How Do You Approach a Dog That Doesn't Know You
Approaching a dog you don't know starts with approaching the person holding his leash. I'm a dog person. I want to hug all the dogs. The urge to pat, pet, hug, treat, good boy, or stroke a wondrous dog happily walking near is undeniable. Not every dog wants to say hello. Not every dog is comfortable with new people. Not every dog enjoys other dogs or new people. Not every dog is having a good day the day you spot them. Dogs, like people, need their personal space to feel safe and calm. How you say hello to a dog you haven't met before starts with saying hello to the person holding their leash. Who has never met you before.
7 simple steps to meeting a dog for the first time.
- Say hello to the dog's owner first. A simple, "Hi. I'm Kathy. I just love you dog, he's beautiful. May I say hello?" All good dog owners will introduce their dog by name and let you know how their dog does hellos. "Sure. This is Rocky. We just finished up a run. He's tired. He doesn't like his ears touched, but you can pet his head." This is your opportunity to show their dog you are trustworthy. You'll also be able to see how Rocky enjoys being handled by watching his owner.
- Wait for their dog to understand and accept the introduction and permission granted. Let the dog decide if he agrees with the idea of a stranger saying hello. If it's a no thank you. End it there. An unpleasant experience saying hello to a new dog leaves an unpleasant experience for the dog and the dog owner to deal with later. If you love dogs, love knowing you can help them by being a better dog lover.
- Let the tail wag the dog. A wagging tail and relaxed mouth are an agreement. Talk first. Low energy upbeat voice. Soft eyes. No need to stare like a hungry wolverine. Stay where you are. Let the dog decide if he wants more.
- Stay relaxed in front of the dog. Don't sneak a pet. Don't lower yourself and lean into their face. You wouldn't want someone you just met wrapping their arm around you or plopping into a chair at your table at a restaurant.
- Ask for permission to touch. "Can I pet him? He is so adorable." This is the point where a good owner knows where their dog's emotions stand. Rely on the dog's owner, not the dog's body language. That language is only clear to the owner.
- As you've been talking to the dog's human, they have most likely been petting their dog while you admire him. Watch how the owner physically interacts. If the owner is slightly petting the side of the face, approach in that manner. If she's been patting the top of her dog's head, do that lightly. No matter what clue you choose, approach calmly, low energy with a light touch. Let the dog lead. Allow him space to back away or turn away. Accept that moment without hesitation.
- We love all the dogs means nothing to all the dogs. The dog you are eager to affirm doesn't know you and doesn't need to know you. They are on a mission, whether walking, running, dog parking, or shopping. You and your dog adoration are irrelevant. Don't take it personal. After all, you wouldn't run up to adorable little children and start petting them on the head without talking to the parent first. That would be awkward.
Collecting moments of hellos from other people's dogs is a fine way to spend time. For you. It may not be for them. If you really must have to no way around it, say hello to a new dog you don't know, say hello to the new human holding the leash first. Take it slow and let their dog decide how much you may worship them.