Dog Etiquette 101: 5 Ways How NOT to Greet a Dog

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
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Must. Pet. All. Dogs! It’s tempting to pet and hug every dog you come across, but that may be not what the pooch wants. Here’s what you shouldn’t do when greeting a dog.

When you are out and about and you see someone with a dog, it can be tempted to go up to the dog and make friends. What you may not realize, however, is that this simple act could be dangerous – you never know how an unfamiliar dog is going to act and it is simply irresponsible on your part to approach a dog without permission. Keep reading about why it is dangerous to do so and what you should be doing instead.

Why is it Dangerous to Approach a Dog Without Permission?

There is just something about a cute and cuddly dog that cries out for human attention. But unless it is your own dog crying out for attention, you need to reign in your excitement and exercise some practical restraint.

Related: 5 Tips for Overly Friendly Dogs That Will Wander Off With Anyone

While in many cases dogs are friendly and they genuinely enjoy human interaction, there are some who do not. It is also true that even the friendliest of dogs can turn defensive (or even aggressive) if he is startled, frightened, or feels threatened in any way. The act of walking up to a dog may seem simple and innocent to you, but a dog that is poorly socialized or simply nervous around other people may not interpret your actions as innocently as you intend them.

The Proper Way to Greet an Unfamiliar Dog

If you aren’t sure about what is and is not the right way to approach an unfamiliar dog, think about what would be the appropriate action if you were approaching another human. If you saw someone you deemed to be attractive and you wanted to interact with them, you probably wouldn’t go running up to them and start touching them without permission. If you acted in this way, that person would be justified in being a little frightened or uncomfortable, no matter how innocent your intentions.

Related: 10 Training Tips for Eager Greeters

In the same way, you should think carefully before you act and follow certain steps when greeting an unfamiliar dog. Here are some of those steps that you should take:

  1. Ask permission from the dog’s owner if you can approach. Some dogs simply do not take well to strangers and it is bad manners to pet someone else’s dog without permission.
  2. Approach slowly and cautiously. If you get permission to approach the dog, do so at a leisurely pace and keep an eye on the dog’s body language for signs of fear.
  3. Let the dog approach you on his own. With permission you can approach the dog and reach out your hand for him to sniff but let him take the few final steps on his own.
  4. Avoid any potentially threatening behavior. Try to stand with your side toward the dog and do not look him in the eye – these behaviors can be interpreted as threatening.
  5. Pet the dog calmly on the side of his face or his body. Do not pet the top of the dog’s head or lean over him threateningly – you can kneel down next to him while petting and speak in a calm manner.

While every situation will be unique, you should keep in mind the steps listed above the next time you come across an unfamiliar dog that you want to interact with. Following these steps will help to keep everyone safe – you, your dog, the other dog, and his owner.

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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