Petting Pet-iquette: Proper Etiquette For Petting Someone Else’s Dog

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
You’re the type of person who can’t walk past a dog without wanting to pet it. Before you offer a scratch, remember the proper etiquette for meeting and greeting a stranger’s dog.

When you see someone walking a friendly-looking dog, your first instinct may be to approach the dog to pet him. If you have good manners you’ll ask the dog owner if it is okay first but, unfortunately, many people skip this step. Assuming that a dog is friendly or that you can pet him without permission could be dangerous – you don’t know the dog and he doesn’t know you. For your own protection, and for the wellbeing of dogs everywhere, take a moment to learn proper pet-iquette.

Proper Pet-equette for a Stranger’s Dog

Avoid the temptation to go running up to every dog you see. While some dogs may be socialized enough to respond in a friendly manner, not all dogs will be okay with a stranger approaching and laying hands on them. Below you will find a list of the proper steps to take before petting a stranger’s dog:

  • Ask Permission: The first thing you need to do is to ask the owner for permission to pet his dog. Do not assume that it will be okay just because the dog “looks” friendly. When a dog is frightened or feels threatened he can become defensive or aggressive – this can happen in an instant and you might not have time to retreat. Rather than asking the owner if the dog is friendly, be direct in asking if it is okay if you introduce yourself to the dog.

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  • Approach Slowly: If the owner gives you permission to say hello to his dog, approach slowly but confidently. Do not rush at the dog, but do not show signs of fear or the dog might become nervous. Keep an eye on the dog’s body language and fall back if he appears frightened.
  • Let Him Sniff You: Before you touch the dog, give him a moment to sniff you and to acquaint himself with your smell. Hold your hand out flat to the dog and let him approach you to sniff your hand. After a few seconds, if the dog appears to be okay with it, you can pet him.
  • Be Gentle: When you go to pet the dog, be gentle about it – scratch him gently under the chin rather than on top of the head. Always stay in front of the dog where he can see you and do not make any sudden movements that might frighten him.
  • Keep it Brief: Even if the dog seems to be comfortable with you petting him you should keep the encounter brief and do not push him past his limits. If the dog starts to get nervous, back off and move along.

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If you follow these simple steps, dog owners everywhere will thank you. Nothing is worse than trying to take your dog out for a walk just to have him bombarded by strangers.

What NOT to Do

Now that you know the proper steps to following in greeting and petting a stranger’s dog you should consider some of the things that you should avoid doing. You’ve already learned that you shouldn’t approach the dog without permission and that, when you do approach him, to do so slowly. Many people make the mistake of bending or squatting down to greet the dog. While this may be okay in some situations, making direct eye contact with a strange dog can sometimes be perceived as a threat. Pet the dog calmly while talking to the owner and back off if the dog seems to get nervous. Do not put your face close to the dog and definitely do not try to hug or kiss him – dogs do not understand this type of affection and a strange dog might perceive it as a threat.

Being around strangers and making new friends are important for a dog, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Always be a good petter, and practice proper pet-equette when it comes to greeting a stranger’s dog.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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