Have you ever wondered how to properly greet a dog? Maybe you have had a bad experience with a dog and you wonder now
why or how you could have changed that interaction? Let’s take a dive into how to properly greet dogs and perhaps when
we shouldn’t greet them either. Let’s face it, consent should go both ways and if a dog is saying, “no thank you,”
we should respect that.
First of all, be aware of what your body is saying to the dog. Dogs read our body language much better than what we
are actually saying. Do not walk directly towards a dog. This can be seen as threatening. You can walk in an arc or
a half circle towards them. Along the same lines of walking directly towards the dog, you also don’t want to stand
facing them. Instead, face to the side, so that you are presenting a smaller side of you.
When looking at a dog, it is important not to stare directly into their eyes. Again, this is threatening to some dogs
and can elicit a negative reaction to the interaction. As a dog guardian, you may wonder if you can stare into your
own dog’s eyes? Yes, you can. This rule of etiquette is for strangers approaching a new dog.
When petting a new dog, most dogs will thank you NOT to pat the top of their head. Instead, pet them gently on the
neck or shoulder. If you are trying to pet a small dog, think in terms of their perspective. Don’t lean over the top
of the small dog. Instead, kneel down beside the dog for pets.
So now you know how to properly approach a new dog. How do you know that the dog wants to be greeted?
First, ALWAYS ask permission from the dog’s guardian if you may pet the dog. If the guardian says no, respect
that. Common stress signs that might occur when approaching a new dog are lip licks, yawning, looking away from you, sniffing the ground, a paw lift, hair
standing up on the back, hiding behind their guardian, and others.
If you are interested in learning more about dog body language, my favorite references for that are www.ispeakdog.org,
Lili Chin’s book Doggie Language, and Turid Rugaas’s book
On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals.