As much as we might want them to be, dogs aren’t human. Many incidents with dog bites could be avoided if everyone understood that we’re different. It’s tempting to greet a new dog like a new person or even a child, but not a great idea.
Many humans say hello to dogs they don’t know by bending over him or her and ruffling the top of the dog’s head. This might seem like a great idea to us, but to a dog it’s rude and might even be perceived as threatening.
Children tend to run up to dogs and try to pet their faces, accidentally poking the dog’s eyes, or want to hug the dog. This can cause the most well behaved and kind pooch to growl or even bite.
So, what should you do when meeting a new dog?
First of all, ask the owner’s permission to approach the dog. If he or she says no, accept it and move on. There might be many reasons why it isn’t a good time to make a new friend.
If the owner says yes, a good way to greet a dog is turning your body sideways, relaxing, and not staring. In doggie language, looking away is polite and staring means a challenge. Give doggie time to become curious and approach you.
If the dog comes up to sniff you, it is curious and interested. It might sniff you and pull back, and that means it wants some more space.
Many dogs are more comfortable if you crouch down with your side turned to him or her. Remember not to loom over the dog when you switch position between standing and crouching, and don’t stare. You want to come across as polite and friendly in doggie language.
Let the dog approach at its own pace. If it seems relaxed and comfortable – loose and wiggly body and relaxed eyes, ears and mouth – you can gently touch its side. If that goes well, pet its side. When you withdraw your hand you should be able to see if the dog wants more attention or not.