail should be neutral or wagging. At that point, stop and squat so that you’re at level with the dog. You can also stand instead of squatting, just don’t bend over him.
- Wait for him to approach – if a dog is interested in making your acquaintance, he should make his way over to you at this point. You can hold out your hand for him to smell (not too close to his face, make a fist, offer back of the hand), or let him smell around you as he pleases. This is how he “makes your acquaintance”. Once he does this and seems relaxed, you’re in the clear.
- Stroke on chest or back – do not pet his head or face; gentle strokes on the chest or back (or neck) is the best way to keep him comfortable. Keep it short at just 3-5 strokes.
- Observe – at this point, the dog will signal his continued interest. He may stay in place and let you continue petting him, or he may walk away, signalling that the encounter is over. Whatever the case, allow him to do as he pleases; and also, you’ve already made a friend. 🙂
If at any point during the encounter, the dog barks or backs away, do not persist. Respect the dog’s wishes, and, if you have to, walk away to end the encounter. Don’t forget to thank the owner whatever the outcome.
- Pet gently. You might forget to be gentle when you’re excited, but a dog will enjoy gentle petting more than rough petting.
- Treat him like it’s the first time. If it’s been a while since you last saw a particular dog, you may have to go through the getting-to-know-you steps again. Or you might not have to, the dog will let you know through his behavior. Same goes for the second and third time you meet him, until he recognizes your smell and is comfortable with you.
- Try and try again. If a dog is not interested in meeting you the first time, don’t fret! You can try again the next time you see him. He may just be pre-occupied with something else he’s seen, or irritable because it’s a hot day, or any dozens of other reasons. If he shows aggression however (barking or snarling), be extra careful the next time you give it a try.
- Respect the owner. If an owner doesn’t give his permission to interact with the dog, respect his wishes. He knows his dog better and has a good reason for not giving his permission.