Dogs are man’s best friend. But that doesn’t mean that you can go running towards other people’s dogs and pet them without permission. Not all dogs feel at ease outside and some are fearful of people. A misstep can have severe consequences, especially when it comes to children meeting dogs.
So how do you approach a dog if at all?
Firstly, ask the handler for permission to approach. Handlers know their dogs best so always respect their wishes.
Once permission is given, let the dog decide whether she’s comfortable with interacting with you. Before going too near, examine her body language – Is she backing away or lowering her head? Is her tail between her legs? Is she growling or is her tail raised and stiff?
If the dog is presenting these signs, do not move any closer. This is just not a suitable opportunity to greet her.
How you behave matters
Always maintain your natural self. Don’t act overly excited or afraid. The dog would sense your calmness and feel less threatened by your presence.
Squat down instead of hovering or bending over the dog and turn your body away from her. Again, you are trying to make her feel more at ease and less threatened.
Dos and Don’ts
- Stay relaxed. Blinking your eyelids in a slow and affectionate manner will help the dog believe that you mean no harm and your presence isn’t threatening
- When the dog comes near you to check you out, slowly put up your hand and let her sniff your wrists
- Be slow and gentle
- You can also offer a treat with the permission of the handler
- Don’t suddenly touch the dog from behind or when they have not noticed your presence
- Don’t make sudden large movements or noises as this will startle the dog
- Don’t talk to dogs in a high pitch, no matter how excited you may be. It may make them feel uneasy
- Don’t put your face too close to theirs and don’t stare at them
- Don’t pat their heads or hug them as that may irritate them. You can scratch their chins or behind the ears or rub their chests to make them feel loved
- Avoid touching a dog that has rolled over
- Don’t ever try to force your way with the dog and always watch for signs of discomfort or fear even when those signs were not present earlier. Know when to leave the dog alone
To sum up
The best way to know whether a dog is approachable is to ask her handler and examine the dog’s body language. If she looks relaxed and has a soft gaze or looks happy to come to you, then you may consider approaching her. It is better to let her get comfortable with you at her own pace rather than yours.
Remember to teach children how to approach and be gentle with a dog too. Some children love running towards dogs excitedly and petting them without asking. As children are less sensitive to warning signs, it is extra important to educate them.
If a dog isn’t interested in meeting you, don’t be disheartened. Remember, every dog you meet has a different history, personality, and level of training. But you are bound to meet one that likes you!