Greeting a dog

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Shlykov03222016IMG_5645-1024x240 Greeting a dog

We may think our pets love being made a fuss of, stroked, and petted, but this might not always be true. Does your dog run the opposite way when you reach down to pet him, or does he come straight towards you with his tail wagging?

Even dog owners and those with the best intentions still make mistakes when greeting a strange dog or one they know.

Common mistakes people make when greeting a dog

Below is a list of common mistakes we make when meeting a dog. As a professional dog walker, even I have been guilty. Can you honestly say you haven’t? Why not let us know in the comments

  1. Forgetting to seek the owner’s permission to say hello to the dog – yes, I have been guilty.

2. Putting your hand over or on top of the dog’s head to stroke/pat him.

3. Put your face close to the dog’s face and coo, “Oh, you’re soooo cute.”

4. Spotting a dog, then making direct eye contact with the dog without hesitating to go straight up to the dog whilst making high-pitched vocalizations.

5. Coming up behind a big teddy bear and start rubbing their back

7. Spot a cute dog lying down quietly, minding its own business and then crouching down over the dog with your arms outstretched to stroke them

8. Believe that because you love dogs, all dogs love you, too, and so it is fine to go straight up to the dog without asking both owner and dog permission

As mentioned, I am guilty of making mistakes; luckily, it was fine. However, suddenly going up to a dog can end badly, and the dog always gets blamed. Would you please think before you stroke?

Begin with greeting a dog correctly.

So, how should I approach a strange dog (or even one I know)? The first thing first, make sure you ask the owner’s permission. They may very well say no. If so, please do not get upset and move along. It may be that their dog is grumpy or unwell, and so they have said no for the comfort and safety of everyone concerned.

Also, if you see a dog wearing something yellow, such as a yellow ribbon or a yellow coat, this is most likely a way of saying, “Please leave me alone”. More info on this can be found at the Yellow Dog site.

  • Never approach the dog directly. Never reach out to the dog and touch him. Allow them to make the initial contact
  • and never make direct eye contact. Dogs see this as a threat
  • Squat down to his level, turning your body sideways so you don’t appear too threatening.
  • Try to keep your body relaxed and ensure you make no sudden movements. Blinking slowly is a calming signal and indicates to the dog that you mean no harm.
  • if you do speak to the dog, then keep your voice calm and friendly
  • If the dog starts to show an interest in you by sniffing you with a relaxed posture and has soft eyes, then slowly offer the dog your hand to sniff. On the other hand, if he backs away, please do not force him to say hello.
  • Once the dog is happy, you can slowly start to pet him. Please DO NOT pet the top of their head, but slowly stroke their shoulder or chest so the dog can always see what you are doing and doesn’t feel threatened.

Remember, if the dog shows signs of stress or backs away at any time, please respect their wishes and stop what you are doing.

It is vital to make sure you pay close attention to their body language at all times.

3Cs_dog_safety_poster_for_printer2 Greeting a dog

Where does your dog like to be stroked and petted?

The majority of pets are happy to be stroked at the base of the neck, on the shoulders and chest areas. It’s best to reach your hand from the side instead of lowering it down over his head. You will probably find your dog’s specific locations where he loves a good tickle. T e back of the neck, under his chin, and the base of his tail are all likely areas. You will find that he probably won’t like being petted on his tail, paws, legs, ears, muzzle and the top of his head.

Always stroke the dog’s fur in the direction that the hair grows. Petting a dog should be a therapeutic and calm experience for the dog and the owner.

Things NOT to do when petting a dog

# Most dogs generally dislike patting

  • Slapping the dog can also be quite frightening
  • Fast, vigorous petting is likely to agitate the dog
  • When a dog rolls over onto his belly, this isn’t an invite to rub his tummy. It’s an act of canine submission.
  • Dogs don’t like hugs as they cannot move away when they choose to. Don’t allow small children to hug a dog tightly.
  • Dogs don’t like kissing – teach your child to keep his face well away from the dog’s mouth. Always make sure that children and dogs are supervised when together.

When NEVER to pet a dog

For safety reasons, your own and the dogs, don’t attempt to stroke a dog behind a fence or chained up. He is more likely to bite you if you approach him in these situations. Please don’t attempt to pet a dog when he is barking. It is only asking for trouble. Always ask if you can pet someone else’s dog, especially if he is on the lead. It’s not only good manners, but it will also keep you safe.