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How to Greet a New Dog

How to Greet a New Dog
Posted on 03/11/2021
Dog GreetWe understand for most dog lovers it can be hard to resist the urge to pet every dog that crosses your path. However, without making a proper introduction you could be setting yourself up for rejection or worse, a provoked bite.

Dogs, just like people, have different personalities. Certainly, you have encountered dogs that are very easy going and love attention, but it is important to remember that not all dogs are this way around strangers. Dogs are not be able to communicate to us through words, instead they rely heavily on body language. Being able to read their body language while being aware of your own is key to successfully introducing yourself to a new dog.

Before petting any dog, you should always get permission from the owner. Once permission is obtained, observe the dog's body language. Friendly confident dogs typically display loose wiggly body movement, with soft facial expressions and an open panting mouth. A shy dog may be low to the ground, tail tucked, hackles slightly raised, eyes dilated with a closed mouth. A fearful dog may take a little more finesse to make friends or may not be interested at all.

The most common mistake when people greet a new dog is that they stand and lean over the dog and immediately try to pet it. This towering stance can be extremely intimidating to any dog. Instead, you should kneel to the side of the dog. While speaking in a soothing voice, slowly offer your hand with a closed fist. Having your hand closed is a safety precaution to protect your fingertips incase the dog should try to bite. It is also best not to stare directly into the dog's eyes as some dogs might interpret this as threatening. Instead keep your eyes and face soft.

Pay attention to how the dog responds. If the dog becomes stiff or backs away from you, respect the dog's space and do not force the interaction. A dog that is interested will approach you to sniff your hand. At this point, allow the dog to sniff your hand thoroughly to their satisfaction. If the dog continues to move towards you with a relaxed body posture, then the dog has given you permission to touch it. The initial touch should not be on the top of its head, since this movement can startle any dog, instead pet their shoulder, or side and gradually work up to their head. Always use caution and be observant of any changes in the dog's behavior. 
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